Monday 16 July 2012

My Etape du Tour 2012

I opted for Acte 2, the route from Pau to Bagneres de Luchon in the Pyrenees.

Four big climbs, the Aubisque, Tourmalet, Aspin and Peyresourde were involved.  4,696 riders started and 3,829 reached the finish line, so a much lower rate of attrition than Issoire to St Flour last year.  However, like last year, the weather left a little to be desired.  It was pleasant enough in Pau for the start but by the time I was half way up the Aubisque the persistent drizzle had started and every descent, save the lower part of the one into the finish, was done on wet roads in poor visibility.  I tend to descend in such conditions not that much faster than I ascend - a slight exaggeration but I pass people on the way up never on the way down -and my better 'classement grimpeur' compared to my 'classement reel' reflects this.
Happily I had done a ride in the foothills of the Pyrenees last Thursday when the sun shone brightly.

After bad experiences with tyre blowouts in the Spring I was apprehensive of mechanicals but my only problem was that a stone flung up from the road was the perfect size to lodge into my pedal in such a way as to jam it.  I had several people at the food stop at St Marie de Campan trying to force my foot off a jammed pedal, in a way that migiht have been comical had I not been so cold, wet and anxious to begin the next climb to restore my body temperature.  Thereafter I warmed and the rain relented and I probably had my best climb up the wonderful Peyresourde reversing the final part of the first etape I did, in baking heat, in 2007.

So I have now done six, 3 in the heat and 3 in the rain.  The difference this year is I did not really anticipate the conditions and did not dress appropriately.  I would have given the weight equivalent in gold for long fingered gloves (left in my hotel room in Pau) whilst I was coming down off the Tourmalet; a descent that I note from the on line resource Strava took me over 32 minutes compared to under 18 minutes taken by one Kenny Nijssen on the same morning.  Whether he slowed as I did for the mud strewn all the way across the road at La Mongie intrigues me.

Even if these things seem less than wholly pleasurable at the time, I am always glad after the even that I took part.  I reckon 289th in my age category is creditable enough along with being in the top third of climbers of any age.


  1. I feel tired just looking at the chart thing.

    Seriously though, well done.

  2. Congratulations - great ride

  3. standard way to get a foot out of a wedged (or spinning) cleated pedal is to get out of the shoe, then deal with the pedal problem)

    1. Agreed but an unattractive proposition outsiide in the rain!

  4. Enjoyed your post and found the Pyrenees are a mixture of conditions over the years . Always go there expecting it to bucket so am thankful when it proves otherwise.
    Next week i will be in your part of the country after returning from " Le Tour " and will be looking for one of your readers to assist " Accom wise " , will bring a tent and will happily camp !
    Each Olympic i have the good fortune to ride with the Racers so want to be in the neighbourhood of the Parcours . Can't promise anything in return , but those reading my blogs will see that i trip over people like Big Mig ,etc and those riding for their National Team .
    Showing the Racers the route since Sydney2000 means that i have already had a few ask if i will be there , no doubt , some will want to be left to themselves !

    Contact thru please , and it may be the same situation for the Para Games !

  5. Worth investing in some decent quality tyres - Conti GP4000S, for example - to give you peace of mind on descents. Moreover, check regularly for wear. The thinner the rubber becomes, the more the tell-tale signs of nicks and thinning rubber will be evident.

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