Our Trek Travel group met at the Novotel in Toulouse at 10:00 a.m. and rode a bus to St. Lary in the Pyrenees. My first introduction was to Derek and Aimee Cutright from Redding, California. When I told them they probably knew a friend of mine I could see them scoffing. But they did know Tamy Quigley.
Then I met Ed and Nancy Karrels. Nancy was studying museum science and told me about a person she wanted to meet, Nina Simon. I told her I was good friends with Nina. (True). Small world even on our bus.
We drove out to the Pyrenees in the motor coach. We had a great picnic lunch in a park/square/open green area with lots of dog poop around in the village of Arreau.
We got fitted to the bikes followed by a too-brief intro of the group.
Guide Marquette Kelly speaking to the Group
We rolled out of Arreau and stayed together for eight miles as the road followed the valley. I looked over to the mountainside and saw a wonderful road cutting through the mountainside and said I hoped we would ride up that hill. We did.
In St. Lary we turned to find the base to the climb up Pla d'Adet. It was a steep one. It averaged 8-10% most of the way with sections of 12%. It was 6.1 miles (10km) to the summit.
And it was HOT. This was the most I ever sweated on a bike. I was drenched when I reached the summit. BTW, this is where George Hincapie won Stage 15 in 2005. Lance Armstrong also won here, in 2001.
I hadn't read up on the climb and thought I was near the summit (I wasn't looking up -- that's an old climber trick) when I saw the sign to the summit -- 7km (4 miles) to go. Average grade 9%. Well. it was in French but I knew what it said - "you're going to die." That was enough to make you want to stop and drink the mountain water coming out of the side of the hills (it's OK unless it's marked NON). But I kept going and dragged my butt up the hill.
Summit of Pla d'Adet peeking out in the sunshine
After 30-45 minutes on the summit we got to ride down the mountain. I gained a great appreciation for the professional cyclists. I always admired how fast they could climb but going down these roads -- wow! -- they descend almost twice as fast as me. The ride down was scary. Very technical (lots of hairpins curves that one had to slow down for) and very dangerous. My average speed down was only 20 mph. That was a lot of slowing in sharp curves.
At the Summit
After a shower we went to La Grange, a pretty neat restaurant which took the rest of the evening. And it was non-smoking although I wonder if it was that way just for us. Doesn't matter. Thank you France!
La Grange Restaurant in St. Lary
James Hartberg showing off his tan line
Tomorrow: Col d'Aspin (twice) and the Col du Tourmalet. Our private viewing will be in LaMongie, a ski village just before the summit of the Tourmalet. Trek Travel has a private restaurant reserved and may be out on the roof (so I've been told) to see them come by. And to yell bad things at Alberto Contador.