After 8 consecutive days in saddle I’m tired and need a break. Typically Tour de France cyclists will take on 6 stages in their second section of the race prior to their second rest day, but I made the decision, primarily based on the weather forecast, to take on the 2 Pyrenean stages prior to my rest day. The section has been very tough, I’ve had: 3 high mountain stages with massive summits including Mont Ventoux, Col du Tourmalet and Port de Bales; 2 medium mountain stages, very wet weather, very warm weather, landslides and horrendous traffic around Montpellier – but for me the last 8 days have encapsulated everything the challenge is about – it’s not supposed to be easy!
Over the past 2 days, Brian and I have stayed at the Hotel d’Etigny in the spa town of Bagneres-de-Luchon (Luchon). I can say with confidence that this is by far the nicest hotel we’ve stayed in on our trip and that nothing will surpass it. The welcome was great, with the friendly guy on hotel reception who couldn’t be more helpful. We then had our bags taken to the room, were shown to the car and bike lock-ups by Tomas (I hope that’s how is name is spelt) a decent lad from Hungary who would stop and chat whenever we crossed paths. The place had the oldie worldly feel about it, sort of like a 1930’s hotel you’d find in an Agatha Christie novel, I was expecting to see Joan Hickson sat there supping on a cup of tea and with scone at the ready. The room was very well decorated, although it did make me chuckle that both the TV and Canvas art on the wall were wonky, I guess the hotel handyman has one leg longer than the other – but for me that added a touch of character.
Looking out the hotel window we got a great view of Luchon, with a tree lined mountain backdrop. It was a shame to leave, but on doing so Brian and I spent a couple of hours walking around the town centre. The place, as with the hotel, seems to have it’s own pace and nothing is to rushed. You can see how much the Tour de France means to the place as there’s bunting everywhere, it is very much a hub town for Tour de France Pyrenean stages as it is situated at the base of the central Pyrenees – only around 3 km from the Spanish border.
Having sat down for a café-au-lait, I spotted my first 3 berets of the Tour, to be honest they’re about as common as bowler hats are in England. I did spot a guy in a bright green shell suit and it reminded me of about 10 years ago when my mate Matt Birch and I used to make regular trips to Anfield. There had clearly been a hooky batch of Turquoise Lacoste shell suits arrive in the area, we used to spend games seeing who could spot the most, we’d normally both be in double figures by the end of the game.
We decided to take a detour on route to the next hotel, traversing the Col de Mente which I climbed yesterday. My god is that a tough climb when viewed from the van, my ears were popping and the water bottle in the van was going mental with all the pressure changes. I think I did myself a misservice in yesterdays blog with regard to my performance on that mountain, as it is an extremely tough and steep climb – the pic below is about two thirds up.
Finally, thank you to all you who read the blog regularly and for those who’ve been messaging me -it does really spur me on. I do my best to reply, but often just run out of time in the evening as I have to wash clothes, shower, write the blog, maintain the bike, have dinner and most importantly call home. Anyhow if you get the chance, can you put the word around and share the blog with friends, colleagues etc.
I’m out of the Pyrenees and heading North to Brive with a 222.5km ride tomorrow, I’ll let you know how it’s gone tomorrow evening.