Thursday, 22 July 2010

Message for 24beforemylove: Hi! Many thanks for your offer but unfortunately I have now agreed to stay with Theo (my 1st exchange partner) on the 26th. On the 27th I will cycle up to La Rochelle but need to stay in La Rochelle so I am near aiport for flight home next morning. But thank you very much, I can imagine it's a great place to be for Joel and friends in the summer. Tim

21/7/10: During the night there was a huge thunderstorm which sent amazing cracks of thunder up the valley. Sadly it soaked all the clothes we had out to dry and wet the tent which made packing up difficult. There was also a thick layer of fog from the valley floor upwards which gave a distinct 'Lake District effect' to the Pyrenees. We stopped at a bike shop on the way out and must have been the ultimate annoying customers as we didn't buy anything, just asked to use a few tools for some small mechanical difficulties and left! We ascended into the mist for the first 2 hours over the Col de Peyresourde. The top was in the fog so we didn't have a view at all. It was really cold too so we descended down to where the temperature was a bit warmer and had lunch whilst cheering passing cyclists on their way up!

We then headed all the way along the valley floor out of the mountains from Arreau to Lannemezan. The road was slightly downhill and with some tactical slipstreaming we didn't get below 20mph all the way so spirits were high despite the fog. We decided to press on to Tarbres as it is quite big so would have plenty of places to stay. Unfortunately my rear tyre was begginning to disintegrate rapidly and bits of rubber were falling off it leaving the inner skin exposed so puncture risk was high. I put an innertube repair over the worst part and carried on. We were worried about the tyre really tearing as I had no spare tyre since I sent it home with Dad. Hindsight is a wonderful thing! It began to rain on the way there so we arrived soaked. Alex had a nice fall when he couldn't get out of his clip in pedals, luckily no damage was done. My tyre had held up so we arrived in good time and there was a Formule 1 hotel. At €15 each this was a bargain and we could dry our clothes out.

I cycled into town to get a new tyre, I was cursing not having brought one as I have loads at home for this bike and really didn't want to pay more for another! I managed to find one in Intersport, just to get me home. I was served by the most reluctamt frenchman I have ever met who told me I needed a £40 tyre when I could see one on the rail behind which was fine for £10. He kept on telling me it was the wrong size until I was so insistant it was correct he allowed me to buy it. I put it on outside the shop and wondered back in to politely ask if I could use the pump, making damn sure he could see how well it fitted! We cooked in the room on my stove and planned the route for the next day. Mileage was 64.04. I have now completed all the Cols for my trip. In total I climbed 19 , and they were all killers! The alpine ones I found much bigger although I didn't do any of the big Pyreneen climbs like the tourmalet. Hardest climb award definitely goes the Galibier-less well known but definitely the hardest.

22/7/10: We decided last night we would set off at 7.30am to cycle the 30 miles to Pau to see the tour de france start. We woke to the sound of heavy rain and the clothes were still wet, not nice. We made the decisioon to have a light day and stay the night in Pau. Still, we dragged ourselves out of bed and set off. It was very grim. The rain became torrential, the temperature dropped, fog set in and lorries piled past us. We stopped only once and ground away until 10am. We arrived at the F1 hotel in Pau which we had rung ahead to make a reservation and dropped off our bags. By chance the Lampre, Euskatel and Rabobank cycling teams were in the hotel next door and were all coming out and getting onto the team busses to travel to the start. We watched them all wrinkling their noses at the rain and run to the coaches under umbrellas.

Throughout the trip Alex's rear wheel has been getting progressively more&more buckled. It all started with RyanAir damaging it in transit. It got to the stage where we had to release his rear brake to stop it rubbing. Luckily we met some Belgians at the F1 hotel who had a spoke key. I have done wheel truing before at work, but only on small kinks, Alex's was something more serious! The Belgian men didn't have a clue but crowded round offering advice which was kind, but didn't help! To make them let me do my thing we just told them we did mechanics work in bike shops and they left us alone to tinker! We got the wheel straight enough to be useable so cycled into town to find a bike shop with a proper wheel truing stand and to see the tour.

The Police in Pau were far more pleasant and let us cycle the wrong way up the road to where the tour were going to the start. We waited 30mins or so and then one by one the riders filled the start line. I was 1m away from Mark Cavendish and Frank Shleck and Armstrong and Wiggins were very close! When the yellow jersey of Alberto Contador arrived he was mobbed by the press. I was shocked by how thin he is. All the cyclists have bodies of 10 year olds with big legs, but Coontadors legs were tiny. It was depressing to see how fragile Bradley Wiggins looks in real life.

They all set off and we went to a bike shop who only charged us €3 for a wheel true and they did it there and then-fantastic! It had stopped raining when the tour departed and was looking quite nice. We decided to cycle further so cancelled our room at the hotel and reclaimed our bags. They didn't mind too much, and I apologised and explained how the weather had changed our plans. We cycled along some nice roads to Aire-Sur-L'Adour stopping only to watch Frank Shleck fail in his attempst to gain the yellow jersey from Contador on the summit of the Tourmalet. The weather was awful by the looks of it, so probably a good thing we didn't camp there last night as planned. When we arrived in this town we didn't realise it was a pilgrimage destination for many people so saw lots of religous groups everywhere. We were still a bit wet so managed to find a B&B for just €12 each including breakfast!! The room provided was huge with a double and single bed and a shower-we couldn't believe our luck. After cooking dinner on the stove I caught up with the blog and we put clothes all over the room to dry. Mileage today was 68.12 miles.

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