Many thanks to all those who supported our challenge and donated so generously. Your backing spurred us on to ensure that we both crossed the line!
It was a long weekend. We arrived in Pau at 12.45pm on the Friday night and were up at 7am for a quick breakfast before heading off to collect and rebuild our bikes and then cycle across town to register for the race.
Registration was perhaps the first time we gleaned the sheer scale of the event with 10,000 cyclists and their families and friends all buzzing round in a carnival atmosphere.
Once we’d registered we cycled back to our hotel before taking a bus into Pau for a very late lunch. That night we tried to get to bed early but the nerves, anticipation and trepidation meant a restless night for all. Up at 4:30 am for breakfast on race day before cycling into Pau as dawn broke to take our place in our allotted starting pen at 6:15am. It was only just getting light. 45 minutes from the start and atmosphere was electric.
Hemmed in with 10,000 other cyclists the chatter and banter grew until finally the gun went off at 7am and the race was underway.
Due to the sheer number of people nearly 20 minutes passed before we crossed the start line and our stage of the tour de france began in earnest.
The route broke down into a few key sections – the first was about 55km to the foot of the Col de Marie Blanque. Along the way there was a ‘little climb’ which would have put most hills in the UK to shame. At the foot of the Marie Blanque the road narrowed and the first serious climb of day began. At 9.5km long and an average of 7.5% gradient rising in places to 10% and more this was certainly a punchy opener. It was on this climb that we heard the first ambulance sirens. These would be with us on and off all day as people crashed or simply flaked out.
The descent down from the Marie Blanque was fantastic. The roads were closed to traffic for the day so we could carry speed around corners. Hitting well over 70kmph the descents seemed over all too quickly.
After 40km of beautiful rolling terrain we came to the Col du Soulour.
This climb was 6-7% and 15km long. The heat of day started to take its toll on people at this point and while this was not the toughest climb of the day it certainly felt very very hard. The final section was no longer shaded by the forest and we were exposed to the harsh sun. Down from the Soulour we cycled along the gorge towards the Col du Tourmalet.
Even before the signposts telling you that you are on the Col de Tourmalet appear there is a long steady climb. Then, after 150 odd km the climb proper began. 19.5km starting at 7% and rising to 10% for kilometer after kilometer. Riders were strewn across the road as the relentlessness of the Tourmalet took its toll. Each kilometer seemed to get longer and longer as we ground our way to the top. There were thousands of spectators on the roadside all day cheering us all on shouting “Allez! Allez!”, “Courage!” and spraying riders with hose pipes and bottles of water.
It seemed to go on forever until finally we reached the summit and our race was run.
A great and lasting experience which has helped raise much needed money for a worthy charity so once again - many thanks,
Roger and Simon
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