Across the Pyrenees,
Ax les Thermes to Saint Cyprien.
The final day of our trip had the second longest climb and it started right out of the hotel. But before that it was the last chance for a hotel to deliver me the Ultimate croissant. It turned out to be the best breakfast croissant of the week but it lost points for being mini and currently holds second place overall with one more croissant opportunity to come later today.
It had been raining during our petit dejeuner but the clouds were now clearing and the day warming up as we set off up Col de Pailheres (18.2 km, 7.1% av, 12 % max, 1300 m ascent). Once again Des (the machine) challenged me to race to the top and once again he shot away at the start. A kilometre in he had built up a decent lead and was almost out of sight. I was sad that he learnt nothing from yesterday and had not remembered it was a marathon not a sprint.
I caught him up at about 3km and although Des was determined not to let me pass as soon as we hit the first steep slope he was entering my manor and I knew he needed to be taught another cycling lesson, that hopefully he will never forget. So that’s what I did.
It was very cold and cloudy on the rest of the ascent so I was looking forward to getting my warm clothes from the van when I summited.
But apparently I had done it very quickly and beat the van up. Claude said it was the fastest he could remember (probably due to a. Des”s domestique work at the bottom and b. He has been trained to say that) so I’ll be getting the colouring set out as soon as I’m home to make myself an official fastest climber certificate.
As it was cold at the top and very misty, then there was no time to stop so after I had put my jacket I set off on the down hill part. Although I seem to be good at getting up a Col I’m not so tasty going down, especially with the number of hair pin bends on this descent.
Once down the steep bit it was another more gentle rolling ride to Axxt and our cafe stop. As I entered the town Des caught me up clawing back the 10 or so minutes he lost on the climb.
Le Central cafe had no croissants but they directed me to the local patisserie which really delivered. It was the last croissant in town and turned out to be the best I have found to date and I crowned it the Ultimate croissant.
When bit by bit the other members of the party eventually arrived they all told me that it was the best coffee all week, my hot chocolate had been good too making central cafe Axxt the number 1 cafe and I will recommend it for the TdF riders stop at for refreshments.
By the time everyone had got to the cafe, had some coffee and got ready to set off again, the villagers had arranged a leaving party for me and Des as we had become part of the local community.
From here things petered out a bit as it was a further 70 mile ride along some fairly flat roads although with wind behind we flew along.
There were two more mini cols to hop over but not worth writing home or very blog about. As we got nearer the sea the roads seemed to get busier but with our new found peleton skills we made it there in one piece.
So what have we learnt.
1. If you get up all the climbs first and become the self appointed KoM winner then no one else but you seems to care., however often you mention it.
2. It is possible to find very good croissants in France (quel surprise) although occasionally not as good as the ones at Heathrow airport
3. The best cafe I find on a trip is often the last one and readers may start thinking I’m doing it for dramatic effect (I’m not).
4. I’m now in the mood to watch the Tour de France when it starts in a couple of weeks although I could have just read the build up cycling weekly and saved a lot of effort.
|Krakada patisserie, Itxassou||7||7.8||14.1||28.9|
|L’Auberge de l’Etable, Montory||7.5||7.3||13||27.8|
|Chez Pierre d’Agos||2||2||6||10|
|Le Faisan Dore||5.6||6.8||13.8||25.9|
|L’ Horizon hotel||8.3||7||17||32.3|
|Le Globe cafe||7||7.6||15.8||30.4|
Average speed (Mph)
Time riding (Hrs:mins)
Day 2 71.5
Day 4 84
Day 5 65.3