Margaret and Dick   

     

    
Day four: Bagneres de Luchon to Tarascon

Distance:  142 km (88 mi)

Total climbing:  ~2,580 m (8,375 ft)

Calories burned:  3,712

Resting heart rate (a.m.):  65 (good!)

Livestock report:  herd of horses on the col de Port

                                The cols:  Mente, Portet d'Aspet, Port

               

The worst is behind us, but legs are tired, bottoms are getting raw, and our bikes are showing the effects of many mountains since their last tune-ups. 

Does every bike tour have a day of bliss?  It happened to me on day seven last year, and this year it is day four.  For various logistical reasons, I ended up riding much of the day alone, hooking up with my colleagues for photos on the cols, for lunch, and intermittently for cycling.  As much as I love the company of friends, riding solo provides a more intense experience and less distraction from the beauty of the scenery.  I am occasionally joined by one of the locals, and I tell them how lucky they are to live in cycling heaven.  No, I never get lonely out there!

The day had an inauspicious beginning:  the 6am alarm was accompanied by claps of thunder and the sound of rain on the terrace.  The mood at the breakfast table was morose as we debated who would ride under what weather conditions.  But by 8am the sky was clearing and we were on our way, hoping for the best. 

I struck out on my own on the nasty col de Mente.  Legs complaining and sky still threatening, I perked up by singing Monty Python's "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life"...not possible to be down when you're being ridiculous.  I paused at place where Luis Ocana's hopes of winning the TdF were dashed on the rocks; the next day Eddy Merckx would refuse to wear the yellow jersey out of respect for his injured rival.  

The col de Portet d'Aspet was shorter but nearly as nasty.  We stopped at the monument to Fabio Casartelli, a racer who was killed in a crash coming down the col de Portet d'Aspet in TdF 1995.  The monument was decorated with fresh flowers and a letter of homage from the TdF racers of 2004. 

The stark peaks of the High Pyrenees evolved to woods and cliffs of the Ariege.  Neil and I knew the gentle (but long!) climb to the col de Port from a race in the Ariege in 2002; Jean-Claude has done all of these climbs many times.  A herd of wild horses running free at the col provided entertainment.

Although I was cross-eyed tired when I reached the hotel, I was in no rush to see the day end.  Having run on adrenaline and endorphins most of the day, I pushed harder than I would otherwise have done and will probably pay the price tomorrow.

(Pyrenees day three)

(Pyrenees day five)