|Click to enlarge stage profile|
Saturday sees the 100th Tour’s first foray into the mountains (about bloody time too, I say). This year La Boucle is running clockwise and so the Pyrenees come first. On Sunday, stage 9 heads from Saint-Girons to Bagnères-de-Bigorre over quite a few Pyrenean passes, including the Col de Peyresourde.
For me the Peyresourde will forever remain a part of Robert Millar Day, an unofficial, never to be repeated event about which you can read more here.
|Click to enlarge climb profile|
The climb of the Peyresourde from Bagnères de Luchon (the direction I rode it and the direction the Tour will tackle) is a tad over 15 kilometres long, takes in 939 metres of ascent and has an average gradient of 6.1%. Not an absolute monster in isolation (not for the pro peloton, anyhow) but in combination with another three first-category climbs, and a second-cat, in a 168.5 kilometre stage, it will be a sore part of a much harder whole.
Stage 10 of the 1926 Tour was an inhumane 326-kilometre-long brute from Bayonne to Luchon, crossing the Aubisque, the Tourmalet, the Aspin and the Peyresourde, and was nicknamed The Circle of Death. During The Breakaway we rode the Peyresourde and its neighbour, the ascent to Superbagnères, in the same morning and joked that we had ridden the Semi-Circle of Death. I can look back and laugh now but it was no joke at the time — sweltering heat, rough Pyrenean roads and a hefty dose of the holiday splats saw to that:
The temperature had rocketed in the hour since Super-B, further hampering my slog with a heat that
fast approached Rolf Roasting Point. As we passed through a wee village called Garin, the gradient eased to about 4%, sufficient respite to allow my mind a moment or two of contemplation: I was going to empty both bottles of water over my head; I was going to turn around and freewheel back down to Luchon, throw myself into the fountain and cry for my mummy until she arrived to pick me up. My Laurent-Brochard-style bandanna/sweatband had filled to overflowing, was drip-dripping salty sweat into my eyes, into a headset top-cap bolt now rusted and ruined by days of perspiration. I dreamt of a cold sponge on the back of my neck, the way boxing trainers revive weary fighters. In fact, forget sponges, I needed an injection of something performance-enhancing, preferably deep-frozen and highly, improbably illegal. With that thought I rode over a slogan daubed onto the road: dopé salut.