Margaret and Dick   

     

    
Day three: Luz-St Sauveur to Bagneres de Luchon

Distance:  96 km (60 mi)

Total climbing:  ~3,000 m (9,760 ft) 

Calories burned:  3,566

Resting heart rate (a.m.):  71

Livestock report:  cows, horses, and sheep running freely on col du Tourmalet and on the streets of La Mongie; herd of cows at col d'Aspin

                                The cols:  Tourmalet, Aspin, Peyresourde

               

Today's ride took us through many of the holy places of the Tour de France (hereafter TdF).  The profile above shows three levels of difficulty that we encountered today.  The col du Tourmalet, our first climb, is classified as "beyond category" and is well beyond the difficulty of the others.  The second climb, the col d'Aspin, is category-2 climb that included some respite halfway up.  The col de Peyresourde, our last climb, is a category-1 climb.  Note that all of these cols would have been steeper, therefore even harder, in the opposite direction.

It was with more than a little trepidation that we set out today, given the difficult climbs of day two.  The long climb of the Tourmalet began just outside our hotel, with no warmup.  We let Neil and Doug charge up ahead of us.  With JC taking the lead and Daphne-of-the-perfect-pedal-stroke choosing the pace, we made it up the Tourmalet with no problems.  The vista grew more spectacular with each turn as we found ourselves reaching, then exceeding, the height of the peaks we had admired from our hotel.  At ~6,900 ft, the majestic Tourmalet is the highest point of our trek.  Our time, at 2:30, set no records.

The Tourmalet is the queen of the Pyrenees climbs in the Tour de France, and the col has a monument (right) by the same artist who made the Tour de France monument shown on our summary page.  Also shown are soigneurs Lorna, Dick, and Sonia.  

TMI:  Cyclists drink a lot of water, and "natural breaks" are more complicated for women than for men.  I tend to prefer a "pee-with-a-view" (hereafter PWAV), but in the Pyrenees this becomes an absolute requirement.  Ideally a PWAV involves more viewing by me than viewing of me, but scenery definitely outranks privacy.  I outdid myself on locating a breathtaking view and a well-placed guardrail on the descent from the Tourmalet, definitely my personal best.  Doug has developed a talent for spotting my bike, then my head peeking over at the view.

We zoomed down the Tourmalet to the town of Ste Marie de Campan, another one of the TdF holy places.  In 1913, Eugene Christophe, while in the lead, broke the fork of his bicycle in La Mongie while descending the Tourmalet.  He ran seven miles down the mountain to a forge at Ste Marie de Campan, repaired the fork himself, and finished the stage.  The plaque on the old forge reads, "Here he lost any chance of victory, but he gave a powerful lesson in courage and tenacity.  The Tour de France continues to salute respectfully his exemplary behavior."

The col d'Aspin provided a perfect lunch spot.  One of the cows came looking for some variety in her diet.  We tried to get her to pose for a picture, but she had other ideas.  Those horns were sharp, she knew how to use them, and this was as close as we got.  

The climb up the Peyresourde, difficult in the best conditions, was even tougher in the afternoon heat.  At the end of the day, we were glad that none of the day's climbs had included very steep sections like we encountered on day two.  

(Pyrenees day two)   (Pyrenees day four)