We leave Lourdes at 8 on a bus - they are dastardly, these B&R guides. They know we would rather sleep in than bike, so they take us forty kilometers out in a bus, hand us our bikes, point us at the Col D’Aspin, give us route notes (great route notes, you really have to try to get lost - and we did...but more about that later) and say “See you on the route!”
A short ride through a beautiful steep valley along a rushing mountain stream, just the kind you’d like to have in your back yard, lulling you to sleep. Then a sharp left and the climb begins. Twelve kilometers. No mercy.
Col D’Aspin is famous for its views. Today it’s like waking up face down in your pillow - total white-out. Plus there’s a heavy mist that is turning to rain.
The B&R travelogue says “Also a Category one climb, although not considered that difficult, probably due to the many hairpin bends where one has a chance to catch a breath.” Are they serious? Hello! the switchbacks are there because the road is too steep to do anything else! It’s an engineering necessity, not a scenic overlook, and definitely not a place to catch your breath.
I know why the triple was invented and I take full advantage of the gears. Mostly the lowest one, but on this climb there is the occasional not so steep part, and I’m feeling pretty good when we reach the top. Actually I’m feeling fantastic. Sore as hell, my shorts are soaked with sweat, I'm tired, and I'm smug. And redeemed after yesterday. I made it!
Channing comes up the hill and begins to ham it up - and drops his chain. We crack up and nickname him Andy Schleck.
We scream downhill until we run into the cows. Almost literally. then...
Back to Lourdes. To the hotel from hell. With a greasy bedspread, a hairdryer mounted so low on the wall you have to dry your hair in a crouch, or be a midget. And the bidet - oh yes, it’s France so even the cheap seats have a bidet - but this one is blocked by the tp holder mounted on the wall. You would have to be a contortionist to use it. I’d love to meet the twisted midget who designed this room. Plus we are both covered with bites.
And I learned those fantastic route instructions don't work if you skip from #28 to #41. We had a lovely tour of a church paring lot before Wally figured out I was on the wrong number...
In Lourdes there are parades of plastic covered wheelchairs, people and delivery vans and cyclists and tour busses clog the alleys that pass for streets. We refer to them as the hoardes of Lourdes. I 'd post a photo but this hotel's internet is glacial. So more later. Off for a well deserved rest. We will sleep well even at the Roach Hotel.