Stage 16 – 197km from Pau to Bagneres-du-Luchon (2012, Stage 16)16 On paper for me this is the second hardest stage of the Tour challenge, only behind Stage 11 and Mont Ventoux. It’s certainly met my expectations as it’s been a really long, hard and tiring day and there’s not much left in the tank.
I’ve been keeping a close eye on the web to check the best day to take this one on as the weather can be really bad in the high mountains and therefore I postponed the rest day and decided to take this on a day earlier – although I was tired from riding 6 days in a row, taking on a big stage such as this after a rest day could have ended up being even harder anyway.
Before hitting the mountains I had a 30km ride from last nights stop off town, my bike computer came up with ominous road names such as the Route d’Aubisque, but I much preferred the signs that lined the road advertising the route as the Route de Fromage, but unfortunately it was the Col d’Aubisque for me.
The stage features 2 real beasts of high category mountains starting with the Col D’Aubisque early on in the stage, the climb started relatively easily and then ramped up to about 8-10% after about 6km in for the remaining 9km of the climb.
Before hitting the second climb of the day Brian and I, bumped into a friendly guy from Manchester, called Murray, whose out on his motorbike touring the Pyrenee’s, Spain before hitting Marrakech, he kindly donated some Euro’s to the charity and wished me well, I’d like to reciprocate that by wishing Murray a bon voyage!
The second big climb of the day the Col du Tourmalet ( translates as The distance Mountain) is widely regarded as the 2nd hardest climb in France (and the hardest in the Pyrenees), sandwiched between Mont Ventoux (stage 11) and Col du Madeleine (Stage 8). I was tackling the climb from the western side and it’s certainly quite steep with long sections in excess of 8% peaking at just over 10%. The climb itself is 19km long and starts relatively easily before really ramping up from about 15km to go.
As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs the real challenge with climbing mountains is to get into a rhythm, that means getting into a gear you can turn at around 70-85 revolutions per minute and zoning out.
It’s also important to breakdown the climb into manageable chunks, the big climbs in the Alps and Pyrenees, all have kilometre to go markers, which normally also state your altitude and average gradient for the next km. For the first half of the climb each marker is a milestone, once over the half way mark I then turn it around so now I’ve climbed half, two thirds finally three quarters, then I normally revert back to km’s to go. It’s all in the head and small victories are really important. I also do lots of sums in my head, e.g. working out based on the percentage of the last marker what the stated altitude will be at the next marker and in the lead up the final marker I’ll work out the remaining percentage for the last marker – all this just takes your mind off the pain.
In a long stage such as this, which has a gradient map shaped like sharks teeth, I’ll also half the km as typically only half will be uphill, the downhill is free and also fun – if not a tad dangerous!
Let’s not forget that I still had 2 other big climbs, the Col d’Aspin and Col de Peyresourde. Due to my earlier exploits and from having 7 continuous days cycling in legs, it was simply a case of surviving. The views at the top of Col D’Aspin were breathtaking whilst the descent was very fast and exciting, I’ll write about the Col De Peyresourde after stage 17, as I’ll be tackling that climb again, but from the opposite direction.
Here’s todays stats:
- Distance: 198 km
- Time: 9 hours 3 minutes
- Average Moving Speed: 22 kmph
- Total Ascent: 4,909 metres
After all that, do I take the rest day tomorrow or do I head off and take on the final high mountain stage? You’ll just have to check tomorrows blog to find out.