London to Spain. Day’s 8 & 9. Rest day (impromptu), Bagneres du Luchon

The plan on Day 8 was to leave Tarbes, climb the Tourmalet (a very famous Tour de France Mountain climb) and finish up in Campan.

That was until I got sick… Spent most of Saturday night and Sunday day, either on, or hanging over the loo. I’ll leave it at that.

Luke had a bout of it too but less severe.

By 7 on Sunday morning the gang had made the decision to stay another day in Tarbes and allow me to recover – thanks guys.

I wasn’t in a good way. So that was day 8 – I spent it wrapped up in the sofa – the guys pootled about in Tarbes – not a great place to pootle about in I’m told.

We re-hashed a plan, in which Luke and I (if I was recovered) would leave early on Monday, do the Tourmalet, meet Matt in Campan and then do what was already the plan for Monday. The Col d’Aspin and the Col de Peyresourde. Ending here.

A tough itinerary, but doable.

Luke woke me up Monday morning, and it was clear there was no way I could do all 3 climbs – I was empty. It would have been mad, and so I made the decision to hang back and ride with Matt. Definitely a wise decision. And one that would put Emily, worrying about me at home’s, mind at rest. So Luke set off solo for the Tourmalet. He smashed it – having been up before, fully loaded he was mad keen to do it again on Keith (seen above) – he took 6 hours previously, this time it took 1:45 – Chapeau Luke.

It was great seeing him so excited as he set off – I was gutted I couldn’t do it with him, but am so pleased he got to do it all the same.Matt and I set off at 9 – the mountains looming large in the distance – and aimed for Campan, our rendezvous point with Luke, in the foothills of the Pyrenees.We got there around 11 – and what an odd little place it was. There was this…And this…And then this…And then, wtf, this…. the mother ship…Won’t go into why they do this – and btw – there are hundreds of these things all over the place – but largely it is down to an old practice, to shame villagers intending on marrying outside the village. Where caricatures of the betrothed’s intended from another village are made and used to insult and harangue the couple into abandoning the marriage – nice place.

Luke showed up an hour or so later having conquered the Tourmalet. I think it was tough.After half an hour or so of this he recovered. And we set off for the next 2.

Matt and my first proper climbs of this trip. In Matt’s case, his first ever. This would be interesting.

The scenery was just stunning, and Luke’s passion and excitement for the place was infectious. I love this about Luke, he’s so passionate, enthusiastic and just a ball of energy on this trip, and outside of this too. His passion for life, experience, and his family are writ large on his face and in his action – it’s great to see and he’s brilliant to be around.

I love him, he’s just an awesome bloke, and a great great friend.

We climbed the Col d’Aspin in relative ease – though I’d say our biggest threat was not the climb itself, but the baking heat and searing rays of the sun. When we were out of the trees it was actually quite difficult to breathe as the air was so hot and dense – even given our altitude.The descent from the mountain was bloody terrifying- not so for the other 2 – who went down it like banshees – but for me it was a nightmare. Far far worse than the Dolomites I had conquered only a few week’s previously. Sheer drops, no barriers and long, thin, steep declines – making for a prefect descending storm. I was in bits – and my rims (wheels) were on fire…Next we had the Perysourde. Sold to us by Luke as being easier – it just wasn’t. Around 11km of 8% in 35 degree heat.

By this point Matt was struggling, no, not struggling, but finding the going tough – as previously mentioned, his bike weighs more than twice mine, and he’s never done anything like this before. He was loving it, but it was bloody tough for him.

Myself and Luke waited half way up, and were both cheering as he rounded a corner and came into view.We pressed on and I made it to the top, the sweltering top, with Luke, having suffered some serious ‘hot foot’ shortly behind – don’t forget, he already had the Tourmalet in his legs.. Matt made it, and chapeau to him, not long after.Whilst I was taking my selfie by the sign, an older Spanish dude was just completing his ascent from the other side. He had around 50 metres to go and I was cheering him on yelling ‘Chapeau’.

When he stopped at the top I had walked back to him to shake his hand and he just broke down in floods of tears, it was immensely powerful, and though I couldn’t understand a word he was saying I could tell he had just done something amazing for himself and most likely for someone else too.

I hugged him there for a couple of minutes until he gathered himself. I doubt I’ll ever forget that moment – and will definitely draw inspiration and strength from the fact when we face challenges, we can overcome them. Chapeau to him.

The descent down into Luchon was uneventful, other than terrifying. And an evening in town with Kevin and Abigail was a lovely end to a great day.

Oh, one thing. Normally I get a bit nervous about Lamby of an evening, largely down to how much we’ll gee each other up into a big night. Turns out, I’ve found a way of taming the lamb. Take him over a couple of mountains – he was totally done in. Don’t think I’ve ever seen him that quiet or that knackered.More pictures of the day.

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