Thursday 6 October 2016

Day 4: Campo to Sort: Hairpins, Hairpins and More Hairpins
73 miles, 6585 feet

Click here for Route Flyby

There are three roads out of Campo and each one goes uphill so there’s no escaping a nice little climb to start the day and warm the legs. Rumour had it that today was going to be the hardest stage of the Tour. Hmm. Before starting I had to carry out a little bit of bike maintenance as I had noticed yesterday that my lowest gear wasn’t quite engaging and I thought that the derailleur might have been just touching the spokes of my rear wheel. Not a situation that I wanted to take my chances with. A quick inspection confirmed that the derailleur mech was properly aligned so it was simply a case of adjusting the cable tension and I was sorted. Phew!  All this meant that I was the last of the Elites to be ready for the off.  But as ever the team were great and waited patiently for me.

Hairpins of the Puerto de Bonansa
The climb out of Campo was on a wide main road at around 6-8%. Fortunately it was still quite cool so I didn’t have to endure the potentially sunstroke inducing temperatures of yesterday afternoon. By the time I reached the top of the climb after about 5 miles I was warmed up and ready to go. A fast descent took us down to the Valle di LIerp before the second climb started. This was going to be the pattern for the day, long ascents followed by descents with virtually no flat terrain in between. The next ascent was the 10 mile climb to the Puerto de Bonansa which topped out at 4,500 feet. It was simply exhilarating as we rose up through the pine forest, round hairpin after hairpin finally emerging at the top for a photo. And, if the ascent was great then the descent was at least as good.

Time for a well-earned top up
After a refreshment stop at the end of the descent the next climb soon started. This was the Coll de Creu de Perves at 4,400 feet. I managed to film the whole climb so I hope to be able to share some of the highlights when I get back home. Suffice to say that the climb was at least as good as the previous one. And as for the descent, well what a thrill! I flew down, which for me as a wuzz at descending was quite a feat. It was a case of going flat out on the straights, slowing as little as possible for the hairpins and letting the bike do most of the work.

The day's final descent - to Compte
All too soon we were back in a valley bottom and heading for the last of the day’s climbs. This was a cheeky little number which took us over the shoulder of the Serra de Rulxou. Another fast descent to Compte followed. This one was a bit more technical as the road surface much was rougher, the bends were tighter and there was more oncoming traffic. On a road which is less than two car widths wide, where fast descending means using every square foot of tarmac, and the absence of safety barriers between me and a drop of several hundred feet, the prospect of meeting an oncoming car or even a stationery cow certainly lifted my adrenalin levels.

I managed to reach the Vall de La Nogeura Pajlaresa at bottom without incident and then it was a fast blast along a fairly busy road to our destination at the town of Sort. Along the way we passed a rider who warned us of heavy rain ahead. By an amazing coincidence one of our group, Vince, had a puncture. Once he’d replaced his inner tube and we’d got going again the shower had passed us by. The only evidence was a wet road surface with some rear wheel spray. This was indeed another superb day in the Pyrenees. Could it get any better?

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