Stage 16: Carcassonne to Bagneres de Luchon (237.5 km)
Today’s Pyrenean Mountain stage was also the Tour’s longest, so we started at 7am to give ourselves a fighting chance of finishing it before nightfall. Just as well we did as the conditions did not help us – a gale force wind in our faces and plenty of rain. We also got lost along the way which cost us an extra hour. How could the yellow arrows have let us down? As an additional test to our stamina we were without any back-up support for 5 hours while waiting for Mark to arrive and catch us up in the van. He met me about 5km from the final climb, (the Port de Bales), which just got steeper and steeper. Mark turned up just in time to provide some much-needed encouragement for the final push to the top – being able to tell me exactly how far I had to go helped me to pace myself and keep going and I felt surprisingly strong at the end. Mountain legs at last???
Total mayhem on the way up the climb with campervans nose to tail all the way and lots of very drunk and happy partying Tour supporters. Lots of shouts of ‘Allez, allez’, (or perhaps they were saying ‘move your legs a bit quicker’, a la Bob Imlac…).
Ali said she saw a montage of Tour clips on ITV4’s Tour highlights programme yesterday, (the official Rest Day), with a very appropriate song accompaniment – First Aid Kit’s ‘My Silver Lining’ with the lyrics ‘I won’t take the easy road – I try to keep on keeping on – I just keep on keeping on’..That about sums it up. My ‘silver lining’ is the thought of riding down the Champs Elysees on Saturday with Ali cheering me on.
Another really late finish and we ended up abandoning the hotel we had booked and crashing on the floor of Mark and Georgie’s room instead. In the morning we saw what a great spot it was – a beautiful farmhouse in the Pyrenees. The owner was very chilled about us staying overnight in someone else’s room and we had breakfast with a view.