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!