Come Hautacam, bring it on
A climb that Miguel Induran disliked because of its roller coaster gradients that make it impossible to establish any rhythm.
In fact, a couple of riders I met this week remarked how ‘horrible’ the Hautacam had been. A climb that haunts with dark memories for some.
It was only a short drive away, and I was feeling good and, in hindsight, slightly overconfident.
I had done a lot of climbing, so should be fine. The temperature was a nice low 20, so I was ready.
I parked up in a lay by and rode up through the village of Ayros-Arbouix to catch the small right turn for the 10% ramp start. No problem, (pain et beurre).
After 1Km the gradient flattens briefly only for it to spring back up to 9%.
And this how the Hautacam continues. It’s not only a roller coaster of gradients but also one of emotions too.
At first it didn’t seem a problem at my pace, but I could see the problem if you were racing.
Hmm, time to re-assess
The gradient change was a bit like intervals that gradually became steeper and longer, while the respites became shorter.
The inconsistency was now hurting and at 7Km I was in disbelief. (Much like Pla d Adet).
I was certain that I had ridden further. This was a hard, bitter pill.
I now appreciated what I had read and been told.
My enjoyment was further enhanced by my old friend the low cloud base and a significant temperature drop.
At 3Km to go my sweat was chilling.
Nearly there, I thought as I dug in for a 9% shift as I hauled my way to a distance marker.
“Phew”, I thought, the 1Km, but no such luck, it was the 2Km.
(Oddly, I have had fun with markers a few times lately. Is it possible that the Pyrenees are toying with me?)
The 7% gradient to the summit felt like the flat after all that effort.
My reward for all the effort? A desolate car park and a thickening cloud base closing in.
The Hautacam had knocked the wind out of my sails and taught me a lesson.
I managed a brief chat with one of the few other cyclists who occasionally out of the cloud appeared, and we settled into our roles of photographers and posers.
Phasers set to KILL!
I wanted to get a few more photos and catch my breath, so I looked around for something aesthetic.
The ‘cotton wool’ of the cloud provided a unique and surreal calmness to the scene which you could appreciate.
Unless someone turns up with a phone playing music at a volume beyond the speaker’s capability and muffled in a rucksack.
I, for one, cannot criticise anyone’s style or preferences. After all, I am a Lycra wearing OAP riding a Brompton.
But wearing cycling shorts, an Under Armour T-shirt, and trainers while riding a Colnago was an odd combination.
His untimely appearance set my mind bolts and phasers to KILL.
A few moments ago, it was cold, misty, and tranquil. It was now shattered beyond comprehension. (More highs and lows on Hautacam).
It was freezing, and with nothing to see but cloud, I left.
I don’t know how he descended wearing a wet T-shirt without freezing to death. I haven’t heard of a lost rider being found by his phone music.
Perhaps they did, but left him after removing the batteries. Who knows?
OK, I concede the first round
Hautacam was a brutal and a draining bang back down to earth for me after my misplaced bravado.
When I reached the car, I promised never to ride Hautacam again, but now I do, just to relive the pain.
I’m knackered with just enough energy to flush the ants out of the kettle and rip open the Lapsang Souchong.