Day 3

While Day 2 was one of the more memorable days, Day 3 has to be most memorable day of the  whole ride. It was in fact the highlight of the ride. Day 3 was after all, the one that had been looked forward to yet at the same time dreaded. Leaving their cosy little rooms the famous five set of for the ride into the Pyrenees proper, having first looked at the map (which made a change) and noted that the highest point was over 1750 Meters (about 5,680 feet). The first climb was stunning, through deep forest with the occasional mountain stream running across and below the roads. The riders rested at a small bridge and waited for Podge to catch up, him being podgy and old, and so much slower. While they were waiting a group of cyclists coming down the mountains advised that bears, and wolves(!), had been seen and that they shouldn’t hang about (This was quite a sighting as there are only a handful of bears in the Pyrenees and are technically extinct, wolves do however fare a littler better. Naturally, as soon as Podge caught up they passed on the information and all five of them set off again. This time they seemed to cycle faster; presumably they were working on the basis that any bears would eat the slow fat one (Podge) at the back first. Anyway, they all made it to the top of the first climb without incident, though to this day, Podge swear something was looking at him from within the dark depths of the forest. After a short break for water and flapjacks and sweets and energy juice and more sweets and puffs on inhalers, the intrepid five set off downhill for what must have been five miles, then, the penny dropped; descending would mean even more climbing and sure enough they had one great big climb up to the very top. After about eight miles of climbing through the forest they broke out above the tree lines. Oh good they thought, “we’ve reached the top”. Big mistake. The climb continued for another three miles in the baking sun with absolutely no cover. As the riders continued to climb, Podges bike wondered all over the road, not you understand through exertion, but so as to avoid all the lizards scurrying away at the very sight & sound of such a large beast huffing and puffing and cussing. Eventually the summit was realised. They were, in their minds,  on top of the world. The views and the feeling of elation were such that the efforts required to get to the top were immediately forgotten. Even Podge was heard to exclaim, “Wow, what an exhilarating climb!”.  All riders, and of course the the support girlies, took time out to enjoy the views, drink drinks, eat energy giving gels, and maybe phone home just to prove they could while wishing they had one of those new picture taking mobiles. The views were spectacular; the feeling was of elation; the sounds of the sheep with the bells was in some way soothing.

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Eventually however, it was time to depart such wonderful place, passing through a small tunnel and emerging in France. Briefly, the riders paused and looked down to watch the eagles soaring. There then followed 24 miles of winding downhill cycling (maxed out at 48 mph). The brakes on the cycles were fading, the tyres were overheating and the arms and wrists ached like hell. So much so in fact that a stop half way down at a convenient bar for food and drink was declared mandatory. Having sated their hunger and thirst, the bikes were remounted and the descent continued. The change in weather was incredible, since going through the tunnel at the top of the mountain, the weather changed completely and there was even a hint of rain. After a while the roads flattened which allowed a relatively easy ride into Montefort en Chalosse for a well earned evening meal and long sleep.

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