Category Archives: ACG

If life gives you demons, make a deal

all blue

Increasingly rubbish weather.  Increasingly rubbish me.  It’s getting harder and harder to get out on the bike.  And it’s just as hard to find reasons to do so when I actually can.


Sure, when you’re riding with a mate, or mates, it’s easier.  There’s conscience, company, and frequently coffee.  All good.

But when it’s just you?  Or in this case just me?  Well not having been out this week, my conscience was gnawing away at me.  The weather seemed like it might be tolerable.  Two out of three ain’t bad, right?  But I was having trouble remembering why I should be doing it.  Another couple of hours cycling around familiar and thus contemptible local roads on my own?  Hm…

So, since I have otherwise had a very constructive week and still had some things to do, I decided I would make my ride about getting some of those done, and make up my route around that and as I went along.  An ride that would be both errant and run errands.  Or ride errands 😉

Et voilà…

Job one: put on my new socks because I wanted to test them out on route.
new DeFeet socks
Job two: post a rented DVD back to Lovefilm.
Job three: ride to George’s and drop off a bag of spare kit for her. Which involved the novelty of riding with a pack on my back, and the discomfort and extra heat that went along with that.  Ick.  Hence that being the first stop en route.
kit delivery
Job four: get some less familiar miles in.  Meander, wiggle, roam, take roads at a whim, and then join up the dots.
Strava route
Job five: pop into Cheddar Cyclestore and buy new cleats for my winter shoes.  I discovered earlier this week that I had clearly harvested those that they originally had at some point earlier this year, and forgotten about it.  I don’t half get through cleats!
Cheddar Cyclestore cleats
Job six: Go home.  There was no job 6.  Just job done.  Out, but not down.  I remain undefeated 😉

Cycling time: 1:56
Distance: 31.8 miles
Avg: 16.4 mph
ODO: 11100.7 miles

I’m a survivor

Today was an ACG ride.  A very well attended ACG ride.  Though our numbers were a somewhat movable feast, there were, for the most part, around 12 of us.  Guy led us on a merry dance around the Levels to Fenny Castle for coffee.  And then off up and down the Mendips for those that fancied such antics.

I’d really like to have joined them for that latter part.  Cycling me is feeling pretty good at the moment and although I know I still ill compare with my peers going up hills, I also know that I will get up them and that I am getting up them better than I have been.  However it was not to be.  There were indications early on that ups and me were not going to be friends today.  But on the flat after that, hey, I can do that, and I did, and I enjoyed it.  I’ve not been out with the ACG in quite a while, and catching up with everyone, be it on the bike or over coffee, was lovely.  But while they were all drinking coffee to wash down cake, I had to use mine to wash down shiny pills.

Chris on Cheddar Gorge

So I decided that I would go up Old Bristol Hill with them, see how it went and then make a call for the rest of the route.  I think it’s safe to say this did not go well.  It went well from a Strava point of view to be fair, which is weird, but from a pain perspective?  Really not so much so.  Doing more of the same was clearly going to be neither a good idea, nor pleasant.  So it was time to bail.  Chris very kindly volunteered to join me, or escort me, or just generally make sure I got home in one piece.  Which I/we did, because by then it was mostly a case of fighting the killer headwind on the flat along the top and then trying not to let it take us by surprise on the way down the Gorge.  I wasn’t entirely all together though, and I’m not sure how well I’d have done without the company.  Gratitude be due 🙂

Apologies to all for bailing.  It’s really not my thing.  Mea culpa, but I didn’t really have a choice. Hey, I was still out for a couple of hours, I made it up a big hill, the sun came out, the hills were green, the sky was blue, and the flowers were not all yellow.  It was very pretty out there and once again, I’m a survivor 🙂

Cycling time: 2:13
Distance: 33.3 miles
Avg: 15.1 mph
ODO: 9294.2 miles



Is it getting better? Or do you feel the same?

Well I’ve been feeling a lot better of late, as I’ve no doubt mentioned.  But hey, nothing lasts forever…as three days back on the tramadol last week goes to prove.  Since I’m no longer habituated, the sedative side-effects meant I spend most of those days unable to get far off the sofa, let alone on to my bike…*sigh*.  This all came, inevitably, in the middle of a very busy week, full of things that were festive or at least festivity related, so I think it’s fair to say that for a few days my exercise routine went to pot.  Which, come to think of it, is what I felt like I’d been smoking! 😉 *grin*.

Finally life has settled down again.  Yesterday I got my first workout in after a four day break, and today was my first time on the bike in a week.  Just as well it was just an easy ride for the traditional Sweets Mince Pie Run.  Easy is a subjective term.  However thanks to a small ACG contingent – Alan, James and Dave – I had both support and a choice of wheels to suck.  Even so the considerable wind was a trial, and I’m actually going to complain about it being so mild – as having decided to test out my new long sleeve base layer under everything else, I was way too hot.  Not a state I ride well in…though maybe the sauna like conditions are beneficial on some level?  Too many layers for sure!mince pie run

We were the first amongst the many having the same idea today, thus meaning we arrived at Sweets before the lycra deluge and got our coffee in good time which, as we sat there and watched the queue grow out the door, was a very good thing 🙂  Our table was no doubt eagerly snapped up when we left, Dave and I to head one way, and t’others to go another.  They had more miles to do, we both had to get back for work.  Necessary evil, etc.

I have to admit to having found it a bit of a struggle today.  Probably not surprising.  But hey, at least I was out there again.  And I got to go down both Mudgely and Notting Hills my way, so it wasn’t all bad 😉

Cycling time: 1:14
Distance: 19.7 miles
Avg: 15.8 mph
ODO: 7352.9 miles


I wanna see the sunshine after the rain

If there’s one thing I hate more than wind, it’s ice.  I have good reason to.  Well, ok, there are probably lots of things I hate more than wind, but we’re talking cycling here, right? 😉  So when I woke up yesterday morning, to a world outside my window where earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone, I really wasn’t sure the 9:00am ACG ride was a good idea.  But I was up, and I didn’t want to not ride, and left to my own devices, would I actually go out later?  So, I um-ed, and ah-ed, and deliberated, and while I was vacillating, Alan posted on the group’s FB page that he was also going to leave it and ride later instead…and voilà, I had a solution, and my mind was made up for me 🙂

In a brief aside, and mentioned in dispatches, it would appear that two of those brave souls that did go out – Mike and Chris – both went out and went down.  Nothing too serious I gather, and I hope, but I do feel better about my decision now!  That could have been me, and having been told the night before not to fall off…well, I do what I’m told, right? 😉

So later on that day, in another part of the forest, Alan and I did a coffee loop to Sweets.  On went multiple layers, out came the heavy duty overshoes and winter gloves, and yes, it was cold out there, but I wasn’t.  I may be getting the hang of this layering lark 😉  It was just gorgeous.  A beautiful day to be out and not in.  Clear and crisp.  Views galore.  OK, the roads were a little busier than we’d have liked, but they were at least mostly dry and, more importantly, they were ice-free.  Result 🙂

bike at sweets

It being somewhat later in the day than usual, Sweets was fairly quiet, though we did briefly overlap with a Somerset Cycling/Tor 2000 contingent.  Nice to see you guys 🙂  Quiet was good because that meant my vat of black coffee came faster than usual, and that the door to the outside world stayed closed and kept the heat in.  Better still, by the time we left there was a little more wind but thanks to the still shining sun, a little more warmth around too.  Pretty perfect riding weather 🙂

It was just a really nice ride.  Although ‘just’ sounds like I’m demeaning it in some way, which I’m definitely not.  I mean that it wasn’t a training ride, or a long ride, or a lumpy ride.  It was one of those days when it was just good to be out there riding the bike 🙂  And it’s much easier to get out at this time of year in company, so we’ve got a couple of rides pencilled in for this week too.  Left to my own devices I’m far more likely to bail…sad but true.  I just want to keep getting the miles in over the winter and, in the New Year, start getting some hills in too.  If you consider how things were this time last year and how they are now?  Where 2015 is concerned, I’m already ahead of the game.  *fingers crossed*.  🙂

Cycling time: 2:00 ish
Distance: c.30 miles
Avg: 15.5 mph
ODO: 7298.5 miles

Remember you’re a womble

The Wombles

Which makes sense if you happen to have been listening to the background music at our coffee stop this morning…  I bet they knew what G stands for too 🙂  And in case you’ve forgotten, it stands for Group, and there’s probably a joke to be made about mobile phone reception out here in the sticks and that today was actually a 2G ride… 😉  The two Gs in question being BK Velo and the ACG – though they’re not exclusive, it’s like a venn diagram, there’s some overlap.  They tend to be faster and have more triathletes amongst ’em though *gulp*!

The original plan was to go to Mells, something that has been done a few times before, though not usually by me.  It being a fairly hilly route, and me being me, I reserved the right to bail if necessary, and having woken up on the grumpy side of the bed, I nearly did that before we’d even started.  Ever had one of those nights where you dream so much that you wake up tireder than when you went to bed, whilst still being mentally stuck in a slightly different reality?  Yep.  That.  Again.  But hey, I was up, and I’d said I would, so it was going to be done.

We started as 8, which turned into 6 as 2 took an easier route, and then became 7 as we picked up one more in passing in Wells.  It was a bit fast for me, which made it hard work, even if it was probably very good training for me, as I kept trying to tell myself.  It got a bit easier once I finally warmed up…though as ever that took too long!  Though I’d done my best to keep up on the ups before then, the Horrington climb was always going to leave me pootling along at the back, falling further and further behind.  But you know what?  That was ok.  I just cheerfully did things my way.  I quite enjoyed it.  And according to Strava, however dismally my performance may have compared to that of my peers today, it was one of my better ascents of that particular stretch of road, so there 😛

coffee still life

It was decided to stop for coffee at the Rock Cake Café first, and then decide what to do next.  My plan, unsurprisingly, was to bail afterwards and go home as directly as possible!  However while we were all warming up in the café, outside the temperature was plummeting and, as it turns out everyone else joined me rather than going on to Mells in the cold and the wind, which was nice.  We got a bit spread out on the way back, with me nearer the front than usual, though I’m not sure how/why that happened.  But once the draggy climby bits to get back over the top of the Mendips were done, t’was time to descend Cheddar Gorge which, chasing others who were leading by example, I totally nailed!  I’d have been even faster if we hadn’t hit traffic near the bottom (not literally!), and even then, it turns out to have been my best time down there ever.  My favourite kind of QOM or, to be fair, my only kind 😉  Oh, and I should probably mention that it was quite a lot of fun too *grin*.

I’m glad I went.  It was nice to be out, and in company, though I apologise if I wasn’t as chatty as sometimes.  But it was a nice route, it blew the cobwebs away, and set me up nicely for the rest of the day.  Methinks I may have earned a pint now 🙂

Cycling time: 2:01
Distance: 32.2 miles
Avg: 15.8 mph
ODO: 7146.7 miles

I wanna take a ride, I wanna kiss the sky

And this weekend I have done both.  Seven of the magnificent ACG did a route that was unsurprisingly unchallenging yesterday morning, as it was devised by yours truly for a ride I didn’t do on Wednesday!  Well, it seemed a shame to waste the effort involved in mapping it out, in the absence of better suggestions.  It was pretty good, as it happens: good weather, good riding, good company, and good coffee at Rich’s.  Thanks to Mike, Chris L, Chris G, Dave, Alan and Rob for joining me 🙂

cider farm me from above

And for part two?  Today I went and jumped out of a perfectly good aeroplane again, with a friend who I made first time around; we sort of egged each other into it!  So we went back together, where separately neither of us might have done.  And we did it again.  Twice! *grin*.  It may well not be the last time either…well, I’m a perfectionist, I want to do it better 😉

 IMG_20141012_091733_edit IMG_20141012_135707

So this weekend, as you can see, I rode, I kissed another piece of sky, and both made me smile.  Can’t be bad 🙂

Cycling time: 2:12
Distance: 35.2 miles
Avg: 16.0 mph
ODO: 6865.5 miles

So I will stand in the rain until I am clean


I did not want to go for a ride yesterday morning.  Oh no.  Not having been woken up by the predicted torrential rain outside, and with my bike all nice and clean and oiled and everything.  If it had just been me, I’d have bailed.  I still considered bailing.  Seriously considered.  But since four others had signed up for joining me, and I’m a conscientious soul, I didn’t.  And neither did two of them.  Since it was still seriously raining when we three met in the Square, we decided just to head straight for coffee at Sweets.  A Sweets that was full of other very wet cyclists, including a contingent of the Tor 2000 lot, and three of the Brent Knoll branch of the ACG.  Lots of familiar faces then, and plenty of friendly banter as we all waited for coffee, cake, etc…yep, service was as ever, with a smile but somewhat slow.

As we sat there, getting colder, with water pooling a little embarrassingly beneath every one of us, the weather outside got better.  By the time we left, en masse, the rain had stopped so rather than taking the fastest way back home, we took the long route together with the BK Velo three and couple of others.  It was nice to have the extra company, and the wheels to hide behind as the wind got up, though keeping up was hard work!  It was oddly amusing though, as the ACG is more known for losing riders en route than for going forth and multiplying… 😉  They all peeled off eventually to make their way to their homes, leaving us original musketeers to head for ours a little more slowly.  Of course by the time we got back, the weather was proper brightening up and the rest of the day turned out to be glorious!

Cycling time: 1:35
Distance: 25 miles
Avg: 15.7 mph
ODO: 6830.3 miles

But hey, it turned out to be a fairly good ride, a far better one than looked likely at the start.  Even if I did get soaked.  Even wearing my waterproof.  Yes, I did actually wear it.  I do learn, it just takes me a while 😉  It was a good call as that and the base layer I opted for, in addition to the usual layers, meant I stayed warm enough.  See – it’s back to that time of year, layers are once more the answer.  And Rule 9 rules again.  I think I’ll be saving my new sunglasses for next year…



This whole world’s wild at heart and weird on top


Well I know how the camel got his hump, though I’m not sure how he got two, but to tie things together, with a little, maybe even a lot, of artistic license, since my last mini-epic, I have ridden twice.  Neither of them in the Pyrenees, which is where you’ll find the camel.  See?  It all makes sense now, right? 😉  Mind you I’m not sure you can have a mini-epic; that’s probably somewhat of a misnomer, a contradiction in terms, or even an oxymoron.  However it’s just possible I’m getting a little side-tracked here, nest-ce pas?  Maybe I should get this show back on the road.  Or maybe it’s actually a three-ring circus? 😉

new tools

Firstly I proved that I can reassemble my bike all by myself without it falling apart en-route afterwards, on a sociable sunny Sunday coffee run with some of the ACG.  Good to know, right?  And a perfect excuse for buying more tools 😉

Cycling time: 1:52
Distance: 29.8 miles
Avg: 15.9 mph

And today I proved that although there was not as much in the legs as I would have liked, they can still just about go up hills.  I did beat my PB on the “Down the Gorge” segment though *grin*.  I now have to go back and knock 3 seconds off that to make me the only kind of QOM I ever am 😉  Mind you, Strava seems to be increasingly inaccurate these days, it’s convinced I took a very strange way up past the Webbington and I really didn’t, so maybe I won’t bother.

Cycling time: 1:44
Distance: 25.8 miles
Avg: 14.7 mph
ODO: 6771 miles

On that note, I think I shall make like the camel, and quit while I’m behind.  Well, actually the cow-like critter, which might be a Brahman, is behind…but you get the picture 😉


Everywhere and eternally, the distance shines bright and blue

In the beginning there was a bike in a box, and at the end likewise, and in between there is much to write of, to show, and maybe even after all that, conclusions to be drawn.  If patience is not one of your virtues, I suggest you skip to the end, as this may take some time…

And so the ACG trip to the Pyrenees begins…in the Hotel Kyriad in Toulouse.  The hordes have gathered, mostly, our number but one short as we (Guy, Jon, Trevor, Dave, Chris and myself) head out to dinner at L’Entr’acte – presumably the interval between the journey and the trip real?  A good time was had by all.  Much, possibly too much, wine was consumed, along with grilled meat that possibly wasn’t grilled enough…

But come the morning, after-effects were as yet unheard of, and we were joined by Steve in time for The Magnificent Seven to be collected by Chris from Pyractif and shuttled to our base in Bertrens.  A Friday as it happens, though days of the week soon ceased to have any meaning…

leaving Bertren

Welcome to The Pyrenees.  Where the sun was shining, and the first order of the day was bike assembly.  Which, with somewhat less assistance than usual, I mostly managed to do by myself. Enough assistance however to ensure that the job, having been worth doing, had been done well, and as we set out for our first ride, all was well with the world.  Well, apart from when the world went up, as ever.  Out there, on quiet roads with the sun shining, I mostly held my own however, right up until the coffee stop at a village on top of an up where, as if laid on for us, the local cyclists were doing some kind of time trial race…

Col d'Ares time trial traditional rehydration

Lycra, lycra everywhere…with espresso and Orangina to drink, as per tradition.  Very nice 🙂  As we left, they may have been hurtling off at speed every 5 minutes, but since the next part of the ride was the Col des Ares, I think you are safe in presuming that I was not.  Not a big Col, more of a nice bimble up through the woods, with Guy kindly keeping me company and letting me witter on in my usual fashion, while the others waited for me at the top, in their usual fashion.  I actually quite enjoyed it all, especially the down afterwards, quelle surprise, but deep down, something was stirring, and the further we rode the worse I started to feel inside.  And no, I don’t mean my usual worrying about my comparative form self-indulgent rubbish, I mean actual physical stuff.  Oh dear…

…yep.  It would appear that I should give up eating.  Another bout of gastro-enteritis was heading my way.  Be it resurgence of the last one or a brand new variety, I was due for a sleepless night, stomach cramps and worse…

P1010618 P1010622

So Day Two did not go according to plan.  Whilst the others heading off to do Cols beginning with the letter P, I did not.  I got up, drank coffee, and went straight back to bed, where I ended up sleeping the entire morning away.  Well, if that’s what the body needed, best it were given it.  Still, having finally left the land of nod, and with the sun shining outside, I decided I would go and visit the bastide town of St Bertrand de Comminges, as suggested the night before when it had become clear that my way and their’s were to part ways.  It’s only just down the road you see, so duly kitted up, and with map in pocket, I figured I’d head out, see how I felt, and take it from there.  Which I did.  And very pretty it all was too, although walking on the cobbles around the cathedral in cleats proved an interesting challenge, and re-enforced my belief that Paris-Roubaix is not for me.  Since I was feeling relatively ok, thanks to the immodium now keeping a lid on life, and meaning that the cramping/gurgling was all I had to deal with, I carried on and ended up doing a nice little, though inevitably slow, flat loop, which was good for my head, and probably also my legs.  Ok, so there were no Cols to boast of, but there were some to come in the days ahead that I really wanted to do, so it was a case of rest today to live to ride another one.


Which brings us to the next one, Day 3, the one that really mattered to me.  Now I’m sure Col ticking is a daft hobby, and luckily my list of those to cross off is a fairly short one, but the Tourmalet was on it.  And now it isn’t.  Now I’d have preferred not to have done it in the pouring rain, to be honest, but there was something oddly amusing and English about slowly meandering up a mountain in the rain, with sheep, and cows and Guy for company.  Company for which I was very grateful, as it took an awfully long time, and I could have hit the slough of despond very easily otherwise.  Steve, having had a coffee break somewhere en route, ended up with us near the top too, which made the last few km practically sociable, and gave everyone else time to have lunch and warm up in the cafe at the top 😉  I knew it would take me hours, I knew I would feel rubbish and I frequently did, but I also knew I would make it, because I wanted to, and I’m fairly stubborn that way.  (No comments please, practice some restraint).  And I made it.  Greeted at the top by cameras and smiling faces, I have to admit I was pretty proud of myself 🙂

IMG_1797_edit Col du Tourmalet

It didn’t take long for wet through but warm to become wet through and freezing though, and after a hot chocolate and orangina and a bit of enforced food, I ended up in quite possibly the most bizarre ensemble ever.  Good thing we had a support car with us – otherwise my options would have been non-existent.  I wound up in Guy’s spare base layer, my Rapha t-shirt, my hoodie and a gilet!  The sun may have been coming out, but it was still only 5C up there, and I didn’t want to risk not enjoying the downhill I’d just earned, right?  And it was fun.  SO much fun.  As we descended the skies brightened, the roads dried, and the grin grew.  The Cheshire Cat would have had nothing on me 😉

I’m afraid I cheated, and took an uplift to the top of the Col d’Aspin, while the others did the hard work in the sunshine.  Chris, our support crew, seemed a little worried about the time schedule, and I knew how much I was holding everyone back, so it seemed only fair, and possibly also wise considering my insides.  I was still freezing sitting in the van waiting at the top for everyone else, and really should have stripped the odd layer off – being the wrong layers they were holding in the cold not warming me up!  But once that was done, as we gathered and prepared to go down again, I did finally warm up, and man, the down was, yet again, an absolute blast.  I even managed to stay with the group as we hurtled off for coffee and then raced for home – fast flat and sunny.  Now that I can do – my legs work just fine unless there’s a gradient 😀

So what next?  Day 4 of course, which came with a change of base camp as we decamped to a very friendly little hotel in Lorp-Senteraille, outside St-Girons.  Once again, it was a route that for most included many Cols, but what was to be just the one for me.  I’d decided that all things considered, I was probably a one Col a day girl!  I joined the others for the outward leg, through the very scenic Ariège region, and to coffee at the bottom of the Col d’Agnes.  Though I set off before them, not before enough, and before long they were all well ahead of me, leaving me to pootle up as usual.  Though the early sections were long and wooded and grindy and a bit tedious, once it opened up into switchbacks and sunshine and stunning views, it was lovely.  I wasn’t far from the top when Chris came down, enjoying the bends, to escort me to the café on the other side of the summit where the others had gathered, presumably bored of the usual waiting for me, for which one can hardly blame them.

Col d'Agnes P1010708

We sat outside in the sunshine for a reluctantly served lunch, though I stuck to fluids – as it seemed safer that way, and my Cols for the day were done, unlike them.  All too soon we were off again and after a truly fabulous descent to Massat, they were off to do battle again.  Me?  I had the most gorgeous (sorry) ride back in the sun, down the pretty gorge cut by the river Arac. The river was flowing loudly along with me on the right, there was dappled shade from the trees and rocks, and even a few nearly scary little unlit tunnels, but they didn’t stop singing from time to time as I went.  Yes, singing.  There was a song in my heart and I just couldn’t keep it in I guess.  Well, if you’re happy and you know it…and clapping your hands is unwise when riding 😉

P1010746 P1010762

And so to the final day which, by my reckoning, makes it Day 5.  Also known as Wednesday. Today’s aim was to ride from St Girons back to our original base at Bertren with, as ever, a great many Cols en route.  Well, for some anyway.  This time I made my break for the hills early, all of ten minutes down the road.  They headed off to take the high road, and I took the low road.  Man, I had such a lovely day out.  I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do precisely, but I had a map, my legs, my music, and wall to wall sunshine.  Was there to be one Col in my future, or two?  I put off worrying about such things as I cycled along through countless pretty villages, admired roman ruins and churches, played leap frog with the local postie in his yellow van, and was cheered on by random pensioners.  After a tedious re-surfaced section, the road climbed in a sort of gradual fashion out of the valley, towards hills, through trees…but I didn’t realise I was on the actual Col de Porte D’Aspet until I saw the 3km to go sign!  Presumably also a sign I was on the mend 😉  OK, so it got steeper and wigglier after that but I figured if I was going that well, then today was going to be my first two Col day.  Well, it’s not like I had anything else to be doing, right?

church P1010743

Having made it up, I took the obligatory photos at the top, drank the can of orangina that had been weighing my pocket down, and hurtled off down t’other side, a descent which didn’t last half long enough. No sooner had I taken the obligatory photo of the memorial to Fabio Casartelli than I was turning left and a sign was informing me that I was now on the 11.1km, 7% average, Col de Menté.  Goody goody.  And I actually mean that.  Just for once, you cannot detect a hint of sarcasm 😉  As I started up, a whole fleet of classic Austin Healeys screamed down and round the bends past me, in a evocative cloud of motor oil.  I waved, they waved, it was all jolly good fun.  As the dust settled, I was left on my own again, pootling along roads that seemed at first relatively flat, followed by a reasonable down bit…all the time with my head busily working out what, if the average was 7%, that was doing to the gradients to come!

P1010750 P1010770

But it really didn’t matter.  I worked out roughly how long it was likely to take me, and just settled in for the duration.  Nobody waiting for me, no deadlines, no agenda.  The sun was high and hot, and I was getting higher and hotter.  Conversations with myself and other animals…lizards, beetles, millipedes, butterflies, even the odd cat.  Views of the valley below opening up, switchback after wiggle after hairpin, going out into a cooling breeze, back boiling with it behind you, up and up and up.  Time for a quick cooling stop at a road side cold spring, where consumption was advised in moderation, and I was on my way again.  The road went on, my mind wandered off in ever decreasing circles, and inexorably, unavoidably, and as ever, after a final less interesting drag through the trees, I made it to the top, in one very very happy piece.  I can’t explain why it was so lovely, but it really was.  It was all oddly zen.  Extremely good head space 🙂

Col de Portet d'Aspet Col de Mente

After an exchange of cameras and photos in polyglot fashion with some Spanish cyclists, I took myself off to the cafe for a drink.  A couple of typical old French gents shooting the breeze on the balcony outside looked askance at me as I passed, and as I emerged with my coffee and orangina, having sadly rejected the very reasonably priced range of Belgian beer, said “was it hard, coming up?”.  I shrugged, smiled, said nonchalantly, “a bit”, before casually taking my seat as if I do such things all the time *grin*.  Funny 🙂

Time to hurtle down…one last time…but not as fast as I’d have liked.  The road was hot and the tarmac sticky, with a frequently dubious surface, ascending cyclists and motorists, and enough debris that my back wheel lost it a couple of times, quite enough for me to engage restraint mode for sure.  Not that it wasn’t fun, but…  Still, better home in one slower piece than not at all, right?  Only one salutary lesson per day needed I feel.  All too soon I was back on the flat, and doing the ten mile or so flat stretch back to Bertren, frequently convinced I was lost, and doing that thing where I get faster and faster in order to try and get to where the next road sign will enlighten me.  Eventually I resorted to my phone and Google maps, when I turned out to be exactly where I was supposed to be and hoped I was, and was shortly back at base, hours ahead of the more intrepid band.  Two Cols will do me, thank you 🙂  Time to sit, read, rest, recover and reflect.  Oh, and drink a well earned beer of course 😉

beers monster frog

And so, having opened the bike box, and let me and my steed loose on the Pyreneen world, it was time to put it and me away again, though conversely, a little hope may have escaped from that box.  I did ok you know?  I did.  Maybe this sign is for me…? 😉


Ok, so I did feel a little left out of the bragging rights that the others had all quite justly earned, and a bit of me wishes I could have done better, but I had a fabulous time nonetheless, I really really did.   Guy organised a great trip; Chris and Helen of Pyractif were great hosts, providing all the maps, support, meals and more that you could ever need.  (Though I don’t think the circus coming to town, or the giant roaming toads can be put down to them 😉 ). I managed to do things pretty much my way without, I hope, putting everyone else out too much, and the ACG were great company.  Thanks to you all.  I’d do it again.  I’d like to say I’d do it better, but let’s not go making promises I can’t keep, hey? 😉

Cycling time: 19:11
Distance: 235.3 miles
Climbing: 20,800 feet
ODO: 6715.4 miles

cycling still life closed box