Tour de France 2023 – Report Week 2

Tour de France LogoThis post is a recap of the Tour de France 2023 week 2/8 stages…

As mentioned in my previous recap, I had already cycled stage 8 with an unforeseen early finish, which gave me some time to write that post.

By now, we have returned home safe and (relatively) well, I’ve started to dose down the candy and cycled a few times in my backyard.

I’m scheduled to have two neurologist appointments next week, after which I’ll have to make up my mind about surgery.

I’m not convinced I will be able to go pain-free after that and at any rate, in general my spine issues remain and may cause new problems in other areas/on other discs later.

However, getting by on Oxy and Prednisone is not really an option either, nor does it extend my life span, although you never know when that will end anyway…

But let’s get to the report of this year’s Tour de France stages 8 to 15, shall we?

Stage 8

I’ve cycled stages in weather ranging from foggy and chilly, with an occasional drizzle, to blistering sun and scorching hot.

This stage was the only one where it was raining nonstop, although the rain did range from pouring down to just a little more than a drizzle.

But if the roads are soaking wet and the travel is high, you’re riding in a constant shower anyway…

I had hoped that moving to Saint-Lary-Soulan, in the valley at the other end of the Aspin, would bring – slightly – better weather, but alas.

Anyway, I had planned the Port de Bielsa, ending at the tunnel into Spain, followed by the ride up to Piau-Engaly from the split at Le Plan.

After that, I would ride up the lakes from Fabian, with another split near Lac d’Oredon.

I managed the first part of the stage, Bielsa and Piau-Engaly, but after a descend in the pouring rain on the best – new – asphalt/tarmac I’ve seen during my Tour, I called it a day.

Fresh asphalt is nice in general – and this was smooth and silky black, i.e. not granulated – but it is a menace going down in the rain.

Besides, pouring had now become “cats and dogs” and I’d had enough…

Garmin recording.

Stage 9

The next day it was sunny and I cycled the rest of yesterday’s stage.

I started just past Saint-Lary-Soulan and took a right turn at Fabian for the Lac d’Aumar – Lac d’Aubert lakes.

The part up to Lac d’Orédon has a spectacular series of hairpins, even if that usually means the grades are beyond comfortable…

At Orédon we ran into another “no no to cars” of this Tour.

I mean, you can get up by car, but you have to do so before 9:30…

As just parking the car was costing 15 Euros, I told Paula to go to the nearby restaurant, park there for free and wait for me to get back.

It turned out that the part up to the (twin) lakes d’Aumar/d’Aubert was only 5 kms up, with a steep beginning and a short descend between the lakes.

So, I was back down quicker than expected, had a bite and went for the other fork.

This one – the final ~4 kms up to Lac and Col de-Cap-Long behind the dam – also has hairpins near the “summit” but, as at the other lakes, there’s nothing to do, except hike on from there and enjoying some great views.

I sped back down to Fabian and on to Saint-Lary-Soulan.

Just before entering that, there’s a climb I missed while studying the area at home: Col de Val Louron-Azet.

Another one of those where neither the sign at the bottom, nor any profile card will help, although it does kinda warn you it’s not easy.

It was included 10 times in a Tour stage and from the last 5, 4 of them were (in) stage 17 – pretty useless info too, but it is a fun fact 🙂

Adding the blistering sun, this climb turned to be out about as bad as the Spandelle in stage 5.

I descended on way better tarmac into the “Peyresourde” valley to circle back to Arreau and on to get 100 kms on the Edge, but I hit a stray – and sharp-pointed – rock 5 kms after Arreau and less than 10 kms before reaching that mark and got a flat…

Garmin recording.

Stage 10

For this stage, I started in Luz-Saint-Sauveur for another Tour classic finish: Luz Ardiden.

It’s by no means an easy climb, but it’s more regular than many others around here and I was actually feeling “good” under the circumstances.

I upped the candy yesterday – or the day before, I’m not sure – and that may have attributed to that, so I wasn’t ready (yet) to increase the odds.

This climb offers some splendid views in the upper half, providing the weather allows.

The restaurant at the summit was closed, so after the descend to and a lunch break in a hot Luz-Saint-Sauveur, I took on the other end of the Tourmalet.

It’s a bit longer and has more altimeters than “our” end, so it’s ranked slightly higher on the difficulty scale, but – despite the blistering sun – I got up without any real problems.

I stopped once to take a picture of Amir’s/Monica’s art work on the asphalt and once to send Paula back to a nice picture spot she missed, but I felt good when I reached the summit.

My only regret was that I discovered the Blueberry pie was as good as the one that used to be available on the Croix de Fer’s summit and I passed on that the first time I was here 😂

I looked forward to another speedy descend, only to run into thick fog 100 meters in. I had ascended in the sun, but it turned out the other end – into our valley – was gloomy.

I didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks and stayed behind cars that at least overtook (even) slower ones. It didn’t clear up – the fog, it remained cloudy – before I entered the final 5 kms or so and by that time, the best part of the descend is over…

Garmin recording.

Stage 11

This was probably my best day of this Tour – yesterday had given me some confidence and I was finally feeling “good”.

Which is still a long way from where I want to be – without candy – but I took it as a win…

I started in Pierrefitte for both ends of the Col de Bordères – not too exciting and not really difficult either.

On the way back to Pierrefitte, I took a right at Estaing to get up the lake by that name, which has from there a mere 200 m altitude gain in 6 kms…

We had lunch in the restaurant there and I then descended back all the way back to Pierrefitte to tackle the “Pont d’Espagne“.

I have no clue why that dead end is called that way, as you do not even get close to Spain.

Well, generally speaking, you get closer to Spain, but the main attraction are the cascading waterfalls; there’s a 5,000 car (paid) parking lot and the place is crowded as fuck…

I cycled the remaining – from the parking lot, which Paula didn’t enter so she wouldn’t have to pay – kilometer or so to have a look at the waterfalls, zigzag-ing through hordes of walking sight-seers.

We descended back to Cauterets, where I tackled another climb I missed: Cauterets-Cambasque, which notably was a Tour finish this year, so how did I miss this?

Luckily, on our way to the waterfalls, Paula noticed the sign at the bottom/split, so I included it into today’s stage 😎

Despite the “scary” sign at the bottom, this climb – at only 5 kms – is not that hard.

Nor is there anything to be seen, done or had, so I concluded the stage with a flying descend back to Argèles-Gazost, where I waited for Paula for almost 10 minutes…

In retrospect, if there was any day I would have been able to successfully bring the Marmotte Pyrenees to a good end, this was the one.

Garmin recording.

Stage 12

Although I actually thought about doing the Marmotte, I decided against it. I had already done all climbs, although not in one ride or that order, and there were still some others on my must/want to do list…

In the end, during this much shorter stage, I pushed myself to the limit and almost over the edge anyway.

So, we did transfer to Luz-Saint-Sauveur, but I planned to ride another fork: one up another 2,200+ climb and another, easier, one.

It may have been an effect of the drugs, but what I had in mind for part two nearly destroyed me instead of being easier…

First, I rode up the dead end Col de Tentes. This is preceded by a not too difficult – great ITT track – up to Gavarnie or rather Gèdre, just before that and at the split of my fork.

From about 2 kms before until about 2 kms after Gavarnie, the side of the road was full with parked cars.

The around 10 final kms to the summit of the col are tough as nails, but almost nowhere does it have insane grades.

At the summit, the views are breathtaking, but it’s otherwise deserted – the small wooden sign reads 2,207 m.

We went back down, but rode on to Gèdre for a lunch bite, as in Gavarnie this was not possible due to the ridiculously large crowds.

Although I did spot a few empty tables while flying by, parking was out of the question.

In Gèdre, however, we found a nice restaurant to serve us anything we wanted and the car was parked 10 feet away…

I then turned back for the other climb, which – in my mind – was short and not as high as Tentes.

I was looking at the Marie-Blanque earlier that morning, to be combined with the other end of the Aubsique, but decided it was too far out.

However, I guess that got stuck in my mind somehow, and I was in for a treat.

I started the climb up Cirque de Troumouse – a steep first two or three kilometers, after which it evened out a bit.

At the split with Lac de Gloriettes I was thinking it would be over soon, having a below 1,500 m summit in mind.

We did arrive at another crowded village turned parking lot (Chapel de Héas in the profile) and that surely would be the end of it.

Well, it wasn’t and as it turned out, the worst was yet to come…

I steadily cycled another 5 kms or so, where a restaurant was situated.

So that was it then? Nope, not really.

I mean, it was for Paula, as from there no cars were allowed, but hikers and the occasional mad cyclist were.

I crawled up the insane final 3 kms by my own – although it was crowded with hikers – which offered a spectacular series of hairpins at least.

And at the summit, there was a sort of empty circle – hence the name, I guess – with a cellar-like structure on one side.

The views were breathtaking – which didn’t help as I was all out of breath already – and I had arrived at the same altitude as the Tourmalet: 2,105 m.

I descended back to the restaurant, changed cloths and went on to descend all the way back to Luz-Saint-Sauveur.

At least I beat Paula by another 10 minutes again 🤪

Garmin recording.

Stage 13

Genuinely surprised I hadn’t fallen apart overnight, I decided to not push my luck and take it easy today.

I had already traveled one alternative from our apartment to Argèles-Gazost and I rode the other, slightly less easy, alternative back and forth today.

The Croix Blanche may not look like much, but it has some hefty slopes towards the end. Other than that, it was mostly the suffocating, oppressive heat that bothered me most today.

On the way back, I added the Col de Lingous to the list, although that wasn’t even the highest altitude I passed during that home-bound stretch…

Garmin recording.

Stage 14

As I already knew what tomorrow’s stage would be, the list of cols left being rather short and I – again – didn’t want to push it, I decided to get up the Peyresourde via Peyragudes.

But I started in Génos, joined the “normal” route up the Peyresourde, left it again to get to Peyragudes and then got back on the Peyresourde for the summit restaurant with yummy “crêpes”…

Peyragudes actually saw three Tour stage finishes, lastly in 2022, when Pogačar took the win.

I rocketed down the Peyresourde towards Arreau, waited a couple (5+) of minutes for Paula and started to climb up the Col d’Aspin.

Yes, that was in my opening stage of this year’s Tour, hence I took the alternative via Aspin-Aure.

At 11.2 kms and a 7% average, it’s a little harder than the official climb.

However, past Aspin-Aure, the road is really degraded – I wouldn’t recommend descending via this alternative.

Just for fun, I took a right at Payolle in the descend, to tackle the short Col de Beyrède

As it was a spontaneous side trip, I had no idea what to expect, but I should have turned around at the first sight of gravel.

While that first section is not that steep and is followed by a degraded but asphalted stretch, the middle section is worse than the Frumezan and insanely (up to and over 20%) steep.

Patches of leftover asphalt are mixed with goat trails, botched and sometimes impossible to follow, and the road is narrow.

You’d be surprised to know that there is actually traffic going either way – even more than on the Frumezan, but just as dangerous.

The climb levels out a bit near the Auberge with the same name, after which you reach the summit sign in a wide open field.

I did not risk life and limb trying to get back down on my bike and put it in the car instead. As it was, Paula had a hard time getting that back to safety…

Garmin registration.

Stage 15

The final stage, the grand finale of our Tour de France 2023.

It was the reverse of stage 1 and I have my own stupidity – okay, and the scorching heat – to thank for it becoming a struggle like stage 2…

As stated above, I should have quit while I was ahead during the previous stage, but that last climb really did a job on me.

Nevertheless, the Aspin didn’t go all that bad, although it wasn’t as hot as it would be later on.

The Peyresourde was already trying to convince me I should just get in the car at its summit, but I figured a couple of crêpes would patch me up just enough to get up the Port the Balès.

As there are no kilometer markers on it from this end and I hadn’t checked, I had to do some math to figure out it would be close to 20 kms before I would reach the summit.

As if that wasn’t enough to make me cry, the first 3 – from my starting point, as I didn’t descend the last 4 kms to Luchon this time – were feeling like hell in the scorching sun and at an average grade of around 10%…

When I was about to finally give up, the grades leveled out a bit and the following 10 or so kilometers were doable, besides the heat sucking the life out of me.

I don’t know how I got through the final 7 kms or so. No matter what the profile card reads or the mathematically correct averages, most of it was between 8 and 10, feeling like 20%…

A break and a few crêpes – no, those never bore me, it’s comfort food – later, I got on my bike for a final descend.

Admittedly, and probably thanks to there being little traffic, that was one of the finest descends I did during this Tour.

I even extended it to a point near where I started two weeks ago. I then put my bike in the car for the final time, after which we drove on to North of Toulouse for our stopover…

Garmin registration.

I will post a recap with stats shortly and a “Best Off’ picture gallery later – don’t hold your breath waiting for the latter. Well, you should probably not hold your breath for the former either 😂

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Verified by MonsterInsights