With a long day on the bike ahead of us we skipped our morning trip to the lake in order for an earlier roll out. We’d worked through a number of complex options to make the logistics work and allow those riders who wished to complete the full “Tour Stage” route the time to do so, whilst also ensuring that ALL campers were together for the KOM competition at around 70km into the ride. Whilst we can travel as a reasonably compact group on flatter terrain, if stronger riders keep the pace “steady” and the less strong sit in and on a wheel, it’s the ascents that really split our group up, so we felt that the slower riders would need a good head start in order to get over the two reasonably significant climbs – The Mente and Ares – we’d do before arriving at The Cote de Burs. As it happened, 30 minutes was about the perfect amount of time for the groups to meet on the Col D’Ares and then make the short roll down to Babazan together.
Today’s KOM would be interesting as we’d chosen to include a very short, but steep, climb: only 1.5km long, but ascending 120m it is one of the steepest gradients on our itinerary. Of course the handicap gaps would be short, all riders would be visible to one another and it would be a question of brute strength over short duration rather than well paced output that is required for the longer climbs that make up so much of the riding that we are doing this week. That and the effect that ~400km of mountains in 3 days has on one’s ability to find their top end!
And indeed – the out come of this stage did have a significant effect on the overall standings – especially with the increasing points tariff – our big Swiss guy Andreas plummeted through the rankings, whilst light-weight marathon runner Mark J ( Mark mk II) excelled in this contest.
We rolled over the top and followed the Tour Route to Mauleon Barousse where Julie provided us with a lunch of sandwiches and coke which was enjoyed in the sunshine. Mauleon Barousse is literally the base of the next climb on the agenda – Port de Bales. A stinker of a HC climb – long and steep – which links to the Peyresaude for the final bit of hard effort in a long day en route to the mountain-top finish at The Peyreguides ski station. Mindful of the difficulty and length of time it takes even at a “Steven’s Pace” we had shortened the daily camp requirement to omit the final climb…with a further bail-out option of returning direct from MB and skipping the Bales also…which is exactly what most of the lads decided to do! Mark mark 1 was keen to ride The Bales and remain on track for camp completion – which in itself ensured 100miles – whilst Steven took Paul all the way to the Peyraguides.
Those who had returned early made use of the time with some additional running, whilst both mark and Paul were pleased that they only had to trot out 30min to loosen their legs!
Andreas in the Leader’s Jersey