Stage 17: Saint-Gaudens to St Lary Pla d’Adet (124.5 km)
Our second stage in the Pyrenees today – 100km shorter than yesterday’s, so we were optimistic about finishing at a reasonable hour, with time to savour the experience and enjoy a leisurely meal. But that’s not how this week is going so far… We hadn’t realised that Stages 16 and 17 overlapped slightly – not by very much, but it was enough to hold us up for 3 and a half hours, while we waited for the road to re-open. Never seen so many cyclists in one place! Was great to be able to see the professional riders again, but we had hoped we could sneak past once they had gone through, (as we did last time this happened). However, the gendarme on duty was a ‘more than my job’s worth’ type who made it clear that if we knew what was good for us we would do what we were told and wait until he said we could go. The good news was that I amassed a great cache of Tour souvenirs -T-shirt, hat, bag etc!
So – yet another really late finish, with a long and ‘unremittingly steep’ climb up the St Lary. That was the least of the challenge – being so late meant that we got mixed up in the convoy of articulated lorries carrying all the official Tour equipment up the mountain, (the barriers, finish structures etc). Complete mayhem. Then one of the lorries jack-knifed on a corner bringing everything to a standstill, (and causing Martin and his bike to fall slowly sideways into the ditch when he couldn’t get his shoes unclipped from the pedals in time. Luckily there were no further injuries to add to the ones he suffered last week).
We then had to travel in the van back down the mountain as more Tour convoy went up, (think we were on the receiving end of a fair amount of abuse..).
Farcical end to the day when we reached the town and Mark ran ahead to get a table in one of the restaurants with us to follow. Communication between us to find out where he was proved difficult when I found I had mislaid my phone, Mark had left his in the van and Martin couldn’t work out how to operate his….. who says we are organisationally challenged? (I DO… (Ali)) We did eventually find each other and luckily the meal was well worth the effort.
Only 338 miles to go.