Act 2

The Pyrenees

Impressions

 

Eugeneís Etape

It was my first Etape, and actually my first year doing any kind of cycling event, so it was a wild experience.  The miles and miles and miles of 8%+ gradients were excruciating, but getting to the finish line was an unbelievable joy and relief.  I was super grateful for the early start numbers that you secured for us (I had #3225).  It allowed us to get on the course by 7:15am, and I eventually completed the race in 11 hours 59 minutes.   The early start number gave me the crucial extra few minutes to actually finish the course, and without it, I would have been overtaken by the Broom Wagon! 

Johnís Etape

It was a fantastic day but I'm glad it's done. Tough tough tough. Lots of climbing as expected. The descents from the Aubisque and Tourmalet were freezing wet treacherous experiences - very very cold despite your clothing tips. We all finished within 12 hours - fantastic descent and finish along the avenue into Bagneres. Thank you for all your tips and fantastic organisation including the bus which made things so much easier. 

Nigelís Etape

 Brutal!
And wet and very cold!!

 

Paulís Etape

Brutal conditions - managed just inside 10 hrs and placed 1775 

 

Benís Team

Ben:

Loved it! Coming from Manchester the weather conditions were just like most of my training rides.  Finished in 10:25 which I was happy with as a first effort. The first three climbs were ok and I thought I might be able to go under 10 hours, but the last climb felt like a cliff face. The pen you got us in was a real help and kept us out of trouble...bring on next year. 

John:

It was hard work but the training paid off and thoroughly enjoyed it, alongside Ben and Phil.
Looks like we're up for it again next year!
Managed to avoid any 'spills' despite a scary 'fishtailing' experience going over a metal grate round a bend on the descent from Aubisque to Soulor.
Shame about the restricted views due to low cloud but the feeling getting over Tourmalet and then the final climb, Peyresourde, knowing you've made it was something special.

Phil:

Managed to finish my first etape. Unbelievably hard but well worth it. We will be back next year!

 

Johnís Team

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It was a great day, certainly in retrospect, with all the stories of everyone's experiences but I think it is the toughest and longest event I've done.

Finished in 11.57. The hills of the Chilterns and Wales, despite lots of cycling and hill reps, don't really prepare you for up to 1600m of unrelenting ascent and 5000m total climbing!

 On the day I ended up with an 11-27 with a compact, which I thought would be OK. With work etc. I committed the classic error of getting my bike serviced too late i.e. 2 weeks ago before the Etape.

 Despite feeling good in the Chilterns and having chewed off the Dragon Ride with reasonable ease, I had wanted to put a wider ratio cassette on e.g. 11-28 or 12-30 as expected the prolonged climbs would take their toll. Easy to fit as long as the parts are readily available and of course I needed a particular lock ring to do this, which was going to take at least a week to come in. So 12-27 it was, which realistically should have been fine especially with a compact, but looking around at the start I saw some occasional monster looking cogs about!

 The climb to the Aubisque was fine but you felt you had done something already by the end with still 3 significant climbs to complete. By the end of the Tourmalet, however, it really felt like you were pushing your smallest cog on the big chain ring! And that is with 2 climbs still to do including the understated Peyresourde.

With the big 2 descents I can honestly say I have never been so cold despite taking your tips re gloves, capes, arm warmers etc; so wet and treacherous and with the occasional smearing of cow dung to add to the sheen. There were times when I felt my hands were rock solid stiff and that if I took my fingers away from the brakes that I wouldn't be able to get my hands back - probably means I was using my brakes too much which the wear on my back pads attests to. The dry descent into Bagneres was fantastic though and is probably what the others are like in good weather. Amazing. Am I hooked and thinking about next year - absolutely. Thanks for all the organisation, web training tips and email advice. Fantastic.