Day 13 : The last piece of Pyrenees
Col d'Agnes, Col de Caougnous, Col de Peguère
Everything we carried was wet in the morning. My tent had gotten twice as heavy from all the water. We bought food in the village and realized just in time that we needed to get a stamp there. After we got one, we were finally ready to leave. The first col of the day was col d'Agnes. It wasn't super steep and similar to most other cols in the Pyrenees. Near the top we were encouraged by some children in a passing car.
The descent passed through a nice valley. I had forgotten about the fog on top and it quickly became clear that it would be very hard to make the first turn without my brakes working properly. I simply rode into a ditch while going 35 km/h. I barely avoided a giant boulder. The rest of the way down went better and turned into a nice meandering road. The next col was the Caougnous, which was 6 km long with a 5% incline. Along the way up we bought some food, including the best bread of the entire vacation. Then came the Péguère, the steepest col of the 100 cols tour. At its start we tested each other bikes, to see which one was easier to climb with. I could climb in a much lower gear on Bram's bike, while Bram clearly noticed that my bike was lighter. The Péguère is 3600 meters long and has an average incline of 14%. The steepest sections are 18%. At home we hadn't been sure if we would be able to make it.
The climb had sections with an 18% incline.
Me on Bram's bike
Bram on my bike
The first part of the climb wasn't too bad. Then we reached one of the 18% sections. We were averaging about 5 km/h; at that pace it would take 45 minutes of pedaling our lungs out to reach the top. That turned out to be the case. My legs didn't feel too bad, but our arms hurt from pulling the handlebars. There wasn't a single meter where you could sit down for a few seconds because you would immediately ride backward if you stopped. After pounding our bikes for a long time, we made it without stopping.
On top of the col
As the climb was so steep we expected a steep descent as well. That didn't happen. Without paddling, we went down at about 25 km/h. Bram tried replicating my superman-position from the last vacation but didn't really succeed, which was probably for the best. Just when I looked back at Bram the road transitioned to a newly asphalted section covered in gravel. I didn't have any traction with my narrow tires and nearly fell. The road sloped slightly to the left and I had to steer aggressively just to keep going straight. During corners I unclicked one of my shoes so I could catch myself in case I slipped. Fortunately, it wasn't very steep. After a few kilometers the gravel stopped. Because we were leaving the Pyrenees the road kept going downhill for a long time.
When I was finally making some speed I noticed something orange on the road. By the time I was 100 meters further I realized it could have been one of Piet's 'welpies', the orange lions he put on his front fender. I backtracked and saw Bram had already picked it up. I had watched enough CSI to know it had been lying there for no more than an hour. We meant we must have been right behind Piet and May. After we cycled through a relatively large city we overtook a female cyclist.
We cycled as fast as possible so she wouldn't beat us. Averaging around 33 km/h, we could quickly cover much ground. Suddenly I noticed two cyclists ahead of us; it was Piet and May. Piet hadn't noticed he had lost his welpie; it was his last one. He decided not to put it on his fender, but keep it as a souvenir. We cycled with them until the next village, where they planned to stay at a campsite. We exchanged email addresses and phone numbers and took a final picture together. They would go back by bus from Carcassonne the next day.
Saying goodbye to Piet and May
We cycled to the next campsite. The roads were pretty level in the area. The campsite was a camping municipal, but still a good one. We had a nice soft grass meadow, all for ourselves. The sun came through for the first time that day, even long enough to let us dry our gear.
The field of grass at the campsite
We bought two bottles of Fischer beer, which had a notable impact on the discussion topics. After a while an Italian mobile home parked right across from us, even while there was space everywhere. We discussed how long you could go on a cycling vacation for the amount of money the mobile home costs. We estimated it would be around five years. The weight of the mobile home was also huge compared to our luggage. It contained all sorts of things you don't need: a tv, a computer, a microwave, even curtains. Although Bram only noticed those when it was too late.
Distance cycled : 112 km.