We are staying in Lourdes, the holy city where pilgrims come from all over the world to drink from the spring and be healed.
I didn't realize the significance, especially to Catholics, but I do now. The Cathedral is beautiful, and there are literally hundreds of people in wheelchairs. In Lourdes they don't have bike lanes they have wheelchair lanes... Last night there wern't any wheelchairs so we go to use them anyway.
This morning we woke a quick breakfast and we were on the road... The plan was to watch the race at the to of Col d'Aubisque - a beast of a climb - *ctually 2 climbs that total 29km.
Because that's too easy for Le Foz, he decided to take us up Le Hutacam first, a 14k climb upto the Ski resort.
I was feeling good up the first climb, but kept telling myself take it easy, this is only the Appetizer!
Mitch and Spency (the smart ones) didn't stop for coffee, and worked their way to the top, conserving a bit of energy, but opening it up about 4k from the top.... We arrived at the top, took a quick photo and it was time to turn around - we had 30 minutes to be back in town 17km away... No problem.
This time we wern't taking any chances with them closing the road, there are no Gondola's up here.
The plan was to meet in the town at the bottom of the climb at 11, somehow Mitch and I missed the turn, but saw a turn for the climb and started our 29km ascent....
The climb starts fairly easily, which is good because its sooo long. there are hundreds, no make that thousands, make that hundreds of thousands of people on the climb moving up. There are people walking, people pushing strollers, kids riding, mums and dads towing kids up. Its a sea of colour and if your moving a bit quicker than the rest you feel like a salmon swimming upstream.
Its a beautiful day, late twenties, early eighties, perfect.
The signs to the summit are a little deceptive because there are two climbs, every 1km its counting down, the climb gets steeper as it goes up... What was easy at the bottom is becoming harder, and more and more people who are not quite as fit are zigging and zagging. At to that the occasional moto and car and you get the picture.
Doing a climb like this is hard enough, throw in this obstacle course and it makes for a fun morning. I let Mitch go about 1km from the top, well when I say let him go, I said see you later, he had seen the 1km to banner, thought it was the top and go an extra burst of energy.
At the top of the Col du Soulor there were literally thousands or people blocking the road. I couldn't see Mitch so assumed he had pushed on to the top of the Col d'Aubisque. The road immediately goes down, for about 4k, I wasn't sure if I had gone the right way, so took it easy looking for Mitch below.
As you make this decent you can see the top of the Col, I'm committed but am I that committed (maybe I should be committed)?
All of a sudden I hear a big - Gidday mate.. Mitch had thought that the top of the climb was back there... Luckily a person told him that he still had 10k to go...
We went through an awesome tunnel cut out of the rock, no lights, just a rough outline of the guy infront to guide you. You're through and its 5k to go... At the 1k to sign the road kick up again, people are walking their bikes, people are so tired they are riding on the wrong side of the road. Not just that there are 3 donkeys close to the top walking along the road... Bizarre.
At the top there's bedhlam. A quick phone call to Le Foz and I discover that Mitch and I are the only ones at the top of the mountain - the others are at the previous Col.. There leaving now for the 1k sign. We will meet there - well maybe!
Ok the party has started at the top, the barbie is fired up. I spot Mitch, we download 2 cokes and a sausage and bacon sambo and head to the 1k sign. Now 2 police are shepherding the donkeys across the KOM!
A few hours to wait and the race will be here. We pull over next to some policemen on a grassy bank in the sun to wait...
We take off our wet tops to dry in the Alpine meadow in the sun.
Then the caravan comes through. We are looking for the vitel truck, water would be nice.
But first the Coffee truck comes, nice, we need a hat, the LCL truck comes through, then a t-shirt would be nice no problem the Casse truck swings by. Some salami, lollies and Madelines - Mitch and I are having a picnic - gotta love the tour.
As the time ticked by the bikes got fewer and fewer, looks like the boys aren't going to make it anywhere near us - even the Donkeys crossed the KOM before Le Foz, Danny and Damo... Too funny.
Just a few more minutes and the race will be through, keep an eye out for Mitch and I on the left side of the road just before the 1km to go sign!