I say it every time, but is it really two weeks since my last blog?! Scary how quickly time is flying right now, and as I’m counting down to Fred Whitton (FW – 15 days…), it seems to be gathering pace every day!
I realised earlier on this week that I still hadn’t booked accommodation for the TdY Sportive in Fox Valley Sheffield on the 30th, NEXT Sunday… just a wee event of 65 miles and around 6,600 ft of climbing. Pales into insignificance next to Fred, but it will be a good warm up the week before…AND take my mind off FW for at least a few hours of one day. As far as Sportives go, they do say the FW is about as tough as they get, and it would seem they won’t be far wrong.
I did a French-style Sportive last year in the Pyrenees; the Barousse Bales Sportive. A monster with 3 Cols to climb covering over 10,000 ft in around 85 miles. The first Col, the Port de Bales has featured in the Tour de France and also La Vuelta, it’s a long one, nearly 20km in length and climbing up to 1755m above sea level. The actual ascent is 1185m from the Barousse valley over to Bourg d’Oueil before descending to Bagneres de Luchon; a stage finish on last year’s Tour de France. (Remember Chris Froome’s awesome decent crouched on the crossbars to win the stage?
The Port de Bales is one of the toughest climbs I came across in the Pyrenees; it starts gently, then ramps up suddenly at about 10k. The next 10k is rough, steep at times (up to 17%) but staggeringly beautiful, wild and tranquil with nothing but the sound of cowbells and crickets to accompany you on your way.
The 2nd Col to climb was the Peyresourde. Le Tour climbed this one from the other side last year, missing out the ski-station Peyregudes which will host a stage finish on this year’s tour. (It’s where I ended up on a ride out last year taking an extra right hander where I should have continued straight on!) It’s another toughie, with the added difficulty factor of being able to see the hairpins wind up in front of you for the last 5k or so. In the summer it’s a killer due to the geography of the mountain which seems to hold onto the rising valley heat and doesn’t let it go until you finally reach the top.
The 3rd and final Col on the Sportif was the Col d’Azet, I’d done it before, it’s the shortest of the 3, but with tired legs, in the heat of the midday sun, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Far from it in fact, it proved to be the hardest by a long shot; my legs started to cramp with about 5k to go. It’s only 3 miles, but with legs in pieces, it was the most painful experience since giving birth! My adductors; those tender little strips that run from your groin, down the inside of your thighs to your knees, were rigid. Stopping….was not an option, I’d never have got going again. (Clipping into pedals on anything over a 7-8% incline is out of the question as far as I’m concerned!) So I talked myself up the rest of the ascent, practising mind over matter, meditation, relaxation, everything I could to keep my legs spinning, and although the cramp didn’t actually go, I made it to the top before both legs went into major spasms and I keeled over on the grass next to the feed station. Some kind person removed me from my shoes so that I could get up and stretch… or try to. They fed me bananas and filled my water bottles and slowly but surely I was able to get back on my bike and enjoy the decent, and rest of the journey back to the finish. I was accompanied by a very nice French man who helped to take my mind off my bruised and battered legs as I had to converse in French to be sociable. We were the last two over the line in 7 hours 30 minutes.. just missing out on being swept up by the broom wagon… The indignity!!
French cyclosportives are very different to ours over here, they are very much serious club racing affairs with very few amateurs like myself taking part. They also have ‘CycloTouriste’s’ for the more leisurely rider….Pffft!
I am taking a few people over to the Pyrenees for Le Tour in July. Having spent all Summer there last year I know the area really well. I have a friend who owns a beautiful Manor House near Luchon and I’m hiring that for two weeks to cover the Tour dates. Stages 12 and 13 are both within easy cycling distance from the house, and we’re going to have an amazing time watching the Pro’s making it look easy. I still have a spare twin/double for the Tour, if you are interested, please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org asap. The cost of the holiday 7-17th July £895 doesn’t include flights, but does
cover airport transfers, luxury en-suite accommodation, food and table wine. The 7 day 10-17th July option is £595. For further information please see the Facebook page where I shall post the brochure tonight. It’s not a fixed itinerary type of holiday; you can do as much or as little as you like. I will be guiding for those who require it, but just as happy to provide a route and see you at dinner time, the choice is yours.
Back to the present and it’s been a fabulous day today showing James Ellis and Lyndsey Thomas from ‘All about the Story’ and ‘Girl about Yorkshire’ around beautiful Farndale. Cycling Tours of Yorkshire will be featured on their new project ‘Yorkshire’s Best Adventures’ when it goes live next week. They filmed a ‘Vlog’ ( yep…a cross between a Video and a Blog), and will write an event profile following their experiences today. I can’t wait to see what they have to say, I think they enjoyed themselves. We were blessed with warm sunshine and a tail wind for what seemed like most of the ride.
See the smile on Lyndsey’s face as she sped up those hills on the e-bike from Big Bear Bikes! The Daffy Cafe provided a sun trap coffee stop before cruising back to the van parked up in Gillamoor.
Next time I write… if I can steady my hands for long enough, will be post-TdY and Sportive, and pre-Fred Whitton… should be interesting.
If you’re watching the Tour de Yorkshire next weekend, enjoy. Maybe I’ll see you en route? I think I may watch somewhere near Goathland. Look out for a small blonde on a blue bike and say hello if you see me!
Have fun and stay safe.