2002-09-02, Hendaye - Oloron
We got out of bed at 06:30, had some breakfast and made the final preparations before the start. The departure time had been set to 09:00 so the 100 hours would last until 13:00 on Friday. A bolt loosened from a rear derailleur on a bike five minutes before the start and we all started to look for it in the parking lot. The bolt was found after a couple of hectic minutes, still in the rear mech. We got our first stamps in the Carnet de Route at the hotel and then we were off.
The search for a lost bolt.
The idea was to keep the group together the first part along the coast until St Jean-de-Luz, where the road turned inland. Since most cyclists were used to left-hand traffic, I chose to stay at the front to minimise the risk of being part of an accident if anyone would go the wrong way in a stressful situation.
Col St Ignace & Col Pinodeita
We passed Ascain and came to the foot of Col St Ignace after 23 kilometres. It was the first of the 18 cols, with an altitude of 169 metres above sea level. The climb was four kilometres long, a bit twisty and very beautiful. I wanted to check my form, so I pushed quite heavy gears and made the climb with an average heart rate of 175 beats per minute. I felt that I might have over done it, but the damage, if any, was done.
We went over the second climb, the Col Pinodeita at 176 metres. Opposed to the first climb, this one was not so distinct and suddenly we were over the top. Afterwards we went downhill to Espelette, where we got our second stamp.
After Espelette we joined a small road, the D349, which led us past Pas de Roland. The views were superb, but I did not like the road at all. It was narrow, the surface was awful and there were several short, steep climbs and descents, often with sharp bends at the bottom. After roughly six kilometres we arrived to the main road, D918, and the ride became smoother. There were nine of us riding in a double pace line on the road which climbed gently up to St Jean-Pied-de-Port. The pace was around 32 - 34 km/h.
We met the coach in St Jean-Pied-de-Port so we could fill our bottles and have a snack. There had been some talk about having lunch here, but many in the group thought it was too early, so we pressed on. The weather was marvellous and we had just a slight headwind. After Larceveau the road went downhill for a while before we started the climb up the Col d'Osquich. The hill rose from 120 to 500 metres in five kilometres and was our major climb the first day.
There were five of us that started the climb together, but after two kilometres I could not follow the pace. After a while I saw that the pace was too high for Erol as well, but he was too far ahead and still climbed faster than me, so I could not bridge the gap to him.
Jim was another guy in the group ahead of me. He was from Tasmania and had been on bike holidays in Great Britain for more than two months, preparing himself for the Australian Ironman. He had got his bike stolen the day after he had signed up for this trip. In the last minute he had found a rental bike, which he was riding now. Jim stopped at a hotel two kilometres from the summit to fill some water, and then rode past me with no chance for me to follow. Immediately afterwards another Australian, "Aussie Dave", passed me and joined Erol and Jim.
Erol, Peter, Bob and Jim at the Col d'Osquich.
Peter, a 58 years old cyclist from Manchester, was together with Bob the first one to reached the top. Thereafter came Erol, Jim and Aussie Dave. The coach arrived when we had been at the summit for a while. The sun was hot and we really wanted something to drink, but all water was with the car. There was nothing to do but set off downhill. The views were stunning, the visibility was good and the road was great, so there were no problems reaching 60 km/h.
Once we came down to the flat we formed a double pace line again. After 120 kilometres I got cramp in my right groin. I dropped down and could not follow the rest, but just then the pace decreased and I got contact with the group again. John came down to see how I was, but there was not much anyone of us could do. The cramp continued for another three kilometres and at the very moment they finished, I got cramp in my left groin. Another two kilometres in pain, but then it all stopped.
After 135 kilometres we reached Tardets, where we were to get our third stamp. We had some lunch and several of the other guys had some beer with it. Robert's group arrived after a while, but they had got their cards stamped at a petrol station just outside the town and had had some rest already. They decided to stop and Robert had some liniment, which saved me from further cramps. After almost one hour's rest we got on our bikes again.
Lunch break in Tardets.
Two tough climbs
Due to the heat, and perhaps the beer as well, the pace dropped a bit after Tardets. After 140 kilometres we reached a tough climb. It was only two kilometres long, but quite steep and it was difficult to find a good rhythm. After 150 kilometres there was another, similar climb, two kilometres long as well. There was nothing to do but grit the teeth and get over these hills. We waited until everyone had got over the second top and continued towards Asasp.
Our hotel was located in Oloron, nine kilometres off the route. We got our first tail wind for the day and the pace upped for a sprint, but Jim, John and I did not go for it. John had done the Raid Pyrénéen twice before and knew a smarter road to the hotel, so we arrived there before the sprinters.
The weather had been wonderful all day, so after putting the bikes away, we jumped into the pool. Then we all sat down by the pool to dry in the sun. From the hotel we could see the mountains towards southeast, in the direction of tomorrow's stage. Because of the cramps I lowered the saddle for next day's ride.
View from the Hotel Alysson in the direction of the second stage …
The day in figures
Distance: 170 kilometres
Climbing: 2 025 metres
Time on the bike: 6 hours and 8 minutes
Average speed: 27.8 km/h
Black graph: Altitude (m)
Blue graph: Speed (km/h)
Red graph: Heart rate (beats/min)