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Sociable leisure rides for enthusiastic cyclists

Ride Reports

13WednesdaySEPTEMBER

Pyrenees - col de Tourmalet

103 km  x6
Ride Category
Chris Walters
Andy Newell
Barry Gills
John Talbot
Nick Stokell
Phil Stubbings
Nick D fell at the first hurdle today and opted for a recovery day after yesterday's exertions. With a staggered start to stop the whippets having too much rest at the top, Phil and I started proceedings at 8:30, up the valley into the cold air. Soon we had passed Luz St Saveur and the climb began in earnest, only to be curtailed very quickly by roadworks.

30+ cyclists and 10 heritage open-topped sports cars were delayed by a good 10 minutes, and then we were off again. Every corner has a new view, so the pain of climbing was dulled by a welcome anaesthetic of panoramas. Bareges gave us a good excuse for a swift coffee, and Nick S pulled over for his fix as we were leaving, having set up 40 minutes later than us.

Climbing big hills is all about finding your own rhythm, so Phil slowly eased ahead leaving me to my thoughts and the wonderful views. There are two ramps of note - just leaving Bareges, and the last 1500m before the summit. Very tough.

The group assembled at the summit and we had coffee, snacks and photos before donning windproofs for the descent down to La Mongie and St Marie de Campan, where we coalesced for the time trial to Bagneres de Bigorre for lunch.

Crepes and waffles all around, and then we cracked on with the finish, up a hill at Montgaillard, and then down a fantastic serpentine descent towards Lourdes, which we managed to skirt around today, returning again on the Voie Vert. Another big day!
12TuesdaySEPTEMBER

Pyrenees - col d'Aubisque

100 km  x7
Ride Category
Chris Walters
Andy Newell
Barry Gills
John Talbot
Nick Dunton
Nick Stokell
Phil Stubbings
It drizzled somewhat at the start, as we plodded up the col de Soulour. A very short 20% ramp added to the pain, and it was with some relief that most of us did a brief coffee stop before continuing up the col d'Aubisque, which starts with 2km of downhill before a couple of tunnels.

It's hard to describe how epic the panoramic views are from here, so the pictures will have to paint a thousand words. Lunch was most welcome at the summit before turning back to the Soulour, for a wonderful descent down to Ferrieres, where we said goodby to our two lightweights, Barry and Nick S, to take a short cut back home over the col de Spandelles.

Meanwhile, the heavyweights continued down through a beautiful gorge with empty roads, around the edge of the Pyrenees and over a bonus climb that brought out the expletives. Interesting to note that most of the villages we passed through had names beginning with the letter "a".

Before Lourdes, we stopped at a campsite for ice-cream, being served by an over-entrepreneurial Daley Thompson lookalike, who tried to convince us to stay next time at his campsite in ill-equipped cabins with no WiFi, no food, outside showers and toilets, for the same price as our lovely half-board hotel... no thanks!

Lourdes was heaving as normal, and bikes really aren't all that welcome, so we didn't hang around too much waiting for a miracle, and got into the Voie Vert, which is a fantastic tarmac-surfaced ex railway line, all the way back to Argeles. A big day!
11MondaySEPTEMBER

Pyrenees - Hautacam

36 km  x6
Ride Category
Chris Walters
Andy Newell
Barry Gills
John Talbot
Nick Dunton
Nick Stokell
It rained all morning so we comfort-loaded with coffee and the contents of the patisserie. If Barry says "it looks to be brightening up'' again, we will all kill him.

On cue, the rain stopped, and off we went for a local jaunt up Hautacam, site of a number of le Tour mountain time trials. The guidebook says "Passing through the village of Artalens, there's a wonderful swooping dip: I suggest you enjoy it, as you're about to enter hell" - not quite the encouragement you want to hear.

Every km there is a post telling you the height, distance to go to the top, and the average gradient for the next km. 8% proved to be a respite. Suffice to say, we all made it, did the extra bit to the Col de Tramassel, and cracked on down the descent.

Over a celebratory and much needed bier in Argeles Gazost, where Phil joined us, there was general agreement that the word "brutal" was not overstating the climb. Ouch!
10SundaySEPTEMBER

Morning Ride

53 km  x4
Ride Category
Adrian West
Hugo Pile
John Groves
Mike Holmes
A rather chilly start saw 4 riders off on a foray into the Vale and Thames basin.
A quick pace and strong wind made us work a little harder than usual and the refreshment stop at Bampton Garden Centre was most welcome. We ascended the hill into Buckland with ease and made our way home on familiar roads.
A good mornings ride with a good, but small bunch of riders.
10SundaySEPTEMBER

Pyrenees - Luz Ardiden

62 km  x7  x4
Ride Category
Chris Walters
Andy Newell
Barry Gills
John Talbot
Nick Dunton
Nick Stokell
Phil Stubbings
First day - rain forecast and it delivered!

We set off in the rain, only for the leader to have to make a swift retreat to collect his helmet. A pleasant start up the gently sloping ex-railway, and then a tougher section to just before Luz St Saveur, where we started the ascent... it was still raining. The initial pitch (not too strong a word) of the Luz Ardiden climb was tough and steep, punctuated only by stopping to sort Nick's gears out... more to come on this story.

Everyone climbed at their own pace, so there were Corallian's strung all over the hill. As we climbed it got colder. And at the top there were some chilling gusts of wind too. Cows, sheep, red squirrels and a dog provided the wild entertainment in what was an otherwise merciless slog up the myriad hairpins through the mist and rain.

After a brief stop at the summit and before we started shivering, we descended. It got colder. By the bottom we all shivering, so a lunch stop in Luz seemed ideal. From there we could see the Pic de Bigorre at the top of Tourmalet was covered in snow. Prompt pasta bolognese followed, and hot chocolate, so we were ready for rather warmer descent back to base.

The gears. I had a "quick look" and Nick's gears back at the hotel - good job as the cable promptly snapped, leaving a major exercise in replacing entangled internal gear cables. Sorted, then it was beer o'clock.

Tomorrow's weather forecast doesn't seem significantly better....
4MondaySEPTEMBER

Committee Meeting

 x3
Chris Walters
John Talbot
Richard Preece
Competing with the darts match, this committee meeting was all about AGM planning.