I climbed a mountain today. A real mountain. A tall, bona fide Tour deFrance mountain in the Pyrenees. This was my official last ride in France for May. I will be back, but not for a little while at least. I had to break the news to my Look 585 Elle tonight that she was getting packed up and headed back to the States. I think she was a little upset. She likes it here, she is a beautiful French bike and she is among her people here. She will be back.
This was my first time packing up my own bike. I hope it works out for me and her.
Back to the mountain. We started on a false flat…and started climbing. For an hour. We climbed through gorges along rocky ravines and the careening river, L’Aude. Then the climb started. This mountain, Col de Pailheres, has been part of the TdF 3 of the last 6 years. It is a mountain top finish type of a stage. As I started climbing, the real climb that is, I felt like I was climbing among giants. The road was covered in paint with the cheers for the cycling greats, some legends, some local heroes. It was motivating, it was inspiring, all the way to the top.
The climb to the top is only about 15k long, averaging 8.1%. That isn’t counting the 30 miles of the false flat up to the climb, but I will let that slide for now. The roads start among aspens, move up to some rocky ledges, old rock walls, some ice blue lakes and springs, and finally, as the switchbacks get narrower and the roads shrink before your eyes, you start climbing between 12 foot tall snow banks and the wind begins to whip through the tunnel. Are we there yet?
You are above the tree line. There are snow capped mountains surrounding you. There are farmlands below. In the distance, you can see the windmills of Limoux. There is nothing quite as exhilarating as a mountain top finish. I got to the top, took in the view and felt accomplished. Not only because of the mountain, but because of the trip to France. Mission accomplished. Good races. Hard races. Irreplaceable learning experiences. Not so bad for my first time in Europe.
Next time the opportunity arises, I am going to take that mountain again. One mountain at a time. That’s bike racing, and that’s life. I am a blessed girl.