I cannot believe we are in to the final week of the tour, after yesterdays rest day we are back on the bikes and heading for the Pyrenees. On our way to Carcassonne we could see them rising up on the horizon and todays ride will bring us up to the lower slopes of the mountains, then over two of them, after that two days of serious work ahead.
We have sadly lost two more of our team, Luke has suffered for many days with a bad knee and was advised to get off the bike on one stage, he had a days rest and was back with us, only to have a mechanical which threw him off his bike damaging his knee even more, and that was the end of his tour. Allan has done more than all of us to promote Cure Leukaemia, we all have a passion for cycling and even though the story is about the Tour de France the real message is to raise £1,000,000 for Cure Leukaemia, and to raise awareness of the charity and the TAP Nurses – he has driven that message everyday . His daughter Liv is an inspiration to us all, so young but such a mature head, I am desperately disappointed for him, for his daughter who is so proud of her dad, , for Luke, there are no words that can console them.
For Luke and Allan Cure Leukaemia was the driving force, we left the hotel today, the mountains looming larger sad that they were no longer in the group. To cheer us up, fresh in our mind were the messages from home we received on Sunday night via a video arranged by the Tour 21 team back in Birmingham, my mum who was 91 this year telling me to keep going, Lisa and Finley, and Mike wearing my bobble hat and medal from the tour of Cambridge, riding on my turbo trainer, made everyone laugh.
The ride started a lot easier than it finished, a Category 4 followed by a category 3, and despite the next 70 kilometres being a gradual uphill we made good progress to the first of two Category 1 climbs. Despite a day off these were tough, the tiredness in my legs soon returned. There was a difference to the Pyrenees compared to the Alps, In the Alps the climbs we long and shallow, the length making them difficult. If they were steep, then there were moments where the road flattened and you could recharge for the next climb. In the Pyrenees the distance was shorter but the gradients sharper, rests a lot shorter. Some sections rose to 14% and 18%. The heat today was another challenge, staying hydrated in the scorching heat was a difficult as the ride itself, knowing if we didn’t get it right it could put an end to the day, a slight breeze made things a little easier but at over 40 degrees for most of the day it was energy sapping.
The final climb of the day was the Mur de Peguere a 9 kilometre climb at 8% gradient. Graded Category 1 it was as bad as Planche Des Belles Filles on stage 7, (But at least it was tarmac not gravel). The climb was full of cyclists with many cyclists taking on the challenge of riding a tour stage, some having to get off and walk, but I was determined to ride all the way. Once at the top that was it for the day, a downhill all the way in to Foix, over 3000 feet in 27 Kilometres. Another tick in the box Stage 16 was complete, only 5 stages to go.
Those climbs were a wake up call that it was not all over yet, a message about what to expect for the next 2 days, today was classed as ‘Hilly’ with 10,000 feet of climbing, the next 2 days are mountain stages.