Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Welcome to the Pyrenees - Part 2

Each year in the mountains, I'm eager to try a hard climb early, to test my condition. This year was no exception, so after the flat ride in the morning, it was time to tackle the Hautacam. This is a ride up to a ski area, which boasts a number of lifts and a mechanical Luge. That, by the way, is essentially a roller coaster built into the side of the mountain.

The climb is only around 13 kilometers long, but is pretty steep, with some brutal sections with double digit gradients and little respite.

First, I had to retrace my steps from this morning, back to Argeles-Gazost, to find the bottom of the climb, which is where the D100 leaves town. It's pretty well marked. At the bottom, the gradients are reasonably modest for a while, but then the steeper ramps kick in. There is the occasional flatter section, where I was able to grab a bottle, or even to pick a higher gear, but it's not long before the slope kicks up again, and it's back to grinding out a rhythm again.

The views back over the valley are pretty spectacular. They were marred a bit today by low cloud that drifted in from time to time. Even so, taking some photos was the perfect excuse to stop occasionally and get my breath back. Near the top, the slope finally relents. As I found out last year, even 9% can seem a blessed relief after a prolonged period of double digit gradients.

Angela passed me in the car on the way up, and was on hand to capture the obligatory picture of rider and bike in front of the appropriate signage.

Above the Hautacam, there is a further 1.2 kilometers of climb to the top of the Col de Tramassel. It's about100 metres higher than the Hautacam, and it seemed rude not to visit it while I was there. There are great views across the Pyrenees from the Hautacam and the Tramassel, or at least there would have been if there had not been fairly persistent cloud. During one clearer patch, I grabbed this shot.
The route up the Hautacam is available on Garmin Connect. My average speed was miserably low, particularly since the ride included the descent from Saint-Savin. The Hautacam is a tough climb. Others in the Pyrenees may be a lot longer, but few can match its gradients.

Needless to say, the descent from the Hautacam was a lot easier than the climb. A jacket was definitely needed today, as quite a portion of the descent was in cloud. From the top, I followed a black Audi down the mountain. This was fine, apart from the drivers desire to stop suddenly, just out of site in the cloud, to photograph the wildlife. Happily, I can report that the brakes on my new Ribble Aero 883 work very well indeed!

The final climb up to Saint-Savin is modest, and a good way to finish off the ride. I did arrive in Argeles-Gazost at rush hour which meant a bit of queuing, and a little walking to avoid the traffic. That did affect my average a little.

This ride was the first time that I tried out the Sony action camera on a chest mount here in the Pyrenees. Both worked flawlessly.

The route back down the Hautacam is available on Garmin Connect.