The Port de Bales climb was the finish to a tough day, but my Garmin informs me I am recovered and now adapted to both heat and altitude.
(I am dubious about these things, but it would explain how my climbing is more comfortable now).
I have the luxury of seven rides within easy distance, and with wonderful weather, I will take the big one. Superbagneres.
This serious climb needs a serious shirt. It’s Z time.
People have enjoyed the problems with this climb. Today I found out why.
The start of the climb is an easy 5% ride out as you spin out of Bagneres-de-Luchon.
The niceties soon ended, though.
At 1.5Km, the road rears up to 19%.
Two unprepared riders were in front of me. Their speed dropped like a stone as they crashed their chains overs cassettes to find a gear.
Passing the riders enjoying the ‘experience’ of sweating blood to grind high gears up this slope was ‘interesting.’
I wondered if they would recover sufficiently in the forthcoming low-gradient section before the 16% jump.
That could be a coup de grâce.
OK, time to settle down
Following the initial shocks, Superbagneres settles down to varying gradients, but nothing above 12%.
The road is wide road and exposed which on a bad weather day would be a nightmare.
The temperature for my ride was in the twenties, which was fine. (Now I was 100% accustomed ?).
At 12Km, hairpins and bends add variety to the 9% gradient, and I am content to let the metronome legs tick away.
Two riders in the distance. (I’m sorry for those that may not get it, but it’s in my DNA).
I can reel them in with my already established rhythm, so no gut busting required.
Slowly but surely, the gap shortens and just as I about catch him, he stops, dismounts, and looks around.
What? How dare he?
Or was it the fear of a Brompton passing him on the road?
I asked him if he was ok, he was, so I continued.
Ah well, I’ll try for the next one.
As I close in, he pulls over and dismounts!
I shouted, “Tout va bien?”
He replied something in Spanish and signalled he was OK. which was good, but how disappointing of me wasting all that French.
My conclusion was that the first chap was also Spanish and had phoned to warn him a Brompton in pursuit. ?
A beret approaches
The summit and disappointment. Another ski resort building site.
I was, however, greeted by a very enthusiastic Frenchman (wearing a beret!!) running (well, shuffling rapidly) towards me.
He stood amazed; I had climbed Superbagneres on a Brompton.
Despite attempts to say that I spoke little French, he said he understood in English but continued with gusto in French.
He had to take a picture of my bike, a picture of me.
Within minutes, he knew everything about me expect my inside leg measurement.
Three walkers made the fatal mistake of passing too close and making eye contact.
His enthusiasm, now armed with knowledge, came to full force as he retold my efforts.
They were, of course, enamoured.
If a walker reads this, please accept my apologies. It was out of my control. ?
My newly found friend reached into his shoulder bag, insisting I took a banana and some homemade almond butter flapjack.
I tried to decline at first, but soon realised it was pointless.
He told me, “I would be in Paris Match,” but I am not holding my breath.
My new friend was eager for me to take our photo as a happy memento of the occasion.
I had no time to pretty myself up for the sponsors.
My efforts up Superbagneres had ensured a jaunty angled helmet and a Roglic in the final 1Km a La-Planche-des-Belles-Filles TT demeanour. (photo cyclingmagazine.ca)
Sporting my massive beard (for me) and newly chipped teeth from tugging on a water bottle earlier, we captured the photo for posterity.
It is not my most flattering selfie (believe it or not) and, though competent with Photoshop, this is beyond recovery.
Now to enjoy the 11-mile descent.
There was to be no sparing of the horses on this one now that I am almond flapjack powered.
Bagneres de Luchon was the buzzing for a Sunday.
Bars, restaurants, and shops open, “Wow,” said, surprised from Gosport.
I could get some lunch.
My car was up a nasty little slope and as crawled up, my phone and watch both whined about having a low battery.
No phone meant no selfies? or segments checking, and no watch meant no ride back up for recording the segments.
With little time and no ability to recharge them quickly, it was back to the campsite for lunch and a fast charge.