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Day 10 : A tough day

Col du Tourmalet and Col d'Aspin

We woke up to a nice view.

100cols 098.jpg

View from our tents

We only had some granola and a few drops of honey left. The disgusting orange jam had been thrown out because we didn't want to cycle it over the Aubisque. The village didn't have a bakery. The next one was a few kilometers downhill. There was a bar that sold bread and jam. The jam was 5 euros per jar so we didn't buy that. The bread turned out to be very sour and salty, and the three drops of honey we had left didn't make it much better. Eating well wasn't that important, because we only needed to climb the Tourmalet and col d'Aspin today...

After 15 km the road started to go uphill. The Tourmalet was indicated. We followed some people on speed bikes while we gently went uphill. I saw a cyclist with a green shirt in the distance. When we catched up with them they turned out to be the two German cyclists we had also seen on the Aubisque. They recognized us as well. One shouted 'Hi' and high-fived Bram. They would also climb the Tourmalet. When the climb really started the cyclists before us took a break, but we continued.

The Tourmalet wasn't really steep, only the last few kilometers. First the road passed through two villages and then entered
a nice valley. We passed some other cycling vacation people. In the valley the road meandered back and forth. Afterward it made a huge bend, about 3 kilometers long. We could see how far we still had to go. After a few more turns, each increasingly steeper, we reached the top. I had done the entire climb on just two water bottles. Just as on the Aubisque we didn't stop during the entire climb. The breakfast of a baguette with nearly no honey apparently didn't work against us. On top we bought ice cream. The bar also had a suitcase with old newspapers. A sign said they were there for cyclists to stay warm during the descent. There were also bikes from 1908, which they used during races back in the day.

I bought a stone plaque in the souvenir shop, showing the mountain and a bike. Bram bought a hat because he needed one anyway. From there we could walk up to Pic du Midi. That is an even higher mountain from which most of the Pyrenees are visible. We started the hike, but after half an hour we weren't even halfway yet. As we still had quite a bike ride ahead of us and hardly ate, we decided it was best to turn around. There were lots of vultures at the top.


We climbed up from this side


On our way to Pic du Midi

Cycling the Tourmalet
cycling the Tourmalet
Summit of the Tourmalet
View from the Tourmalet
Vultures Tourmalet
Vultures on the tourmalet

Vultures on the Tourmalet


Before we descended, we wanted to take a picture in front of the col's sign. A Spanish guy was taking a photo of his bike, so we proposed photographing each other.


The Tourmalet was the highest mountain of this cycling vacation.


The view towards the other side of the Tourmalet wasn't as pretty. There was a valley with a town filled with construction sites. What stood out was that, because the Tour de France had gone up from this side, the road was recently re-asphalted. That had happened in many places in the Pyrenees; the roads were great everywhere the Tour had passed. Nearly every mountain also had professional cyclists' names written all over it.

Tourmalet by bike

Descending the Tourmalet

Tourmalet by bike

The descent was nice, the road was clear and the corners gentle. Only the cars were annoying. I had to overtake five cars and one bus. At a straight section I reached 77,8 km/h. At the bottom I didn't see Bram even after waiting for two minutes. Usually the difference wasn't that big. It turned out he had stopped three times because he was behind the bus. It was hard to overtake and on a bike you go so much faster that waiting a few minutes doesn't help much. You also can't stay directly behind it, because all the braking would quickly wear out your brake pads. 

After the descent we wanted to get some food in the next village, only there wasn't any store or ATM. The only place selling food was a pizza place that also sold jam and water bottles. The jam was 3.50, while it usually was 1.10, and the bottles of water were 2 euros, while they were usually 18 cents. We started digging in our wallets to see how much cash we had and then walked out... the people there looked confused, but it was their fault for making everything so expensive. The next village was 8 km away. Those were the only kilometers on this trip where we were really hungry and thirsty. The town wasn't much, there was a tourist shop that sold some food. We bought our usual items: a baguette, Oasis lemonade, and paté de campagne. 

There was a patio where we ate everything, the people working there even brought glasses for the Oasis. After we ate and drank everything it was time for the Col d'Aspin. That one had also been in the Tour de France this year, combined with the Tourmalet. The Aspin wasn't especially tough. About 3 kilometers before the summit I noticed a guy on a racing bike trying to overtake us. I told Bram, who went after him.


After a while, Bram, with his heavier bike, couldn't keep up anymore. I took over. He was wearing a shirt from a Dutch triathlon club. I could keep up but slowed down to wait for Bram. We had one more kilometer to go when Bram shouted I shouldn't mind him and try to beat the guy to the top. I went up with about 20 km/h, while before we were going just over 10. I passed the cyclist but about 300 meters before the top I heard something. He had caught up with me and was changing gear. I did the same and started to sprint. For a few seconds we rode together. Along the road there were people looking at us, first in shock and then they started cheering. The last 50 meters were less steep and the guy passed me, I arrived 10 meters behind him. He could laugh about it. I told him, 'that deserves the polka dot jersey'. Then he started telling the other people in his club how we hung on for 500 meters and then passed him so fast it wasn't fun anymore, but he did beat me at the end. I didn't tell him we had also climbed the Tourmalet today. When Bram arrived the cyclist took a picture for us.

col d'aspin

On top of col d'Aspin

col d'aspin

When we were back down we bought some healthy food as we hadn't really eaten yet today. We bought a type of coleslaw, some pudding, and fruit. Just when we started eating it started to drizzle. Then it began to rain harder. We were sitting in front of a church, but moved to a porch with an overhang. When we were ready to leave I couldn't find my pocket knife. Fortunately I found it again; during our cycling trip in the Black Forest I broke one and lost another. Back home I had bought another one, which I had also lost. Although I had to search a few times it made it back home safely this time.

In Avajan was a campsite, unfortunately a camping municipal with only one star. Usually there are only French people there. After pitching our tents quickly, we took a shower before it started raining again. It turned out we needed tokens, but there wasn't anyone to buy them from. The one I had left from the previous campsite didn't work. That meant a cold shower for me and Bram's second cold shower in three days. 

We ate some granola and watermelon in front of our tents. The orange that I had bought was completely black inside. It started to thunder in the distance, and shortly after it got very windy. I could see lightning in the distance. Fortunately, it didn't rain much during the night.


Distance cycled : 90 km

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