Thursday 19 September 2013

The Haute Route Diaries Part 3: Into the swing

After the first, shortened stage, stage two was more in the classic mold. Get up early, wolf down some breakfast, get kitted up, get on the bike, ride for 5-6 hours, recover, sleep, repeat.

The route for stage two went something like this.

Wiggly 120km line
And the uppy-downy view went like this.

Up, down, flat, up, down, up.
As usual, the first climb was cycled with a little more zip than was sensible. We were riding with Kirsty, who was representing A Quick Release, the most excellent mountain bike holiday, coaching, guiding and racing company. Darren and I know Kate and Ian who run AQR, and Darren had been told to look out for Kirsty (and Matt) at the event. It didn't take long as I spotted them at the start of the second stage in their very obvious team kit. It turned out that Darren and Kirsty rode at pretty much the same pace for the whole week, and I was just about able to keep up when I was feeling sprightly.

My main memory of the climb was Darren attempting to injure me again - after his success in the velodrome and at the UK 12 hour championships he thought he'd try for a hat trick. This time his approach was to drop a bottle in front of me, get Kirsty to run it over and ping it into my path...

Ha! Missed me. Clearly that plan was too complex to succeed and it resulted in Darren having to ride back down the mountain for a hundred metres before he could retrieve the escaping bottle.

The second climb was, quite frankly, a bitch. Steep, mildly desolate and with a vicious headwind. I did all I could to try and reign Darren's excitement in, telling him that he had to conserve energy for the week. My energy, obviously, because I needed someone to ride in front of me in the wind.

I told him to go ahead for the last climb to Plan de Beret, and sucked down a caffeine gel myself. The energy conservation must have work because I actually felt (whisper it...) quite good. I even overtook a couple of people, something that never happened on a final climb last year.

As it was a mountain top finish, and as it was the Pyrenees, that meant just one thing - a ride back down the mountain to the nearest town, in this case Vielha. It was close to 30km more riding but as it was pretty much downhill it actually served as a decent warm down.

Vielha was a lovely little town, and we were in a hotel right in the centre. Once again we struck lucky with a restaurant, finding a three course menu with wine for only 12 Euros. This was after a post-stage recovery session involving beer, churros, hot chocolate, ice cream and watching the Vuelta.

We were getting the hang of this Haute Route thing. Roll on stage 3.

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