Squadra di Vecchi Tori

Plateau de Bielle is my agony by kiwicyclist
July 17, 2011, 3:01 pm
Filed under: Rides

Quick post this morning to report on yesterday’s adventures – photos to come later.

Early transfer by coach from Lourdes to watch the last stage in the Pyrennees.  By now many of us had pretty sore legs including yours truly despite sleeping the previous night in compression tights.  The bulk of the group had rested instead of doing the Aubisque and were keen to ride. 

The weather was perfect.  Blue skies and warm early.  Those of us that rode were dropped off on the road 30ks out of Les Cabannes at the foot of the climb to Bielle.  We made a nice clip along another river valley into the village dodging all manner of road traffic including large buses, cars and the ubiquitous white campervans as we got closer and closer.  As I had heard happens in France before we were cheered on by French families on the roadside constantly as we headed in singlefile at medium pace along the valley -“Allez Allez!”  egged us on.

The village centre was the start of the climb and I stopped to grab extra bottles of water and a pastry and roll from the bakery.  As a result I ended up tackling the climb on my own.

And what a beast of a climb it was – the average was 8% and it started hard right out of the village. Being a Saturday the village and mountain were packed with people with campervans lining the bottom and top parts of the route.  What made this one so hard was the temperature and 2 days of hard climbing prior and absolutely, and I mean absolutely not a breath of wind.  Within seconds of starting the climb sweat was dripping off me and I stopped to discard gloves and put my helmet across the bars with sunnies on the brim. 

I made pretty slow but steady if agonising progress – this was a hard climb.  A nice distraction on the way were some Scandanavians on ski touring rollerblades cross country skiing up the hill – all incredibly good looking and led by a stunning blonde in a Norwegian cycling top.

I had to stop four times to eventually be pulled over by the fuzz at the 4 K to go barrier which was at the top of a plateau leading to the final climb.  It was party central up there with a beer tent and sausage stall that provided welcome relief.  I met up with some of the others and we turned to head back down as we had been told to get to the lower slopes of the mountain so that we could meet the tour coach before heading on to Toulouse quickly.  Unfortunately 100 meters down the road we were stopped from descending as well and realised we were stuck and probably in trouble.

Long day in the sun followed waiting for the race surrounded by mad spaniards including one who got bored at one point and then jumped on his road bike and proceeded to pull monos up and down the 9% slope we were on.  Crazy frenzy with the caravan going past and then the race proper came through – I tried to do a run for the  TV but it was pretty hard with so many people going through.

As usual the gruppetto and particularly the Spanish riders received huge crowd support. 

We had another quick mad dash down the mountain again – made hair raising for me as I punctured at 50ks or so in the middle of a large group of riders and had to ride the rim for about 150 meters before getting a gap to pull over.  Managed to make up time by following some Eurocar riders who were motorpacing a motobike cop down the mountain at speed and picked up my colleagues to try and find the bus.  The village at the bottom was mayhem and as we made our way out of the village on the main drag with a large crowd of riders we were passed by Cadel and the BMC riders who we said hello to as well as riders from many other teams.

A wrong turn and a frantic call on the mobile had our bus collecting us on the side of the road – our Belgian driver being looking particularly dark as the rules in France mean he cannot drive for more than 12 hrs per day (and that seems to include days where he sits around watching the Tour in between dropping us off and picking us up).  Had to slip him 20 euros when we arrived into Toulouse late last night and suffer some piss taking from the rest of the tour group. 

Badly needed rest day for me today as we transfer to Avignon with a stop at the feedzone at Carceconne (?), in anticipation of a massive day tomorrow.



p.s. photos to be added when I can later tonight so look back for an update to this post


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