After watching the Cyclefilm DVD, I decided that conducting a reccie of the Pyrenees would be a sensible idea - plus it would probably be a lot of fun. I have an extra week of holiday to use up that my girlfriend doesn't have, so I booked flights to Toulouse and away I went. As luck would have it, I found a company called Pyractif that as it turns out, is run by the same guy who drives the minibus in the Cyclefilm DVD (Chris). He has been very helpful and has selected a few rides for me to cut my teeth on. Yesterday's ride took in the Portet d'Aspet which has been used a number of times in the TdF.
The climb was a bruising encounter - the average gradient was 9.5% with a 600m stretch at 17%. To say I was gasping for air would be an understatement, I really thought I was going to come to a standstill and fall off my bike at one point. It comes to something when reaching a section of 10% stuff is seen as a bit of a break!
Panting away I reached the top and felt a great sense of achievement in doing the ride in one go. The summit tops out at 1069m - I view anything above 1000m as a real Col so I was feeling very smug. The descent down the hill was some of the best fun I have had on a bike, albeit I was scared stiff for the majority of it. I stopped on the way down at the memorial erected for Fabio Casartelli, the Olympic Champion who lost his life on the Portet d'Aspet during the 1995 TdF.
The experience taught me 2 valuable lessons; 1) I need to do plenty more training and 2) I really need to get some tips on how to descend, as my skills in this area are still squarely at novice level.
Here is the Garmin readout from the ride.