Waking up this morning we both knew that we had been riding hard, the descent down the staircase to breakfast was slow. The upside was the smell of freshly baked bread and homemade jams in addition to the bowl of porridge with banana and honey; the perfect fuel for the day.
We set off down towards Luchon again and parked up in our lay-by as today we wanted to tackle Col de Peyresourde (Col P) then drive towards Arreau to climb Pla d'Adet.
Spinning our legs for 6k was the hardest yet. Skirting round the town we followed the signs to Col P. Brian, from the B&B, told us that the initial climb would be hotter than it actually was as the heat would reflect off the shear rock face that we had to hug against on the initial approach. At 27 degrees (normal temperature) it felt like we had taken a wrong turning and had found ourselves riding through a Swedish sauna donned in our lycra. Imagine that….
We knew that this climb would be long and hard hence why it has appeared in the Tour so many times but the heat bouncing off the road and the rock face made this climb more challenging than expected. Fatigue both physically and mentally was slowly chipping away at our efforts. All we could do was to hang on in there for as long as it took to reach the top and keep those legs turning.
The scenery surrounding Col P was significantly different compared to the other climbs we have scaled as it was more a case of lush fields and stone walls reminiscent of the Highlands. What brought it back to reality was the punishing gradient, hitting 13% in places.
The final 2k's was impressive to say the least as you could see the road traversing on the side of the mountain opposite where we were heading towards. An average of 8% for the last 1k was not easy but with the road covered in the names of the cycling greats it was not that difficult to imagine that we were part of the Tour fighting our way through the crowds to summit.
Reaching the top we took our usual photo shots and decided that a change of plan was needed. Riding back down and then getting in the car to come back over Col P to Arreau was not appealing after yesterdays driving. We therefore decided to descend Col P on the other side, have some lunch and come back up. We found a lovely little village which actually had a little shop open selling fresh baguettes and jambon from the bone. This was remarkable as most little villages we have come across have all appeared deserted - it is as if the locals know something we don’t.
Setting off our legs were registering more pain - how much more of this are you going to give us, give us a break!! It was a right slog up the other side of Col de Peyresourde even with what seemed like on a surface as smooth as a billiard table. That was one of two positives we took, the other being we were going to go down the side we had already scaled.
Tim and I have now climbed eight mountains (one twice) in three and a half days. We are simply pooped but have enough in the tank for our last climb tomorrow morning before we had back to the airport and return to Blighty.
The war of attrition is telling and we definitely have respect for the peaks that God has meticulously given us.