24 June 2010

Today's Bike Ride in France

Lac d'Estaing, Col de Borderes, Col du Soulor
Today I rode an amazing bike ride in France. It is a hot clear sunny day in the Pyrenees. I started the morning from the cycling lodge where I am staying in Saint Savin. The owner of the lodge said his favorite ride in the area is the road up to Lac d'Estaing. That is saying quite a bit since we are located in a valley with the Tourmalet, Luz Ardiden, Cautarets, and Hautacam up to the right, and the Spandelles, Col du Soulor and Col d'Aubisque over to the left.
After a good breakfast at the lodge with the other guests, I gathered my map, food, water and camera and headed out the front door, where my climb began. The D13 and D103 are small scenic roads that climb gently to the lake. The scenery in this region of the Pyrenees is extreme. The mountains rise dramatically. The 4th image below is my view at the lake during my first of three snacks. Very nice.

I stared down a cow to get there - he blinked first. I rolled by the horses, rested and then headed out to climb over the Col de Borderes. This small Col is a steep switchback road that connects into the next valley over and the town of Arrens Marsous (D916), the gateway to the Col du Soulor and Col d'Aubisque. The roads are generally quiet and safe. After stopping for a cold drink in Arrens Marsous, sitting in the middle of town in the shade, I decided it was far too nice of a day to stop now.
Up the Col du Soulor I went. 

Just before the top of the Col du Soulor, I was passed by a gentleman who called out "Good Morning!" At the summit of the Col we arrived to find that the road to the Col d'Aubisque was closed. Apparently they are working on road repair in preparation for the Tour de France. So instead this kind gentleman, who grew up in the area but now worked in Switzerland, invited me to have a drink at the cafe at the top. A nice cold Perrier.

The top of any col in the Pyrenees is always a fun place to be. Cyclists come and go, packs of motorcyclists arrive, hikers rest after long walks in the sun, the sound of cow bells fill the air, and every so often a pesky sheep comes by for a visit. This one wanted the nice gentleman's cheese sandwich (and he was successful). 

I then descended the Col du Soulor into the town of Bun, and took the D13 back to Saint Savin to complete the loop ride. During my climb I kept thinking, "and this is only one of 4 huge passes in Stage 16 of the 2010 Tour de France?" Each one of the four passes (Col de Pyresourde, Col d'Aspin, Col du Tourmalet, Col du Soulor, Col d'Aubisque) in Stage 16 are enormous climbs alone, but combined, I just can't believe they can race it in one day. God help them if it is hot like it was today. Or "allez bonne chance" (we go, good luck!) as the man at the top of the Soulor told me. 
This is the cycling lodge where I am staying, located just in front of the chapel. La Lanterne Rouge /VeloPeloton 55Euros a night for room, private bath, breakfast, and 3 course dinner with wine or beer. Run by a lovely couple from Ireland. The hillside in the background is the Hautacam. Dinner time at the lodge is great fun. I am enjoying hearing the stories from the day as we all scattered only to come back together again and talk cycling

I also wrote a previous post about the Five Peaks to be climbed in Stage 16 of the 2010 Tour de France "Five peaks in one day?"

*Apparently I am the only one that missed seeing Lance Armstrong today, all of the other guests at the lodge ran into him during his recon ride of Stage 17 for the TDF. Some saw him on the Tourmalet, some on the Col du Soulor, they had wonderfully entertaining stories to share about their day on a bike in the Pyrenees. What fun.