Stage 18: Pau to Hautacam (145.5 km)
The last mountain stage of the Tour today and for once everything went to plan and we both reached the top of the Hautacam with time to enjoy our achievement – felt quite delirious as we stood there in the mist. Mark timed his arrival to perfection, getting to the summit in the van when we were about 200m from the top. At last all the mountains are behind us. Martin would have been significantly poorer today if we had installed the ‘swear box’ we threatened when Alastair joined us…. We have now both conquered the Tourmelet twice – we rode it as part of the ‘Etape du Tour’ amateur race several years ago. We had lots of company going up it today, with most cyclists setting off much too fast at the start. They all passed me at the bottom of the climb and I caught them up and overtook them further up. Not many decided to carry on to climb the Hautacam.
Cows everywhere today, grazing in the mountain pastures. They seemed quite chilled about the invasion of cyclists, campervans and people. Came upon a small traffic jam caused by a cow standing in the middle of the road. Lots of people trying to shoo it away and it just stood there staring at everyone and chewing contentedly – this is my pasture – who the hell are you?? One thing I do know is how to communicate with cows and it was happy to let me past.
Another day with masses of support from Tour spectators – real sense of carnival with ‘pop-up’ cafes and creperies on the mountain verges. Skies full of birds of prey – I saw about 50 or 60 Red Kites, (I think!).
The back-up team were tasked with purchasing some more chamois cream for us today, (Ali researched this before we left, thinking of how many hours we would spend in the saddle and Martin quickly joined me in using it every day). Georgie wasn’t sure how to communicate what it was she needed, and ended up saying ‘Mucho cycling – derriere rouge…’ She did end up with the right stuff!