No expectations, the day looks sunny and warmer and the wind in town is mild and has changed direction just as Manual said it would. Time to make a return drive to the start of the climb. As we get close, the weather only improves and we start to see bike riders everywhere. This will be a good day. Public parking area is filling up, we unload and get kitted up, only one layer for a change based on what we learned riding up Alp Duez, we will definitely warm up while climbing but it will be cold coming down. Long sleeve fleece jersey to start, wind vest to add later on the way down. There is some warm up kilometers to ride to get to where it really starts to climb, good thing. Time to ride our own ride, this will take a long time. Different than Alp Duez in that the Alp had switchbacks often that you could get a few seconds of rest and then go on, or even stop in may case for 2-30 seconds recovery. This climb is just up all the time, maybe not as intense overall as the Alp but relentless, as Bushy would say, no give to it. I’m in the easiest gear I have, 34/32 almost right away again and my cadence is slow, 50 to 60 rpm. Certainly not track racing cadence., just a huge muscle tension effort. There are 2 parts to this ride, through the forest for about 15 kilometers, protected from wind and some shade and sun then the last 6 kilometers of barren rock open to what looks like the whole world. I get passed by lots of riders, I pass a few, not many, just steady pace trying not to stop until the forest ends at the Chalet Reynard. 1:38:?? later I’m at the Chalet, almost the top of the world. Off the bike for a short recovery, my hip flexors are screaming. It’s cooler up here some time for the wind vest. The next 6k look daunting to say the least, not in my comfort zone at all.
What the hell, back on the bike and start-up, this time it’s not so difficult for the first 2 k’s. I’m doing all right but the drop vista is getting huge. Out of the corner of my eye I see the Tom Simpson monument on the right and decide to stop. Picture time and time to evaluate the next 2 k’s. My height aversion is kicking in and the vistas don’t look any better so I decide to turn around. The fact that cars and especially motorbikes are screaming by amongst all the bike riders doesn’t help. In hind sight, probably a good choice, the next 4k down are scary as I push the limits of my height issues. Plus, cold!! I’m starting to really feel the cold in my arms as I drop. Bushy passes me going up as I go down. I wait for him at the Chalet, having a coffee and sitting in the sun on the deck to warm and dry the sweat out of my jersey before making the ride, or rather coast down, barely a need to pedal, on the brakes more than a lot.
The rest is anticlimactic, a few kilometers spinning my legs to work out the soreness, meet up with bushy and into town for some food, starving. Pack up and drive back to Avignon to have a low-key night before early morning bike pack up and drive off the the Pyrenees and the Tourmalet tomorrow, Sunday.