Easy last ride - don’t think so!!
Setting off for home today we had some tight time lines that we had to maintain so as not to miss our flight. That being said we wanted to fit in one last climb and after much deliberation, sitting on our beds last night, we decided to embark upon Porte de Bales. It is not a climb that would resonate with most but those who have attempted it will talk about it for many years to come.
Being a little more organised this morning we set off around 09:30am and headed for Mauleon-Barousse about a 25 minute drive from Loudet. The village was still asleep when we arrived but it detracted little from the beauty that masqueraded it. The first 6k or 7k was pleasant being a gentle 4.5% gradient, the only downside was that the sun had not risen high enough to warm the valley we were heading up. Need not worry as traversing through the deciduous trees we had our first awakening with a 8% ramp that seemed to go on for 1k. Did it let up - no it did not - the 8% became 9% which became 10% which dropped back to 9.5% for the next 6k. In between these climbs the odd switchback saw us hit 10% and 11%. Taking our windbreakers off we continued to climb and this is when brutality was upon us as the gradient was unrelenting. There was no respite and if I could have bought a couple more gears my credit card and pin number were at the ready. We then experienced 13%, 14% and 15% towards what appeared to be an opening to the pearly gates in the sky as the pain was starting to become unbearable - in the saddle for 4 strokes, out for 4 as this became the norm until we settled back down to 8%. A break in the ridge line could be seen which we thought could be the end of the climb but doing some quick maths we knew we still had 3k to go. This last 3K was the slowest and most unforgiving of all of the rides we have undertaken as the mountain had sapped our energy tanks. It tested us more than any of the infamous climbs we have completed on this trip and to both of us was our biggest achievement to date, by far.
An HC ride which carries a 10/10 for hardness being 19k long with an average gradient 6.3% with a max gradient of 15%. Certainly one everybody should experience at some stage.
Total distance: 39.2k. Height gained: 1,142m.
We had three full days and two half days. In this time we managed to climb up nine mountains being 8,715m, ride 368.4k in 17.5 hours. We took the challenge on and beat our six mountain ascent goal.
Whilst we have enjoyed ourselves, in a perverse kind of way given the pain, the aim wasn't fun it was to raise funds for Cycling fighting Cancer. Through very generous contributions we have managed to raise just over £1,300 for which we both send a huge vote of thanks. The money will make a great difference and if you still want to support the cause please visit Eat Cake Tri Cycling on JustGiving.
One last shout out!! We stayed with Brian and Marianne at their lovely place called Pyrenees Le Couloume in Loudet. It is a great little place and such a welcoming couple who will attend to your every need. As a keen cyclist himself, Brian will give you super advice and will always be looking for an excuse to get out on his bike. If you like good scenery, biking or walking in the South of France then do look them up: www.pyreneesbedandbreakfast.com