Sunshine, Prosecco and Sam Miranda Tour of the King Valley

After a stellar three weeks holiday pedalling up the famous mountains of Italy and the Pyrenees, my body decided to punish me for returning to Melbourne’s dreary winter and I spent a uncomfortable 5 days in bed with a temperature of 40. One could say that I didn’t have the most ideal prep for the upcoming Sam Miranda Tour of the King Valley. But hey, by the time Friday rolled around I was back on my bike and was excited to be racing my first NRS tour with Specialized Securitor and not to mention we were racing in my home town of Wangaratta!

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Photo taken on GoPro Hero 3+

We arrived at Wangaratta on Thursday, after a detour via the airport to pick up my new team mates. We had a full team, Sophie, Ash, Cass, Josie and Jaz plus super DS Bec and super mechanic Zeke. We were here to race Sam Miranda Tour of the King Valley, a four stage race held over three days. It is arguably the best on the women’s NRS calendar, with a TT, crit and two road races.

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Photo taken on GoPro Hero 3+

The King Valley had certainly turned on the weather for Stage 1. It was blue skies all round. The TT was based out of Dal Zotto Winery and featured a 20.7km lumpy course. Bec our DS had set us our aims. Which were to ride hard, try to break into the top five. Pre race we had our bikes checked by the officials. Slight fail there with Josie’s and Cass’s Shivs not being UCI legal, so they had to ride their roadies and my tiny Transition needing its saddle put back 10mm – not going to be the best fit. The course was going to be a great one for inflicting pain, the rolling hills hurt the legs and the headwind home provided a bit of unwanted resistance. I was nervous about the TT. Mainly because I hadn’t been on the bike all week and was unsure if my legs and heart would handle 200bpm for 30 odd minutes. Nerves were channelled into the legs off the start ramp and I concentrated on keeping a solid pace. Nothing much to report along the way, my nose was running like a tap, my legs were heavy pushing too big of a gear and the headwind home made for a very snotty finish. Ash had a stomper of a ride, crossing the line in 2nd position and climbed herself into the QOM jersey. The team had three riders in the top 20. Thumbs up. Full results can be viewed here. 

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Photo courtesy of Jo Upton Photography

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Photo taken on GoPro Hero 3+

After the TT we packed up the bikes and headed to the next stage, a 38 km Crit (or rather a Kermesse) at the Wangaratta aerodrome. The laps were a long 3.3km, with two hotdog style corners, on a cheese grater surface that would make for interesting riding. Last year, the weather made this crit horrible as we raced in torrential rain and gail force winds. This year it was the exact opposite, relatively still and the sun was shining, perfect. We knew that this one was going to be an aggressive race, so that was going to be our objective. We had nothing to lose and everything to gain. The race was just that. Aggressive. Riders were going off the front, but no-one was letting anything get away. We were doing our best to cover breaks and attack when we could. It was a battle to hold position, like a washing machine that we just kept churning around in. I was struggling to hold my position – it was so frustrating getting squashed out around the corners and then having to spend the straight moving up. Nothing really significant happened for the entire race, apart from Josie getting a flat, and Cass and Jaz throwing some attacks into the fold. So we just prepared ourselves for a bunch sprint. We knew it would be critical to hit that last corner in top 5 positions to have a chance at the podium. So thats what we did, we got Ash around that final hairpin bend and bang, she battled it out for 4th. The rest of the girls finished with the bunch. Her result here meant that we held the QOM jersey, 2nd on GC and we are 2nd on Teams Classification. It was now time to go home, lay horizontal and consume as much peanut butter and honey on toast as our stomachs could handle. Full results can be viewed here. GoPro YouTube video of the crit can be viewed here.

We welcomed the later start for Stage 3, fitting in a 200m coffee ride and some time to bask in the sun. The 102km road race had 3 intermediate sprints, 3 QOMs and one 6km gravel section called the strade nero. This gravel section could potentially make or break the race, so our objective was to be aggressive on the climbs, and do everything we could to maintain 2nd on GC and in teams classification. We started off after neutral at a rather leisurely pace, only really ramping up after the first sprint point. We were all climbing well and made it over the first two QOMs comfortably. Somewhere over the QOMs a breakaway group of riders, including our rider Sophie ended up the road with a good amount of time on the main bunch. This was ideal, because Ruth was with us in the bunch and they were taking any bonus time points away from her. With the strade nero approaching, we made sure that we were at the front and started the climb at pace. Ruth had attacked and bridged over to the lead group of riders. Despite Ash’s saddle dropping and her having to pedal with her knees around her ears, we made it over the climb just behind the race leaders. We smashed the descent, a vast contrast to my descent the previous year… where I did a similar climb, only to get dropped on the descent. It was my mission not to do that this year. We formed a group of about 15 by the time we got to Whitfield, we rode the next 20 or so km together. Nothing exciting was really happening, the bunch kind of sat up. There were a few attacks here and there and we were responding when necessary. Gradually, the riders that were left behind on the climb, sorted themselves out and caught us. Most of the peloton were all together with 20km to go. Then we just went through the motions. As we got closer and closer to the finish, the bunch started to swarm and things got a little hectic. Unfortunately with 2km to go Sophie crashed. She hit the deck pretty hard. Before we knew it, we were sprinting for the line. Job done. As suspected, Soph had not only broke her collar bone, but shattered it. It was a huge day with mixed emotions for the team. Race wise we were very happy with the day and how we were riding, but sad to have lost Soph, she was riding so well! Full results can be viewed here.

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Photo courtesy of Con Chronis

Stage four was an 86km road race, with two QOMs and not much time between Ash and Ruth (Holden Cycling), it was important for us to grab as many QOM time bonuses as possible to retain 2nd on GC. That was it. Our aim was clear. The race was aggressive from the start, with riders going off the front left right and centre. Early on as the rolling hills started, I managed to get myself in an early break with three other riders. That was short lived as we weren’t going to be let get away, we got reeled in soon promptly. That was going to be the going for the majority of the race. Attacking and catching. The first QOM was fast approaching and teams started to organize themselves towards the front. You could feel the tension brewing. The pace ramped up significantly in the lead up to the 1km to go sign, to prevent anyone attacking early and riders were launched into the climb. Our team all made it over with the group, with Ash sprinting over the top grabbing 2 points behind Ruth. This splintered the group somewhat. Though the bunch came together on the decent and we again were preparing ourselves for the next QOM. Again, the first 500m of the climb were fast paced, waiting for the inevitable attacks to happen. Making sure Ash was in position was critical because when Ruth kicked, Ash had time to respond and again managed to get 2 points behind Ruth. We crested the climb and the decent started. The next section was slightly downhill for 10 or so kms, so it was fast. Very fast. This is where an attack went and got away. A Bicycle Superstore rider Crystal, Boss and BikeBug-Next Gen rider Juzzy went into the distance. The next few kilometers the bunch cruised along, with various teams making an attempt to bridge over or reel the breakaway group in…until about 10km to go when the breakaway had a good minute on us and everyone seemed to panic. That’s when the pace started to pick up and the group started to chase.

Sam Miranda, NRS Womens RR Stg 43, 24/08/2014
Photo courtesy of Con Chronis

Fast forward a few kilometres and the bunch was sprinting for the line. The breakaway had stuck. The team all crossed it in the chase bunch, with only our bonus points in tow. Ash set herself up for the bunch sprint for 4th spot leaving 9 seconds between Ash and Ruth. Our job was done, we protected Ash’s 2nd place on GC plus 2nd place on Team’s Classification. Full results of the stage can be viewed here.

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The team all rode strongly this weekend, we had a good result, ate lots of peanut butter, drank lots of coffee, enjoyed the sunshine, had Prosecco showers and most of all, had fun doing the thing we love, riding our bikes. Fast. Though sad to have Soph injured with a confirmed broken collarbone, but that is racing and she’ll be back soon enough (actually she is probably on the trainer as you read this!).

You can see the full GC results here and the official gallery of images and videos here.

Finally I just wanted to say thanks to everyone involved in this tour and especially for supporting women’s cycling. The team and I really enjoyed racing the Sam Miranda Tour of the King Valley, it is one of the best races on the calendar. A huge thank-you goes out to Bec Domange our DS and Zeke Ashworth our mechanic for keeping us and our Amira’s in order. Also thanks to our legendary sponsors Specialized, Securitor, Capo and Adidas for getting us on the road in the first place.

Until next time, get on your bike and ride it.

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Photo taken on GoPro Hero 3+ Vsport Australia

Italy, where the real climbing began

It has been a while since my last update. I guess I’ve been having too much fun. I’m not going to say much here, I’ll try and upload some photos instead.

So we arrived at Bormio Tuesday hoping for the same sunny skies that we had in Nice.

Well, that was not going to happen. It was raining.

The Hotel that we were staying at, is where fellow Victorian cyclist Danielle Garden works as a bike guide. It was awesome to have a friendly face to pick us up from the station and spend the next 5 days with. Danielle holds most of the QOMs around these parts and is quite the climber. She had challenged me to beat Emillio, another tour guide up the climbs. I wasn’t so sure.

Our first day started in sun shine and ended in torrential rain and a 30km decent home.

Mortirolo and Gavia

Stelvio and Bormio 2000

130km Valley loop

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Cancano

It was going to be baptism by fire.

Mortirolo and Gavia, a 100km loop with 3000 m of elevation and a climb that averages 10% for 14km. In terms of climbing, Mortirolo was going to be the most challenging. I was looking forward to it. One of our tour guides, Elmillio, a skinny little climber, that speaks no english, had challenged me to this one. I gave him a head start (only because I needed to take some clothing layers off)., then began the climb. This was the steepest climb I’ve done. Relentless gradient, that made the legs burn every stroke. You only couldhave one speed this climb. I had no gears left and my 28 was being used to its full capacity. I came within about 50m of Emillio with 1km to go. But he heard me coming and turned the gas on. I had nothing. I didn’t catch him. He won.I completed the climb in around 1.07. Not too shabby for my first go. The 2nd climb of the day, Gavia, I did with P. Half way up, the weather turned for the worst and we had a wet 30km decent home.

Stelvio was the next challenge. Arguably the most famous of the climbs in this area, it has 30 something switchbacks, 20km but a more manageable gradient of something like 8%. The cat and mouse challenge that Emillio and I were playing was on again. This time he gave me a 30 second head start. He only caught me as we were going through the tunnels, mid way up the climb, as I was bonking. I still had 10km to go. I got on his wheel, for about 1km. Then I was not. 2/3 of the way up, the gradient flattens off. I must have had my second wind, because I caught Emillio and overtook him. Going into the last 3km I had about 500m on him. He was hunting me down. 20m from the top he overtook me and we sprinted for the line. He won, by a tyre. But yeah, he did give me a head start. I climbed in about 1.25. After the Stelvio, we dragged ourselves up Bormio 2000, just to get some extra kilometers and elevation in.

The next loop we did was just a quiet 130km ride down the Valley, and up a small climb. It was a picturesque little look, where we passed through farm land, apple orchids and small towns whilst meandering along a bike path. Again, the weather turned and we had a pretty miserable 80km in the wet. The final 1/2 was up hill. We were happy to get home.

The other side of the Gavia was next. It was about a 14km climb, at 7% or so, with some tricky 14% sections, but also some flatter sections at 2-3%. This was going to be my chance to beat Emillio. He was feeling tired, and I was feeling ok. We started off together, I quickly rode away from him. And didn’t see him until the end. We sat in the bar, waiting for the others when the weather turned again. Thank god that Danielle had driven up to meet us with our clothes for the decent, instead we got in the van and got a dry lift home. This side of the Gavia is my favorite, it had heaps more to look at, was greener and the gradient  more enjoyable.

Our last day. Danielle’s day off. She took us up the best climb so far. Cancano. We cruised up, taking photos along the way. It was definitely the best climb so far. It was not long. It was not steep. But it was beautiful. Numerous switchbacks, tunnels, a lake and even ruins of a castle or something at the top. The view looked over the switchbacks we just rode up, and Bormio in the very distance. This was only a short day like yesterday, but definitely one of my favorites so far.

I swear that I have ridden more in the wet on holiday here, than I would have in Melbourne! That is for sure.

Huge thanks to Danielle for looking after us this week. What an awesome place to ride your bike, find more information on the hotel we stayed at here.

We’re in Lake Como now, for some supposed R&R. I think we’ll find ourselves some cool places to ride, as well as cool places to relax.

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All photos taken on a GoPro Hero 3+ camera, with LCD screen and all the accessories. #vsport #gopro.

You can follow me on Instagram @lowercasev

Nice, Col Du Madone and an epic adventure

So after spending 6 days in the Pyrenees, it was time for a change in scenery. Purdie and I head off on the train, to Nice. Where we would spend some time riding and relaxing.

It was a huge shock in temperature for us. Nice was about 30 degrees! It was great!

Our first climb to conquer was Col du Madone. Made famous by the one and only Lancy pants. He said he knew he could win the Tour if he rode it in 12 minutes. Well, I certainly didn’t ride it in that time. I rode it in 16 minutes or so, in the searing heat!

Our second adventure was going to take up on a loop, which we loaded into the Garmin with the hope that it would direct us – well, we ended up lost, North of Nice, and forever climbing. Lets just say that once we ran out of food and water and were 50kms in the middle of nowhere, I started to panic a bit. The Garmin was telling fibs and lucky for Strava segment explorer – things could have got ugly.

We made it home anyway and spend the rest of the time at the beach or eating delicious  food near the beach.

Our next stop is Italy. We’re headed to Bormio – to ride the famous Gavia, Mortirolo, Stelvio and many many more.

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All photos taken on my GoPro Hero 3+

 

 

The Tourmalet double (epic)

The Tourmalet Epic

The day started off poorly, one it was raining and two my cleats decided to crack it and would not let me clip in. Our departure was delayed as I conducted some roadside surgery to fix the issue while the others stood out of the rain.

We had a horrible headwind for the 24km to St Marie, a little village at the base of the climb. Mike, P and I groveled our way there. Our legs were still feeling smashed. Not surprisingly really, we have covered quite a few kilometers over the last few days.

So the Tourmalet. Many say that this is the hardest climb, as it is the highest mountain pass in the Pyrenees at 2115m. You can tackle this beast from two sides – one starting from St Marie and the other from Luz-Saint-Sauveur.

They both dish out their fair share pain.

We started our ascent from the St Marie side first.

I was going to give this side a crack and then ride easy with P on the other side. For me, similar to my attempt at Luz Ardiden a few days earlier, I’d say rather than the climb itself – that it was the the conditions broke me the most.

I started off hard – we as hard as I could with smashed legs, with the knowledge that the first 4km were relatively “easy” at an average gradient of about 4%.

Once this easy part was over, the real climbing started. I found it hard to sit in a comfortable rhythm, there was a howling headwind and the rain was not letting up. I was groveling, wondering if i’d actually make it up to the top. I just kept ticking along, forever blinking to get the salty water out of my eyes.

As I climbed higher, it got colder and the rain turned to a sleety hail. I was approaching La Mongie, a ski village about 4km from the summit. My mind was playing games with me, I considered turning around, I was cold, but I pushed on and tried to keep a solid tempo….well that was until I cracked and decided it was time to put my arm warmers on, pulled them out of my pocket only to realise they were inside out. Bugger. I tried a couple of attempts at turning them inside out whilst still keeping tempo but failed. The rain and wind was so strong that I was struggling to take one hand off the handlebars.

I decided that I had to stop.

This was going to ruin my Strava QOM attempt. But, the last thing I wanted was hypothermia! A minute later, I’d turned them inside out, awkwardly heaved them up my wet arms and was rolling again. Wow. In that time my legs has seized up and were screaming.

Only 4km to go. Thanks god.

Visibility was not that great,  I was in the hurt box. That was until a car came past me full of a family. They were supporting their dad who I had passed half way up the climb. They drove along side me yelling “allez allez” as encouragement. I was getting my second (head) wind. I had 1 km to go, they speed off, kicking their son out of the car and the boy proceeded to run along side me until I crossed the line! So cute! He was so happy for me to get over the line. One of the great things you see over here is that kids are so into cycling. On every climb you see boys and girls, 8 years old on massive bikes, climbing faster than you. Its great to see.

Anyway. I reached the summit broken and cold. Questioning whether we would actually descend and climb the opposite side, especially in those conditions. I didn’t enjoy the climb at all. Our support vehicle was at the top with our warm clothes and food. I was the first up, so had first pick of the delicious hot chocolate and banana bread that our hosts had prepared for us.

20 mins later P, Mike and I were all huddled in the car, trying to decide if we would risk the weather and go down, then back up the other side. We would make the decision once we descended, and reached the town of Luz.

We were ready to go and bumped into the one and only Jenny Macca! Such a small world!

The decent of the Luz side was breathtaking. The weather on this side was the complete opposite of the St Marie side. The sun was out and there was a crisp, blue sky. I would say that this descent rivals Col du Aubisque in terms of beauty. Because of the change in conditions, the decision was made that we would go back up. This side was slightly longer that the first, and with 100m more of elevation gain. We were still feeling smashed, so we rode together, taking it easy, taking photos and just taking it in.

I’d highly recommend climbing this side of the Tourmalet over the St Marie side. Although less popular, it is definitely the most beautiful.

We got to the top, navigating rogue sheep along the way, and descended back into the cloud on the St Marie side, starting our journey home. 24km home, with a downhill tail wind. Thank god! After 100km and two sides of the Tourmalet, I was not sure if i’d actually make it home.

We stopped off in a little town called Bangeres where we bought some cheese, ham and a baguette and proceeded to demolish our little picnic whilst sitting on a pot plant out the front of the Patisserie! That baguette was the best thing we’ve eaten all week!

Well that was the best way to end an epic week here in the Pyrenees. 123km, 3400m elevation, 6 hours in the saddle. Off to Nice next for some sun, and then to Bormio in Italy for some more climbing action.
Can’t wait!

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Hautacam rest day and Stage 18 of the TDF

So our initial plan was to watch Stage 18’s finish at the summit of the Hautacam. The Tour riders would have to endure Col du Tourmalet and then make their way to the summit to finish at the infamous Hautacam.

Our plans changed on good advice from our host Dom. It was confirmed that it would be a logistical nightmare for us to endure the entire day on the summit without any vehicle or support with us. The road to the summit closes at 11am. The race finishes at approximately 5pm. You are not allowed to descend the Hautacam until 7pm. This would mean that we would stand around in the sun for minimum 8 hours and not be able to leave until late, with limited food and water. We would have anywhere to put our bikes. We sound soft, but we did have a plan B.

We instead decided to ride the Hautacam early in the morning and then ride home to watch the riders pass through Orincles – literally at our driveway. The Cote de Benejacq (2.3km at 6.7%) where the first King of the Mountain points were on offer provided the perfect point for our viewing.

Now Cote de Benejacq is not the biggest burg in the Pyrenees, but it sure is a pinch. It is 2.3km long and at 6.7% certainly would have woken the legs up of the riders who were only 50 or so km into the stage.

So we started the day off early, rode to the Hautacam. Now the climb was hard, well, not as bad as yesterdays Luz. It is a consistent gradient, steep – 13.6km at 8%. Purdie and I decided to ride this one together. The ride up was certainly a spectacle, we could not ride fast, constantly navigating people walking and riding up, standing on the side of the road, painting messages on the road, camper vans etc..all with the goal to get a prime position on the mountain to watch the stage finish. It was madness. By the time we got to the top, we were stopped by the Feds who with 100m to the summit, would not let us through. No Strava segment for us. Oh well. Now descending was a hazard too. On the brakes the whole way down, dodging just the same. We were relieved to get off the mountain. It would be good to ride it another time, without the crowds.

We then got home just in time to watch the Caravan go through. The Caravan we never see on TV in Australia. To put it simply, they are big floats, or cars that are covered in sponsors advertising that drive around the stage before the riders, pumping music and throwing free stuff at us. It is amazing, and so much fun. I waved my arms around like a kid in a candy store at the passing parade for an hour or so – gathering as much junk as I could and fighting kids for freebies!

After all that craziness, we gathered our loot and headed up to the KOM point. It was a 2km hike up to the Cote de Benjacq KOM point. Now I hate walking, so walking anywhere is a big deal. But the reward of the walk would be worth it, I’ve wanted to see the Tour live since forever.

It was awesome up there, hundreds of people lining the road, trying to get a good position to see the riders hurtle past. And that they did. The crowd starts off calm and quiet, then the tooting and sirens from the official vehicles starts. Then the Feds come through pushing the crowd back on the scooters, then the lead car, then the riders, then the crowd screams and yells and cow bells ring, then it is quiet again and the crowds disappear! The riders went through as a small lead group, then the main bunch. I guess they were all together as it was early in the race, so our viewing was over in 10 seconds flat.

It was so much fun. It was great to be a part of the fanfare that you see on TV. The atmosphere was electric and I had a smile from ear to ear all day. I have wanted to watch the race live all my life, and now I have!  We rushed home to watch the rest of the stage on TV, they were on their way up to the Tourmelet… We’ll be tackling it tomorrow – double! Can’t wait!

We only did 65km today, albeit up the Hautacam on our rest day, but heck, it was our rest day and I had a race to watch.

PS. Nibali won.
PPS. Completed Rapha Rising!

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You can follow me on Instagram @lowercasev. All photos taken on GoPro Hero 3+ Black edition. #GoPro #VSport

 

Picturesque Col du Soulor and Col d’Abisque

Today was BY FAR, the best day we have had so far. The view from the Col du Soulor, coupled with the descent and climb to Col d’Aubisque was just magical. The prettiest, most spectacular view I have ever seen. No photo or video could ever do it justice. We had the most perfect weather. Compared to the miserable last few days, todays blue skies were welcomed.

So our day was going to go like this: ride to Argeles-Gazost, then from there start the 20km climb to the top of the Soulor. From the top of the Soulor, we climb 9km to the Aubisque. We then would descend, then navigate our way to Col de Boreres – a short and sharp 4km pinch. There we would make our way home, via Lourdes and the holy water.

The group all rode to Argeles together, then Mike, P and I would head off on another adventure ourselves. Epic it was in the end.

The Soulor climb was tough 20km, 1/2 of it is a mild gradient, the other 1/2 ranges from 6-14%. It hurts. I wanted to do a quick time, so went from the gun. About 12km in, I encountered a tractor. I wanted to pass it, but the old guy driving turned around to me and said something to me in French and pointed at the back. I think he meant “get on”, so I rode up behind the tractor and sat it its slip stream, trying to get a draft. I lasted about 600m of him cheering me on before I blew off the back and he kept tootling on into the distance – waving as he got further away. LOL. I kept grinding away.

That was until I passed a old guy carrying a backpack with about 4km to go. He said to me in French “competition, competition, competition” (imagine a french accent). So the race was on, we started swapping turns, until the sprint finish at the top. Hilarious, because at the end he asked me – I think – how old I was. I said 2 – 6, he said 6 – 2. What an absolute legend. Thats one thing about cycling, everyone is on the same page. We appreciate the effort that goes into riding bikes, especially up HC climbs.

We made our way down the most picturesque decent that I have ever seen. It was a track, on the ledge of a mountain, with endless views, cows on the side of the road, tunnels to pass through. It was hard to keep my eyes on the road, I just wanted to look around! The climb to the Aubisque was tame, P and I ticked up leisurely, enjoying the view. We soaked in the view and the novelty TDF giant bikes at the top and made our way back down the mountain.

We headed home via Boreres, and descended a fast and open loop that took us back to Argeles for lunch. By this time, we were starving. We smashed a pizza each and got on our bikes to head home via Lourdes, to see the Grotto and the holy water. If you want to read about it here , it is actually quite depressing. People that know me, know that I hate crowds. So we got out of Lourdes pretty quick.

By the time we got back, we were smashed crabs, dehydrated, sun burned and exhausted. Let’s just say that the much welcomed blue skies took their tolls.

We ended up doing 6hrs, 2800m vert over 130km, we did not get lost, we got some sun, saw some views and had the best day out on the bike.

Where is the food!

You can check my Strava file out here. You can follow me on Instagram @lowercasev. All photos taken on GoPro Hero 3+ black edition. #gopro #vsport

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The not so epic adventure, Col d’Aspin and the Hourquette

Today we didn’t have quite the adventure that we did yesterday, but we had fun just the same and finished with a ride time of about 4.5hrs a vast improvement from yesterday’s activities. Today we had 0 crashes, 0 hospital visits, 0 punctures, 0 navigation issues, 1 QOM and multiple animal encounters.

So I’m here in the Pyrenees, doing a tour with a bunch of friends and friend’s of friends. We are a bunch of mixed abilities and strengths.  There is Trace and Dean, Greg (uncle of Ritchie Porte), Mike, Kristina (HCC member and recovering from her crash yesterday), Purdie and The Cycling Life owners Brett and Andrew.

Mike, Purdie and I are all of similar ability and we set off on adventures slightly more epic than the rest in the group. This really only equates to doing  extra ams and extra elevation gained than the others.

Today Mike, Purdie and I conquered Col d’Aspin and the Hourquette. A 110 km round trip with 2300 m elevation, check out my Strava file here.

Col d’Aspin is 13km at average gradient of 5%. It has sections of 2% and the last 2km runs at about 8%. It is deceptively hard. The Tour de France rode up this climb in 2012 – this was made very obvious by the encouragement painted on the road. Go Valverde – he must have had some fans that year! Whilst I wouldn’t be riding as fast as the tour riders, I was keen to set a personal goal and try to nab the QOM. The Strava record for a female was 47 mins. It was definitely achievable.

Aspin does not feel like a climb. The 2% sections make it feel like a flat time trial, until the end that is, where it kicks up in the last few kms. I started the climb…..36 minutes later, I had the QOM!

We rode into a cloud, visibility was low and it was freezing at the top. Lucky Kristina and Dom (our host) were waiting at the top with food and warm clothes. With the next stop on todays agenda being the Hourquette, we had a decent of about 15km. Silly me forgot my trusty long fingered gloves for the descent. To prevent frost bite on my hands, I put Kristina’s spare socks over my hands to keep them warm and functional. It worked… 45 mins later we were at the base of the Horquette ready for our second climb of the day.

The Hourquette. A mild 9km at 8%. It was certainly going to hurt after my effort from the Aspin. Mike left Purdie and I to grovel up together. The decent of the Hourquette was the most beautiful so far. We wound through valleys, along a stream and through fields. Stunning.

That was our climbing over. We cruised home with a head wind at 35km/hr for 25kms, all slightly downhill. (along the way, we bumped into some familiar Aussies doing a bike style tour – small world indeed)

Another great day in the saddle riding in the Pyrenees. We very much look forward to coming home to lounge by the pool and eat delicious food.

Until next time, get on your bike and ride it.

Note: I dropped into the LBS this arvo to see if I could get my cable issue fixed. The mechanic was having a rest day. Will try again tomorrow afternoon. Another day without a big chain ring for me. Supercoach will be happy, no grinding in the BCR….yet.

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All photos taken on GoPro Hero 3+ black edition. You can follow me on Instagram @lowercasev