Here's the "steep first section." It was only the beginning.

Last ride, might be the hardest

Today was our last ride of the trip. And boy, did we make it a Duzer.

We decided to go with the “dashed route” for the final ride. Typically the dashed route is a bit longer and more difficult. See: more climbing. Since it was going to be the last one we wanted to make it a good one. Plus, Peter had said that the road was very beautiful once you got up the initial steep section and it leveled off and ran along the edge of the top of the valley. He drove it in the van a couple years ago and was scared to death on the trip. The road wound up being a glorified bike path really. It was super narrow and was listed on a dangerous roads website – Kristin found the site but I can’t find the link now. But we were sure to look for the “flat section” after the initial 15-24% climb. Yep, that’s right, there was a section of 24%. It was only about a 100 yards, but _______ (chose your explicative) that’s steep. The initial “steep section” ended up being about the first 4 miles. Then it was flat for about a mile before kicking back up to 9-15% for the last mile plus. It was also a bit warmer than we had been riding in the whole trip, so that added a new dynamic to the mix. Along with the mean as hell horseflies, this climb was pretty brutal. But I’m still glad we did it. The other route, the “dotted route,” would have been an interval training session on HGH and steroids with all the little but steep climbs over the foothills of the Pyrenees.

I’ll try to put together a little video from the climb and a bit of the descent and add it soon.

Once we started down the rough and gnarly road I managed to get yet another flat tire. This time it was a thorn and not some massive blowout with potentially dangerous side effects. I swapped out the tube pretty quick and caught back up with Kristin, Galen and Ella. By then a few others had grouped up with us, including The Canucks and Steve.

Things were going well, then the road drastically changed color from a slate gray to a high gloss black. Fresh. Hot. Sticky. Tar. We all hopped off our bikes and walked in the ditches and weeds to try and avoid the tar as much as possible, but we all still managed to get it all over our shoes and cleats. It was a mess. We ended up walking at least a kilometer if not two before we could get back on the bikes and then deal with the occasional sticky rick flinging off a tire at ourselves or bike parts.The sad part was that several other tandems and singles were still behind us and ended up riding through the tar instead of hoofing it. The carnage on those bikes was bad. A couple people upon tearing down their bikes tonight, just threw away the tires because there was so much stuck to them.

Kristin and I then worked our way back to Pau in the warm temperatures. It was about 90 degrees and we were running out of water. Every village we went through we were on the hunt for water. We made it into Pau and managed to coax a man into taking a photo of us on the overlook before we made it the last few hundred meters. I’m sure we smelled as rank as a carcass on the roadside after all the sweating and road tar. The top notch room and all at the hotel was greatly appreciated as we took showers to clean up for our last happy hour and dinner with the other riders. Lots of folks were down in the bar watching the end of the epic Tour stage and having some beverages. The food was amazing as always, even when there’s things I shouldn’t nor want to eat. The food on the trip has been quite memorable. I never did take any photos of it all but I should have. I think I was just too hungry and tired to think about it really.

Overall, this has been an amazing trip. Harder than we even expected, and we expected to suffer a lot. More beautiful than the footage can share while watching the Tour riders race through the Pyrenees. More rewarding than we considered with the great group of people that we were sharing it all with. It was a high suffer to reward exchange expedition, that’s for sure. And despite all the notions of how brutal and horrible it may sound on these pages, we’d do it all over again. Just let us have a few days of recovery first. Then we can go out riding again.

 

-JL

 

 

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