Monday 18 July - Tour de France Rest Day number 2.
The Tour de France was on a rest day so I thought I'd take a look at some of the roads the race used the previous day including the climbs of the Col de Peyresourde, Col de Portillon, and Col d'Azet. From Arreau I set off over the Col de Peyresourde and through Bagnères de Luchon and over the Col de Portillon, the top of which is on the border between France and Spain. The Col de Portillon climb wasn't particularly long, about 8.5 km with an average gradient of 8.1%. But the gradient flattened out in several places which made the maximum gradients very steep.
I continued over the top and down into the small Spanish town of Bossòst which was fairly quiet, possibly because it was early afternoon and many shops were closed for siesta. Despite being a Spanish town, there appeared to be more people there speaking French than Spanish and the number of cars with French number plates was at least equal to those with Spanish plates.
After a very brief look around Bossòst I started back up the Col de Portillon in the direction taken by the Tour riders the day before. At the summit I met a couple of fellow Kiwis who were touring their way up to Toulouse. It turns out they were from Ashburton, only about 100 km from where I grew up. It sure is a small world!
I stopped at a boulangerie in Bagnères de Luchon for food and Coke before making the return journey over the Col de Peyresourde, the longest climb of the day. About half-way up the climb I noticed that some of the cars coming toward me had their windscreen wipers on which had me a little concerned. Within another 10 minutes it was raining very lightly and another 10 minutes later I was soaked. I decided to skip the last planned climb of the day over the Col d'Azet (1578m, 10.8km, 7.2%) and get back under cover as soon as possible since it was very cold and raining quite heavily at the top of the Col de Peyresourde. I descended down the other side of the Peyresourde as quickly as I dared, riding through the 'rivers' or water running down the mountain. As luck would have it, by the time I got back to Arreau the rain had all but stopped but I didn't really feel like any more riding that day anyway.