The Pull of the Pyrenees

Trip Start May 22, 2009
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Trip End Feb 16, 2010


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Flag of France  , Languedoc-Roussillon,
Saturday, October 24, 2009

Leaving Las Laous today was hard.  Everyone was soo sad that even the mountains were crying.  Grey cloud filled the valley and the moisture poured from the sky. 

At the end of the lane was our road towards Foix announcing the rise to the Col de Peguere. Not as well known as the Col de Port, but much higher.  We would leave 947m and rise to 1375m in a mere 3.5km.  That means that for every 10m we rode forward, we would be rising 1.2m on average.  However, the start of the hill was a whopping 18% grade pitch which spells O.U.C.H.!

By far the hardest climb either of us have ever done.  Pitch so steep that the front end of the bikes kept lifting of the pavement while we cycled.  Not that we cycled much.  After 3 weeks out of practice we were both stopping about every 20m or so to catch our breath.  Talk about slow progress!  Gravity pulling us backwards and the rain trying to wash us down hill.  Kind of reminded me of the Pennines.

At the first saw-back we had the pleasure of running into one of our rock-climbing friends and chatted for awhile (and gave us a much needed rest).  He offered us a place to stay in Foix for the evening.  Very tempting, but we had to refuse as we needed to press on further than that. 

Continuing the cycling, the grade lessened to a mere 12.5%, and then to a dreamy 10% - might as well be flat in comparison!  Then finally the triumph of reaching the top. 

The last few mornings the mountains have been dusted with a light layer of snow and I was greatly looking forward to a last look back from this amazing vantage point.  But it was not to be had.  Grey cloud sacked in.  Staring hard there were the occasional dark shadows of rocky edges that could be seen in an ever changing display.  So faint, it made me blink to make sure I was focused properly. 

Without a view, the triumph was short lived and we ate a soggy lunch in a drippy shelter.  I highly recommend eating breakfast before attempting a climb of that sort in the future. 

The long descent into Foix that I had been anticipating as a great reward for the climb was now dreaded a bit.  Cold and wet, wind-chill and lack of need to cycle was only going to make the chill worse.  Putting on a few more layers under my now soaked-from-the-inside rain jacket I was a ready as I could be. 

Gradually descending at a 2.5% decline the wind wasn't too fierce.  But soon I gained speed as it grew to 3%, 4.5%, 7%, and finally 8%.  Still I scoffed at the idea of lame cyclists who may approach the Col in this direction!  But the length of the decline began to have it's effects:  hands so frozen I was afraid I wouldn't be able to hold onto the much needed brakes anymore. 

But then the drop in altitude began to work it's magic.  Degree by degree, the air around us warmed , clouds began to dissipate, and the sun gained intensity giving me renewed strength. 

To date, this is the only rainy day we've cycled in France (and it only lasted a few hours!).  With optimism rising, i was ready to continue. A slow start to the day with the first 3.5km taking well over an hour (including breaks), the next 26.5km took only an hour. 

Glancing backward, I saw that the mountains were in cloud and still wouldn't give me a clear view. 

Watching the last of the  foothills recede from view it was smooth sailing with a tailwind and all, but all couldn't go that easily could it?

Being quite out of practice, we were both feeling pretty tired around 75km.  Then the pull really started as the terrain started to gently undulate.  Gentle on any other day, but quite difficult for us at the current state (especially poor Brian recovering from a few days of illness). 

Finally at the crest of a hill the land opened up and i could see for 50km or more off into the distance.  Downward slopes to the canal and then out to the sea!
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