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18/10/2012 // INFO Leave a comment

Day Four on the Raid Pyrenees

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Peyresourde Views

St Lary to Arac, 140km, 2200m of climbing, Col de Peyresourde and Col de Portet d’Aspet

Day four of our ride from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean was a 140km stage from St Lary to a hamlet 20 km East of St Girons called Arac. During the day we climbed over 2000m and summited the Peyresourde and the Col de Portet d’Aspet. A large lunch was enjoyed in Luchon.

It was also the day when the cumulative effects of the previous four days were apparent in the group. One member of the team took a rest day and amongst the remaining nine riders it was clear that energy levels were low. To date we have cycled over 400km and done over 6000m of climbing.

Fortunately the sun shone and temperatures rose to the mid twenties (in mid-October) and so, despite the aches and pains, we left the practical and pleasant town of St Lary for a thirty minute ride down the valley to the base of the Peyresourde in good spirits.

The Peyresourde is a great climb. It features regularly in the Tour and is tough on both the eastern and western ascents. You can also skip up to the ski station above, Peyragudes, as the Tour did in 2012. The gradient is consistently in the 8% region and the views ahead, to the right and behind are stunning. We were confronted by a stiff headwind for much of the climb but, with relatively fresh legs, the group were able to summit comfortably.

The descent into Luchon is an experience to enjoy on dry days. It’s super fast, with open bends that allow you to take corners at speed. It’s also takes you into a stunning valley, which you can relish as you feather your brakes on the descent.

Most of our ride, since Monday, had been either uphill or downhill. However, post lunch (where we were also able to visit one of the cycle stores (NB. which close at midday for two hours for lunch)) we had 45 minutes of valley floor to cycle along. We created a disciplined line and averaged an excellent speed to the foot of the short Col d’Ares, which precedes the Col de Bales, which in itself precedes the Col de Portet d’Aspet.

The latter climb’s reputation was tragically made by the death of the reigning Olympic champion on a fearsome downhill corner which registers 17%.  There are two memorials to Casatelli and every passing cyclist will want to pay their respects when they cycle this climb.

The final 4.4km of the climb are a beast. The gradient is mostly in the double digit region and progress is painfully slow. The forest hangs over the road and the atmosphere is oppressive and discouraging. Fortunately the summit did eventually appear and from then it was downhill all the way to our hotel at the foot of the Col de Port. Where we resume our ride tomorrow morning.

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