Saturday, September 6, 2008

July 18 Pailhac(Arreau) to St Lary-Soulan 15K and Pla d'Adet

The valley from Arreau to St Lary is really special. Mountains rise all around, rolling hills of farmland, water rushing here and there. I knew from this short, and mostly flat and rolling terrain that my legs were toasted. About 4K from St Lary a French cyclist on his Specialized road bike pulled alongside and we began to talk. He spoke good English and he asked about my tour and he led me to the Office of Tourism in St Lary. (More to this story tomorrow). I got all the requisite information for my stay in St Lary and acquired my campsite at the 4Star Municipal Campground. A really nice setting in somewhat of a resort/skiing town. Anyway against my better judgment I decided to do a climb since I didn't want to let such a beautiful day go by. Besides the Pla d'Adet only had an advertised 7.5% gradient and I wouldn't have my load. What's the big deal? Well, the big deal is that the info on gradients don't tell the entire story about a climb. By the way, George Hincapie won on the Pla d'Adet a few years back. It is a 10K climb, but the first 7 kilometers are 9% and 10%. The last 3 kilometers are 5%, 6%, and 8%. It was/is a killer climb.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

July 19 St Lary-Soulan to Bagneres-de-Luchon 55K, Col d' Val Louron d'Azet, Col d'Peyersuorde

A fabulous day. Beautiful weather, perfectly blue sky. I began the climb of the Col d'Azet at 7:40 A.M. so most of the way up the 10K climb I was in the shade of the mountain. My legs needed a day off, but I wanted my day off to be in Bagneres-de-Luchon where there are two bike shops. I stopped twice climbing Col d'Azet for photo opportunities. Incredible beauty. One photo, 2K from the top, is back at St Lary and entire climb of Pla d'Adet can be seen. I had some good and fun conversations on top of Azet with some French cyclists. I received some "bravos" for making it up with my panniers. A fantastic downhill run into Loudenvielle watching paragliders as I rolled along. Once in Loudenvielle I stopped for a break when I hear, "do you remember me?". It was the road cyclist from yesterday who had guided me into St Lary. We had a fantastic talk, his wife and an older gentleman were in on it as well. Sorry to say I never got his name. There are photos of these wonderful folks. The older man in the photo rides his bike 50K or so every third day including one of the Cols (big climbs). Get this! He is eighty years old!!! I hope to add to this later. I am now in Bagneres-de-Luchon where I'll stay for two nights, taking a zero day tomorrow(Sunday). Then on monday I'll cross into Spain for a few miles and one big climb, the Col du Portillon.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

July 20 Bagneres-de-Luchon Rest Day

I started my day of rest attending the Roman Catholic Mass. It was in French of course and I understood 4 words I believe. No pun intended. They were; Hallelujah, resurrection, Adonai, and Amen!!!! What more do you need to understand. Afterwards I sat on a park bench watching the cyclists go by and the French buy there daily bread at the Boulangerie across the street. Man, the French take there "Daily Bread" seriously. "Give us THIS DAY our Daily Bread". An older woman just pedaled by on her bike with one pannier and a handlebar bag, out shopping. I´m trying to picture where I would see that in America. In the evening I discovered the Creperies had the Tour de France on TV so I planted myself at a table and enjoyed a buckwheat pancake stuffed with ham & cheese. Really good eats. Tomorrow Spain!!!