Tuesday 17 August 2010

Day 7 of the 2010 Lost Boys Tour of Europe: Le Mauvais Détour

June 18, 2010: The Day of the Incorrectly Counted Six Cols

The Lost Boys (and Girl), ready to leave with No Faffing!
Leaving Prades early in the morning, we celebrated what would be the final day of Hammer Week and wore our nifty team jerseys as we rolled out into the cool morning air.  Today would be another challenging ride: no fewer than six cols over more than 150 kms!

The first climb, the Col de Roque-Jalère, was probably the hardest.  It took us up to a high plateau overlooking Prades and the surrounding countryside, altitude 925 m ASL.  We zipped downwards, passing through Sournia and stopped for a coffee in St-Paul-de-Fenouillet.

Next we rode into the absolutely spectacular Gorges de Galamus, stopped to look at the tiny refuge of St-Antoine-de-Galamus hanging off of the rocky cliff.  The gorge has attracted hermits since the 7th Century, and in the 15th Century the Franciscans set up the current structure.   The road was very narrow, cleft into the rock and wound alongside the River Agly.  At one point a signed warned about the dangers of high wind but we were in luck and merely had a terrific ride.

Pressing on, we came to our next climb, the Col d'Enguilhame, a fairly short, steepish one on a totally deserted road, where we soon pulled off for our daily picnic lunch.  Everyone was in a jovial mood and I decided that my legs were feeling good enough that I would join four of the faster riders on the climb up the next col, which was only about 2 kms away.  Although I managed to press onwards and get a gap, the Duck chased me down and was the first of the Lost Boys over the Col de Redoulade.  At least I held onto my second place on the podium.

The countryside was very quiet and quite wild-looking, with only a few farmhouses and no villages to speak of, although we did pass another ruined Cathar castle.  I was riding more with the Thin Man now, and our track took us on a long gradual climb on the D129 to the top of the Col d'Homme Mort: yes, Dead Man's Pass.  Of course, I think the Thin Man and I were the only two Lost Boys who did not have photos taken in front of the col sign while posing as if we were dead...
Downward again, and a few tricky turns through Villardebelle and towards Clermont-sur-Lauquet and the climb up the Col de Garoulliere.  It was starting to get pretty hot and some of the group were starting to look a bit tired on their bikes.  I rode with Martin to the top and met one of the vans.  A number of Lost Boys had apparently decided enough was enough and we were now split into two groups: the Hammerheads and the Photographers, with the middle group pretty much gone.  Somebody thought that Dr. Chef had also quite, but I was adamant that as one of the original Lost Boys and riding on the last day of Hammer Week, hell would freeze over before he would DNF, even if we had to wait in Carcassonne until midnight.

The roads all looked pretty much like this.
We filled our water bottles and set out for the Col de Taurize.  I set out at a decent pace and soon caught up with Terry, who was looking tired.  At this point I was not only hot but my feet were killing me so even though the Col de Taurize was not all that hard, I was coming to the end as well.  It was encouraging to ride with someone else, though, since you can never let on as to how much you are suffering.

There was a lovely 9 km descent to Ladern-sur-Lauquet and then—oh no!--yet more climbing, something that Chris had not discussed in his briefing in the morning.  It was now blazing hot, the road was dusty and turning the pedals was quite difficult.  We managed to drag ourselves towards Cazilhac, where the faster Lost Boys were waiting.  They cheered us on and told us to ride down the hill while they waited for the last riders.  Terry and I scooted downwards and as soon as we found the local pizzeria, we sat on the terrace, had big beers and took off our shoes.  And a World Cup game was on the television!  Some of the other guys and girls crossed the street to a supermarket and brought back some junk food.  Ah, to be in France on a sunny day, drinking a beer and relaxing after an amazing bike ride...to bad about the sore feet!

After a short time everyone was back together and after a recovery beer or two, we rode to our modern hotel just outside the old centre of Carcassonne.  A hot shower was very welcome and after a while I felt my old self again.  We walked the short distance to the Cite, as the old town inside the walls is called, and enjoyed the sights of the UNESCO World Heritage Site by evening light.  Helen and Chris had arranged a nice dinner at an old restaurant and with this the first part of the 2010 Lost Boys Tour of Europe, Hammer Week, came to a close.

Daniel, feeling a bit tired at dinner...
Tomorrow would bring a new destination, new scenery and even some new Lost Boys/Girls.  But today we revelled in our accomplishment: 156.5 kms, with 3547 m of climbing!  This gave me a week's total of 17,500 m of climbing over 650 km.  And I will go back for the Tourmalet yet...

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