Inspired by my last week post of my first real mountain climb, Mt. Ventoux in the south of France, I want to reminisce on my second mountain climb, Col’d’Ages.
The south of France bike trip I spoke of last blog was my first experience of cycle touring and only shortly after starting to ride a road bike. My husband, then boyfriend at the time, was an amateur bike racer and our relationship blossomed under two wheels. Mount Ventoux was hard and painful for me, but after 5 more long day on the bike brought endurance in my legs I was stronger. After Mt. Ventoux we rode into the port town of Sete, France and had a day off the bikes. Sete was a great place to explore for the day and relax on the beach. We wanted a day off the bikes and we researched how to get to the beach google said it was about 5km away by foot. We opted to leave the bikes at home and walk, how long could it take? Long; when the quickest way means going up a massive hill in the middle of Sete to get to the other side. All in all it was worth the journey to stare out into the open sea and drink a beer with your feet in the sand.
After our day off in Sete which we ended up hiking 10 km up and down we set off on a two day ride to get to the town of St. Lizier, our next rest stop. The first night out of Sete we stopped in Limoux and was the day from hell. The winds were 30+ mph against us all day and every pedal stroke was a battle, including the downhills! After an early night there we headed towards St. Lizier with stopping in Foix for a spot of lunch. Of course the town was in the valley and had a magnificent view of the Chateau de Comtes de Foix castle, but immediately after lunch we had a 750 feet climb out of town on a full belly.
When arriving at “Hotel de la Tour” we were pleasantly surprised by this small mountain town. Our room had a balcony overlooking the river “La Salat” and also the breathtaking view of the mid-pyrenees mountains. We originally planned for two rest days here before finishing our ride into Toulouse and from there returning to England. The town was picturesque and we spent the first night walking around the cobbled streets, waiting for dinner time, 7:30pm at least for the restaurants to become available. During our wait we gravitated to the high point of town where we found an outdoor bar and enjoyed a beer overlooking the town. It seemed I could stay in this town with this view forever and not have a care in the world.
Alex took a small ride the next day while I explored town while enjoying the quiet life. That night we enjoyed a night in on our balcony as we went through several beers and wine along with an assortment of food. A bit happy from the drink I suggested we find another mountain climb instead of another day off. Alex of course was intrigued and we started googling what was near by. It was then that I discovered that Col’D’Agnes, another famous climb used in the Tour de France, wasn’t too far away and achievable in one day. Alex planned a route there and back and we went to bed excited to see more of the mountains surrounding us.
The next morning we ate a complimentary breakfast at our hotel of freshly made croissants and pan -au- chocolate before heading out. We first stopped in the neighboring town of St. Giron for another coffee overlooking the larger town along the river. There really was too many scenic spots in this location. As we approached the climb I was happy by the quiet, Mt. Ventoux became a tourist attraction while this climb was off the radar. The climb was more reasonable as well with an average gradient closer to 6% with tons of switchbacks. Alex stayed with me and I was surprised how well I was going; I didn’t feel like I had to stop at all. Alex noted that every time there was a switch back and the view changed to look out on the snow capped mountains in the distance my pace would accelerate. What can I say I cycle better with better scenery. It was strange seeing snow in the distance when it was July and temperatures in the 90s!
The top of the climb approached and as the percent gradient decreased slightly at times I felt as if I was riding downhill, even though I was still going up. I picked up the pace for the last bit of the climb and Alex easily followed suit until we were at the summit. I was amazed how much difference less than a week could be on my overall fitness.
Of course the road didn’t make it to the highest point and just a small climb by foot would achieve this. We hopped off our bikes and quickly climbed the 50 ft up to marvel at the lands below us and the amazing 360 degree view. We found another cyclist who did the climb solo and nicely asked him to take our picture as we then returned the favor. Unlike Ventoux, at the top of this climb there was no shop or anything resembling a tourist spot, but rather peace and quiet in the mountainous area.
Not too long later we started our journey back to St. Lizier. The descent was windy and our eyes were glued to our horizons and half way down we spotted the perfect place to stop for some food located next to a good sized pond. The cafe wasn’t crowded and we have gotten spoiled with the french baked goods.
Before stopping back at our hotel we stopped again in St. Giron and got a baguette, Camembert, meat, and some wine for a late afternoon snack to hold us to dinner. As we sat on our balcony overlooking the area I was completely content with life.