In the vain hope of us getting a last minute invite to the Tour and being a prepared sort, I hauled myself and my extensive wardrobe off to the Pyrenees to recce a few of the climbs, and some others, and to drink a local bar dry of Duvel... This trip was organised and supported by Chris and Helen at Pyractif , photos below are from them, by and large too.
We started at Biarritz with a 100 mile jaunt through the Basque country, no major cols but plenty of ETA graffiti and a chance for me to get in an early attack in the style stakes, witness the Robert Millar 25th anniversary jersey and white Etxeondo shorts, sighted here on the Col D' Osquich:
Day 2 was a bit special... 85 Miles taking in the Marie Blanque, the Aubisque and Hautacam. It was more special as the first outing for HCTB's new kit in the high mountains. Being keen to "honour the jersey" I ditched the helmet for the cotton cap and gurned it up for the camera, gotta give the public what they want.
Seen here again approaching the top, and latterly at the summit of the Marie Blanque...
Purists will note the all black shorts being sported for a retro look. The White Tiger print shades, not so much.
Speaking of retro, Day 3 saw me break out a sweatband for that Fignon look over the Tourmalet and the Aspin. (Not pictured are the burn marks Fraser got on his brand new Sidis from sliding them down the descent of the Aubisque...)
Having failed Chris's challenge to get up the Aubisque in an hour by 2 minutes the day before I was, despite fatigue, up for his new bet of getting up the Tourmalet in an hour and fifteen minutes. Once again, I failed by 2 minutes. The day wasn't a complete bust though, as I did get a great photo from the summit of the road winding it's way up
Day 3 saw an early trip up the Portet D' Aspet, and a doff of my Flandria cap at the Casartelli memorial on the lower slopes. By the time the up and down introduction the climb was completed there were only 4km left to get up. Under some trees, on a terrible surface with ramps of 17%... So Whinlatter pass basically.
The Col de Port later on provided an opportunity to let fly... 12km at an average of 5%, I didn't go below a 39x21 all the way up ("Malcolm's 23 was clean as a whistle") giving some illustration of how hard I was pushing on. Further evidence can be gleaned from the flapping of my Duvel jersey in the breeze.
Incidentally the jersey prompted a Belgian gentleman to roll down his car window to yell "Allez Duvel!" as he passed. A man of taste and distinction.
The descent off the Port was a real seat-of-the-pants affair, in an effort to get to the hotel in time to watch England take on Slovenia, a success despite a very Bad Dog on the way down trying to hurl itself under my front wheel.
Day 5 saw the last of the climbs, the Routes de Corniche and the Col de Marmare provided a beautiful if tough introduction to the day before the Col De Jau gave us the last col of the trip and a tough one at that (19km in 35c with 3km at 11%!). The white shorts made a return for this day with a, if i do say so myself, gorgeous white Etxeondo jersey
The final day was something of a procession into Perpignan, 70km at a very gentle tempo. All in a well earned rest. The week has served it's purpose even if we never got our late invitation... Building form for Belgians go Cumbrian tomorrow.