F & S Day 5 04/09/11 - Col d'Aubisque

Today started flat, but we all knew that it wasn't going to be a flat day. We had 2054 meters of climbing scheduled in, including the legendary Col d'Aubisque.

Luckily it hadn't rained last night so most of the kit wasn't even wetter after yesterday's ride, after packing up camp we headed down the road towards Laruns and the base of the Col.

As we approached Laruns through the valley the mountains enclosed around us and we could see that we were finally in the wooded hills of the Pyrenees. After a great little coffee stop in Laruns we began our ascent.

We had agreed at the base of the climb that we would allow each other to go at our own pace, so not climb as a group; as it is difficult enough climbing a "hill" this size, let alone racing up it.

Ben and I left Francis after the first couple of Kms (every km of the climb has a board next to the road to let you know the average gradient of next Km and how many more of the 16km are left to the summit). It was then just us two as we climbed up to the town of Eaux-Bonnes about 6km up.

After passing through the town two Spainards on full carbon bikes came passed - I jumped on one of their wheels and caught the slipstream, but Ben didn't quite make it and fell back a bit. The Spainards sat a few hundred meters in front of me as we clicked through the kms; I was now out of sight of both Francis and Ben.

As I kept climbing the cloud thickened the temperature dropped and despite the sweat slipping down my back it felt quite cold.
With 5km to go I passed through the ski town and well into the cloud cover, despite stopping to check back down the valley to see if Francis and Ben were still climbing below (which they were) the Spainards were still only a few hundred feet in front.
With 3km to go I was just pushing on, with little more than the mountain cows, a small brick wall and the Contador and Voekler names spray painted on the road from this year's tour.

I summited at the same time as the Spainards after 1hr20mins of climbing. It was seriously cold up there at 1709meters; I pulled on a rain coat, buff and full finger gloves; took a few photos and chatted to the Spainards until Frank and Ben came up about 8mins later.

We didn't hang around on the top for long and soon we were plummeting down the most awesome descent through the clouds the other side of the mountain. We made the small ascent up to the Col du Soulor, then continued the series of swithbacks and straights down the mountain.

We must have been going downhill for a good 45mins and apart from a quick lunch stop we just kept trucking down into the stunning Gorge du Luz.
It started raining a bit as we came into the town of Luz Saint Sauveur, which we didn't realize we were in until we asked a local. Once we were assured we had arrived we pitched up camp in a nice campsite just off the centre of the town and enjoyed hot showers, shaves and elation; in the knowledge that tommorrow we could have a lie in and a rest day! We had ticked off two Cols and it felt goood!!


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