Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

PART this many IIII
After camping in Arcalis the night of the stage I woke up the next morning and started heading toward the Col du Tourmalet. For anyone thats at all interested in the race or the history of Le Tour you know that this is one of the more historic passes (not to mention one of the nicknames I've given to a climb I do at home pretty regularly) in cycling. To say I was super psyched would be a huge understatement.

However, as hard as I tried to miss traffic, I actually ended up driving right into that days stage. I was a bit frustrated. To help ease my frustrations I decided to take a detour and on my wayward travels found this thing. Le Gran Motte. Pretty cool to walk through. I'm not sure exactly what it was but it reminded me a lot of a lava tube, but about ten times the size. Pretty rad.

As I was sitting in the parking lot some old dude walked up to me and started talking to me, I didn't understand a word he was saying but he handed me this flyer and I could only assume that he was trying to tell me about this reenactment that he and some friends were staging. I love how crude this flyer is. I don't know if you can see it but the cutting and pasting of figures in the foreground is awesome. In the first photo you can see people rehearsing. Would've loved to have gone but I had other stuff to do.

Another roadside distraction. Goats and a river. I told them to give me their cheese. I like goat cheese.

French radio can be pretty damn awesome. Driving through the countryside bumping the classical jams was pretty much what got me through some of the tougher times.

It took me all day and night to make it onto the Tourmalet. I arrived at around one in the morning and promptly passed out in the back seat of the car and woke up to this. Not so bad.

After putting some food in my stomach I decided to take a walk up the col and see what I was getting myself into. After nearly reaching the top I decided it was time to head back down, get the kit on and start riding.
It was super hot that day. After getting about a fifth of the way up the gendarmes were starting to tell people that they couldn't ride any further. There was no way I was letting them stop me though. I had been dreaming of this for nearly a year. After getting off my bike I walked around them on a little dirt path and walked up a dirt hill to get back on the road. Damn the man! This climb is no joke. I made it up by pacing myself as best I could. I latched on to peoples wheels and followed them until I either passed them or they dropped me. It got real tough near the top. Just when I thought I had it made one of the publicity cars selling livestrong bracelets was stopped in the middle of the road clogging the road grinding everything to a near stand still. I got through but the damage had been done. I lost my rhythm and there were only two alternating thoughts running through my head; puke or pass out? I opted for C: stop. I rested for a sec, was given a goo packet by a really nice australian (i think) couple, caught my breath, remounted and got a push from some nice old dude and continued on my way again only to find that I had stopped about 100 meters from the summit and that my effort to make the top would be successfuly thwarted by the gendarmes about 50 feet from the summit. Damn them, so close!!! To have gotten that close to making it and having to stop really really pissed me off. Oh well, from what I hear the up coming tour is crossing the Tourmalet not once, but twice. I may have another shot at it. Anyway, this is me near where I stopped and where I would watch from. So stoked.

My view for the day. The Pyrenees are amazing.

The wall of sound and bodies.

This switchback hurts. REAL steep.

They came and went and I finally got to the top and got to look over the other side. That descent looks like heaven.

Self portrait/beard check atop the Tourmalet!

The next day was a rest day with a really big transfer up north and the next few stages were pretty flat which didn't exactly make me want to drive all that way to watch, so I had to figure out what to do with myself. I thought long and hard and finally decided with a little help and inspiration from Ted Leo to head towards La Costa Brava of northeast Spain to try to find somewhere to camp along the coast for a few days and do some swimming, relaxing and riding. After nearly two weeks in, I was ready for a little rest and relaxation of my own. What I found totally blew me away. It's a campground called camping pola in between the cat. 4 climbs and towns of Tossa De Mar and Sant Feliu de Guixols. The tour had actually been through here a couple days earlier on its way from Girona to Barcelona. The campground had its own beach (the video above), great hiking and most importantly some of the best riding I've ever done right there.
Sleeping here was pretty rough. That ground was not soft at all. After a night of sleeping on all of my clothes inside my bag as a pad I went to the store at the site and bought one of those blow up floaty mattres guys and slept on that. Of course those things go almost completely flat about half way through the night but it was still better than sleeping on the clothes. I'm such a trooper.

Aforementioned hiking. I don't know if you can see it but there is actually a staircase carved into that cliff face that takes you from the top all the way down to the water. Unfortunately, it's part of a private residence and totally inaccessible. Trust me, I tried.

Sometimes life is really, really hard.

I found my own little spot to hang out at. A little cove, a little boat, a little warm Mediterranean. You get the picture. I'd hang out at the beach all day and swim and then once it cooled down in the afternoon I'd head out for a ride. This is pretty much as good as it gets.

This climb is absolutely amazing. It starts out on a cliff just above the water and goes up and up for about 8km's of the funnest climbing you could ever ask for. This was the best day I've ever had on a bike by myself. I think I actually started crying because I was so happy at one point. For those of you that know me and know how all this got started I think you can understand.

What's at the top? Oh, you know, just a hermitage thats been around for 557 years.

Simple math and cycling knowledge should help you figure this one out. On the road just outside Sant Feliu de Guixols.

I could do this everyday for the rest of my life.

Alas, all good things must come to and end and it was time for me to bid farewell to Spain and camping pola after three days of absolute bliss and drive all the way across France to Switzerland in two days to catch the stage to Verbier. I vow to return to this place. I don't think I've ever vowed to do anything, this is a pretty worthy first.

On my way out of the campsite for the last time I saw this guy. How I missed it up until then is beyond me. Next time! I fucking fucking fucking LOVE Spain!!!