Col du Tourmalet
Not my dream!
After conquering the exhilarating Col de Val Louron-Azet, the adventure continued as I set my sights on Camping Toy (don’t Google it carelessly!), nestled in the charming town of Luz-Saint-Sauveur.~
But, oh boy, the real challenge awaited—the legendary Col du Tourmalet!
This giant of the Pyrenees, akin to the iconic Alpe d’Huez in the Alps, had me tingling with both excitement and trepidation.
In the world of cycling, riding Alpe d’Huez or Col du Tourmalet is like earning a badge of honour.
Forget a hundred tougher climbs; if you haven’t conquered the one they talk about, you’re missing out.
Anticipation reached a fever pitch as I approached the Col du Tourmalet summit.
However, reality hit me like a ton of bricks—it was no cycling shrine but a chaotic construction site teeming with visitors.
The narrow summit road resembled a carnival—motorhomes, cars, motorbikes, and, of course, cyclists battling for space.
The disappointment was palpable, but the real danger lay in the reckless manoeuvres of some drivers.
Undeterred, I hatched a plan for an early morning assault on the Col du Tourmalet, determined to beat the crowds and reclaim the magic I’d dreamed of.
Camp set at Camping Toy, just a stone’s throw from the Col du Tourmalet start, I revelled in the ideal location suggested by the friendly campsite owners—a flat area above a babbling river.
With no barriers to hinder camaraderie, the pressure was on to pitch my tent with competence.
After a leisurely exploration of the town and a satisfying meal, I settled in for an early night, eager for the looming challenge.
Dawn broke at 7:30, and the chilly 10-degree temperature hit me like a ton of bricks—quite a contrast to my accustomed 30-degree comfort. Nevertheless, the sun made its grand entrance around 9:00, casting a warm glow on the valley.
Ready for the ascent, I discovered an unexpected hurdle—vandals had left their mark in wet concrete on the climb’s starting point. 🙂
Undeterred, the climb began through bustling streets, a departure from my usual serene cycling routes.
A Peloton of Emotions
As the gradients proved forgiving, and the sun worked its magic, my spirits lifted.
The road was alive with fellow riders, a welcome sight that injected energy into the climb.
Descending riders bundled up in winter gear passed by, while ascending counterparts, drenched in sweat with shirts wide open, forged ahead.
A rider overtook me at 1 km, but I stuck to my pace, adopting the tortoise-and-hare approach.
Vive les Anglais!
Navigating through quaint shops and bars, I encountered the Tourmalet Café Pavement Society, a lively bunch cheering on my endeavour.
“Bonjour and Vive les Anglais!” I shouted, inviting even more spirited support.
Further up the climb one particular rider caught my eye—the same one who had breezed past me earlier.
His struggles were clear in his laboured cadence, and a brief chat as we passed revealed he was paying the price for a too-high gearing.
Ever the supportive cyclist, I offered help, but he insisted on soldiering on.
The Grand Finale – Look Sharp
Approaching the final set of bends, a vivacious young lady emerged, camera in hand, on a mission to capture the agony and triumph of Tourmalet conquerors.
It was my time to shine, and I eagerly struck a pose with the Brompton for Zoomphoto-tourmalet.com.
As I reached the summit, chaos ensued as vehicles, and onlookers cluttered the area.
Yet, my focus shifted to the elusive summit sign buried among debris, a symbol of riders’ struggles.
Despite the bitter cold, I savoured the moment with photos and breathtaking views.
The Tourmalet surface, unlike plush carpets of other climbs, resembled a UK hill road, demanding utmost concentration.
A climb, though formidable in reputation, was kind to me on this fine day.
The lack of shelter or shade added to the challenge, but I had climbed the Col du Tourmalet, and the dream lived on.