Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Hot hot hot!

After the exertions of yesterday, the original plan for today was to help Angela ride to Lac d'Estaing. This was the ride she'd hoped to complete while we were here. We had a leisurely breakfast, leaving plenty of time for her to get going. We got the bikes prepared, during which time we said goodbye to Terrie and Ron who were leaving to head back to Vancouver.

We finally rolled out at around 10:30. It was already very hot, and as we climbed out of Saint-Savin, Angela was having some dificulty. The road kicks up quite steeply all the way to Arcizans-Avant, before leveling off. Just before we'd reached the village, it became apparent that Angela was under sufficient stress that we should abandon the attempt. We rolled back into Saint-Savin so that she could cool off and recover.

When we got back, I decided to make my second visit to the Hautacam. Last week it had been in cloud at the top. Today it was completely clear. When I left, Angela was not entirely sure that she would come up in the car. In the event, she did, and was able to take in the spectacular views.

I dropped back into Argeles-Gazost, and took the now familiar road past the garage, and the Carrefour supermarket to the bottom of the climb. This climb is hard, with unrelenting sections at 10% and above. Some of the steepest sections are in the villages along the route. Even though the temperature was heading for 40 celsius today, the ride didn't seem as hard as last week. Unlike the ride to Cambasque yesterday, there is shade on the Hautacam, at least until the tree line is reached. I did stop a couple of times to admire the views and to take photos.

Bike under an arch formed by a tree
One spot that several of us had noticed was while descending, is where a tree seems to form a natural arch through which the valley is visible. I managed to stop by it today, and take several shots, including this one of the bike.
Across the valley. Saint-Savin is on the left a third of the way up.
Further up, once the road emerges above the tree line, there are clear views across the valley. In this one, it's possible to make out Saint-Savin. It's the village amongst the trees about a third up from the bottom of the picture and about a quarter in from the left edge.

Thankfully, once above the tree line, there was a cool breeze to help mitigate the heat. My Garmin registered 40 celsius on the way up. Angela did decide to drive up. This time, we found the official sign for the top of the climb, which is at the entrance to the car park

Here we are again!

As last week, I carried on up the extra 1.2 kilometres to the Col de Tramassel, where we drank lemonade and tried to hide from the blazing sun under umbrellas outside the cafe there. Once again, the Ribble attracted an admirer, this time a young French rider who liked aero frames. He was on holiday with his wife and child, and had sensibly driven up today. He was riding, however, and had brought an old Peugot, belonging to his father. He was finding descending tricky! His English was excellent, so a discussion about groupsets, brakes, gear ratios and long cage rear derailleurs ensued!

The ascent of the Hautacam is available on Garmin Connect, as is the ascent of the Tramassel. Up the Hautacam, I was nearly 18 minutes faster than last week, despite the heat. The altitude training here is clearly paying off!

The view from the top to the south west
Have I mentioned that it was hot? Well, in case I haven't, it was hot. Really hot. For those of us from more northern latitudes, I'd go so far as to say it was seriously hot! As I started down, the breeze I generated by descending, coupled with the wind was very pleasant indeed. The riders I passed who were coming up definitely seemed to be suffering. There was a group who were all wearing the same jersey, but who were all over the mountain. One was walking, and another was sitting at the side of the road, stretching to try and overcome cramp. Further down, I rounded one corner to be greeted by a hot headwind, blasting up the road. The lower I got, the more frequent this became.

There wasn't a lot of traffic during the descent. I did have to take emergency action at one point when a huge tractor and trailer appeared at a point where the road was particularly narrow. I also stopped once on the way down to see how hot my rims were. Amazingly, given the ambient temperature, and the steep gradients and consequent heavy braking into corners, they were ok. I continued down without a hint of brake fade. Chapeau Shimano.

The descent from the Hautacam is avaialable on Garmin Connect

Once down, I headed for the local Carrefour which, as well as being a supermarket, has a filling station. We needed fuel for the car, and I wanted to be on hand to help Angela figure out the system for getting it. With that done, it was just a question of negotiating the Argeles-Gazost traffic, which was mercifully light, and climbing back up to Saint-Savin for a shower and a beer. On account of the heat...

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