When agreeing to take part in a ‘warm weather cycle through the Pyrenees’ I wasn’t quite prepared for 55,000ft of climbing.
The 800km route took us from the elegant seaside town of Biarritz to the rugged cliffs and secluded coves of the Costa Brava. While both destinations, and many en route, are top of the list for a relaxing holiday – last week was anything but relaxing.
Looking back on the week I can identify where everything went wrong. Instead of turning left at Lourdes and heading down to the flat plains towards Tarbes, we turned right and headed towards the world famous Col du Tourmalet. For those who are unaware of the reputation of the Tourmalet, allow me to explain.
The Col du Tourmalet is a monumental climb, a sheer 20km ascent into the heavens that will, in fact, see this year’s Tour de France finally come alive as the battle for the GC (general classification) ignites on stage 12. For any cyclist worth their salt, a pilgrimage to this fearsome ascent has become essential and serious bragging rights are earned for those who beat the 7.1% gradient.
The promise of ‘warm weather’ failed us at this point, as we found ourselves climbing the 7,000ft in rain, sleet and dense cloud. The first few kilometres were as enjoyable as they could be, almost lulling us into a false sense of security. But the gradient soon increased dramatically and never eased. It was steep, and steep all the way to the summit, and nowhere does the gradient relax enough to afford even the briefest respite from the pain.
After the obligatory drink and bite to eat at the Col du Tourmalet café and picture in front of the statue of Octave Lapize, the descent was very welcome and brought the world back into focus. Despite the heavy rain and the cold we managed to find the energy to enjoy racing down the switchbacks on the west side of the Tourmalet – while testing the brakes at every turn.
It goes without saying that I find myself beyond prepared for the hills which lie ahead on the 100km route of the Property Week CBRE Great Property Cycle Ride. Having pedalled my way up and down the Pyrennes the zig-zags on Box Hill, the inclines of Leith Hill and the defibrillator on White Down look like mere mole hills.
Malcolm is cycling the 100km route in Property Week CBRE Great Property Cycle Ride 30 July 2015. To take part click here.
Malcolm Dalgleish, Chairman EMEA Retail