Day 11 : Equipment breakdown part II

Col de Peyresourde, Port de Bales

We started the day by climbing the Peyresourde. Today there were four large mountains on the program, so we tried to go slow. When we were almost at the top I saw the German guy who we met on the Aubisque and the Tourmalet. I said 'gutentag', he replied 'ah der junges aus Holland'. We cycled with him for a while. He said we would get some lubricant from him at the top. My chain made some noise and Bram's was so loud you could hear him coming from 20 meters away. The climb wasn't very though. On top the other German was waiting, I didn't recognize him at first because he had taken his shirt off. The other guy arrived shortly after and helped us lubricate our chains. We took a picture of them with their camera and then some of ourselves.


At the mile mark of the Peyresourde


After a descent with lots of rocks and gravel we reached a village where we bought lunch. The next mountain would be the Port de Balès. It started within 10 kilometers of the summit of the Peyresourde. It was quite steep at the start and then gradually went up for a long while.

100 cols tocht

View from a relatively level section of the climb

100 col tour

Bram almost stood on yet another snake in the grass


It was warm today. In the last village before the summit we wanted to buy some food and drinks. Near a hotel we found a tree to sit under. As soon as we got there I heard a loud bang. My rear tire had blown. First a deep breath and then think. I took the bags of my bike so we could asses the damage. The outer tire was torn along the edge for about 5 cm. The inner tire had a hole so big it was impossible to repair. We didn't care many spare parts, just a spare inner tire and a puncture repair kit. We put both the inner and outer tire of the front wheel on the back, and then the spare inner tire in the front, together with the lacerated outer tire. We then cut a 10 cm rectangle out of the broken inner tire and wrapped that around the new inner tire, hoping it would stop it from bulging out. I also loosened my front brakes to make sure those wouldn't rupture the tire if it would pop out anyway. Pumping the tires didn't go that well, Bram's pump only made it to about 3 bar. That was enough for regular tires, but for my thin racing tires it was just barely enough not to ruin my rims.

After quickly eating something we continued. We still needed to finish the Port de Balès and the following part was the steepest. Cycling was now twice as hard as before. On the top we quickly made some pictures so we could reach a bicycle repair shop as quickly as possible.

Port de Bales

Port de Balès

Port de Bales
Port de Bales
Port de Bales

There was a good amount of gravel on the road during the descent

Going down with two soft tires was even less fun than climbing. The inner tire was already protruding through the hole, so I couldn't really use my front brake. I continuously braked at my rear wheel, which made it difficult to steer. After a while I thought it might be smart to check the temperature of my rear rims. That turned out to be a good idea, it was so warm I could barely though it. We waited until it had cooled down and then continued. I also put on my jacked to use it as a kind of parachute to slow me down. 


Nearly at the bottom of the descent was a turn in the road that was covered with molten asphalt. I couldn't really brake and the outside of the bend was covered with small stones. When a car came from the other direction I barely avoided crashing.

In the first village we went in search of a new tire. Of course there was no bike shop. In the supermarket we asked where the nearest one was. It was 30 kilometers away, along a big road. For the first few kilometers the 100 cols tour ran in the same direction so we decided to follow it until reaching the big road. There we asked again and someone told us there was a bike store 15 kilometers away, but in the other direction. Both weren't in the direction we needed to go, but at least this one was closer by. Meanwhile it was 17:30 so we needed to make a plan quickly.

We could stay at a campsite 5 kilometers away and then in the morning take a bus to the store, or we could continue our normal route and hope we would find a bike store along the way. Since the next 150 km would only pass through small villages that didn't seem like a good plan. The third option was to cycle to the bike store right now. As it was 17:30 we needed to average 30 km/h to get there before 18:00, which was likely when the store closed. If we wouldn't make it there, there would also need to be a campsite, because otherwise we would have to camp by the side of the road or cycle the 15 back + the 5 km to get to the nearby campsite, and then still take the bus tomorrow.

The most risky option, but also the one which would allow us to resume our route as fast as possible, was to race to the store as fast as possible and hope there would be a campsite if things didn't work out. We cycled as fast as we could, because we needed to ride 30 km/h for 15 km with luggage and an only half inflated tire. That went pretty well because the road seemed to go downhill. According to the map there was actually a 4% incline, but we didn't notice after all the mountains. We alternated cycling in pole position and started to believe we could make it. One minute before 6 we arrived at the bike shop.

Completely covered in sweat and out of breath we walked in. It was a huge mess. The counter was covered with a big pile of bike parts and the workshop looked like it had been snowing nuts and bolts all day. Everywhere were piles of metal, all piled so high it only barely didn't fall off the tables. I bought a new outer and inner tire, a pump, and new cleats for my shoes. I also bought screws to tighten them, but they later turned out to be too long. A bit down the road was another bike shop, this time a normal one. There I bought a spare outer tire and a tool to tighten my spokes, because one kept getting loose. 
In front of the first store I replaced my front tire, the new one didn't have any tread. The way back, over the same road, again seemed to go downhill. Probably we had gotten so accustomed to climbing that a flat road felt like going downhill. 


In the next village along the route was the campsite. First we were nearly blown off our bikes because of the cold air coming out of a cave. The local store was just about to close but we were still allowed to quickly buy something. We got two bottles of beer and some other things. The campsite only had half a free spot, which was enough for us. We drank the beer on a bench, near the jeu des boules field. The only place where French people seem to live is on a jeu des boules field or at the bakery. Apart from those places you hardly see them anywhere. There are also no people working anywhere. In small villages you hardly see anyone. As usual the beer had a good effect on me, after a hard day of cycling. I reminded Bram that on the Tourmalet he had forgotten to tell his story about the highest mountain in the Pyrenees, but it's probably better if I don't write that story here.

Distance cycled : 110 km