Thursday, July 21, 2011

TDF Stage 13: Col d'Aubisque

I planned a big day in the saddle for Stage 13. Late on Thursday night I mapped the stage and determined I could intersect the route at Arudy (approximately 75km into a 152km stage), and then complete the stage. At 830am I left the hotel for the 50km ride to Arudy. Cyclists were making their pilgrimage to the TDF. I rode with four fellow Kiwis and then joined up with two Portuguese guys.

Spectators were already lining the roads by the time I hit the route at 10am, and the peloton wasn't due for another 5 hours. That is normal on the mountain climbs, but this was down in the valley where the roads are flat, straight, and fast.

Col d'Aubisque was a nice climb. The gradient was only around 5% for the first few kms, but the final 5km were really tough as the pitch increased and the air thinned. It was a typical Pyrenean climb: long, winding, and steep with lots of roaming sheep and cows. 

We had 4 hrs to wait before the peloton's arrival, so I watched the race live on TV at a mountain-top restaurant with the Portuguese. Watching Thor Hushovd attack (and eventually win) on a mountain stage was far more exciting than seeing the TDF caravan handing out freebees.

By the time the peloton showed up the weather had changed considerably. It went from sunny and hot to cloudy and quite cold. It was almost a repeat of yesterday on Luz Ardiden. At least I had appropriate clothing today. 

We watched the pros crest the mountain and disappear into the clouds. Once the final team cars and Gendarmes passed, we jumped on our bikes for the long descent. My hotel was just around the corner from the finishing line, so I had a perfect set-up: just follow the route all the way to Lourdes. From Col d'Aubisque, its 45km of mostly downhill. We were riding with dozens of TDF-energized cyclists so the return to Lourdes was fast and furious!

By the time I got back to Lourdes, most of the finish-line area was dismantled. Only the sidewalk fencing remained, but I got my thrills anyway (plus, I had looked at it briefly at 8am before leaving Lourdes).

All in all, it was an excellent day. I rounded it off by having dinner with Jane Norton, and old friend of mine from Auckland, and her husband, Mike, and their 2-year-old daughter, Naomi.

On the 17km ascent up Col d'Aubisque.

At the summit, with Col d'Aubisque's Hors Categorie flags in the background.

At the summit.

David Moncoutie of Cofidis.

Johnny Hoogerland of Vacansoleil.

Jane Norton of Team NZ.


  1. Another day at the tour, ho hum... I've heard estimates that this year's crowds are the biggest ever. It sure looks like it.

  2. great video, at 7m52 sec you pass the famous corner where dutchman win van es shot over the edge in yellow and survived. i stopped there at about 11am and it was a shear drop. amazing that they still only put bales of hay down as a ''barrier'' at the same spot... amazing. great video and camera work. brought back fond memories from summer 2011. alan. rotterdam.