Joe begins his descent off the Col d'Aubisque. From this vantage we are definitely in the high mountains.
Stage 10, at 65 miles and 8590 feet, of the Pyrenees 1000 mile challenge may seem tame compared to some of the other stages, but I remember that everyone is always nice and tired by the end of the day. If you think the mileage is mellow, well then don't hold back and ride fast, but be aware that a big day, stage 11, follows the next day. Today we retrace part of the route from stage 2 by climbing up the Col de Soulor and Aubisque, but we do so in reverse, so it is a completely different experience. Your memory will come alive when you descend the west side of the Aubisque, which will put into perspective the intensity of that climb from day 2. I also like stage 10 a lot because of the sections between the climbs that make for fun and aggressive transitions. All in all it is another great day in the saddle.
"What's the point of being alive if you don't at least try to do something remarkable."
Day after day we get to experience cycling as "good as it gets" in a place rich with cycling history. The Pyrenees and cycling are united, "hand in glove."
"Take up cycling. Make cycling your life - think of it, dream of it, live on that passion. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that devotion, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to cycling success." Ha! I modified the quote a little to make it fit. When you ride the Pyrenees you will be living and fulfilling your cycling dreams.
"Viewed from a distance everything is beautiful." Start putting the pieces together of each stage and you'll be compelled to do this trip. Be part of an elite team that smiles quietly inside when you here other people brag about their tough rides.
The view over the church in the village of St. Sauvin in the early morning.
One can never predict the weather, but over the history of this tour the weather has been remarkably good and consistent. Yes it is partly luck, but it's also a time of year when the weather is favourable, so the locals say. I originally chose the dates for this trip to avoid the summer crowds, and by serendipity got the good weather too. Now mind you, "good weather" for us cyclists is all about dry conditions, overcast vs. sunny, it really doesn't matter. In fact sometimes overcast is preferred as it keeps the temperature cooler, a benefit for cyclists like me that suffer from the heat on long climbs.
Between the valley floor and the climb up the Col de Soulor is this plateau, with a long line of sight so you can track your progress against your cycling buddies ... are you ahead, behind, or tucked in the draft?
As I've mentioned before, each day on this trip is unique, different in temperament, constitution, and character. Today it is all about big granite mountains and granite walls.
The granite face that stretches from the Col du Soulor and the Aubisque.
Tears shed for another climb are not a sign of weakness. They are a sign of a pure heart. If you are dreaming about this ride, congratulations you are alive, and how wonderful it is to be alive, but why does it have to hurt? Because sometimes the struggle is all that lets you know that you are awake. Funny how a little pain brings you consciousness..
Talk about pain in the ass! This donkey wants our food.
"The higher you climb, the better the view."
The traverse from the Col du Soulor to the Aubisque around the corner. A long stretch of this road is cut into the granite wall, with even a couple of tunnels.
"Life is not measured by the amount of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away."
Looking backward, towards the crest of the Col du Soulor.
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."
There is about a 75% chance we'll come across sheep on this road.
"Life is a stage and you get only one performance. Make it a good one!"
Looking back again, from the summit of the Col d'Aubisque towards the way we came. On this day we could see the Col du Tourmalet, which we crested the day before. It is times like this when you are really living and exactly where you want to be.
... and then something went terribly wrong. No climbing on the bikes kids!
In homage to the TDF, and cycling in the Pyrenees, there are 3 larger than life bicycles at the summit of the col d'Aubisque. They were installed about 6 or 7 years ago. In the background the view looking west.
"As long as you’re going to be thinking anyway, THINK BIG!"
There is of course a cafe and souvenir shop at the top of the col d'Aubisque. Tradition and "joie de vivre" dictate that you stop and enjoy a hot chocolate and some crepes.
Every climb is a new beginning, take a deep breath and start again.
Two thirds of the way up the Col de Marie Blanc is a large and beautiful plateau. Pictured above is the crest to the plateau, where there is a magnificent view of the granite mountain top. I must admit that I, and any returning riders, have an advantage on every climb. For instance, at this spot in the picture, even though you and I will be sucking wind and our legs will be burning, I know that if I try to sprint and drop you relief is just on the horizon as the road levels out for about a mile. You don't know that, and if your spirit is weak you will break, and I will take the col. Or at the least beat you to the lunch spot on the plateau.
One of those fast and fun transition sections between two cols. Very cool picture that is a product of Roger's GoPro camera mounted on the top of his helmet.
Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain. Some people ride in the rain, others just get wet. "Have you ever seen the rain coming down on a sunny day?"
Listen, smile, agree and then do whatever it takes to get up the hill.
This is what I love about riding in the Pyrenees, the small back country roads and cols. We ride the big classic climbs and also the hidden local gems. This tour is about "France From the Inside," not some commercial varietal trip.
2015, Tour de France, waiting for the racing action to show up. In the meantime strategically stationed across the street from a bar that has set up a beer stand outside. 2 euros a beer!
Our destination at the end of the day, a quiet village on the edge of the Basque country.
Trip dates: Aug 27th to Sept 11. Cost $4200. More details here.