A long awaited weekend away

It was the weekend of the annual cycle club trip to St. Lary, in the Pyrenees, deferred from last year due to Covid. I’d signed up, but as I can’t ride far at the moment, I offered to help with support. I was very nervous about driving Bernard’s big van, but needn’t have worried as my co-driver, Robin, the 21 year old son of a farmer, has been driving tractors and bigger since he was 16 and was more than happy to do all the driving if I’d navigate. That suited me perfectly.

We left Nogaro at 8 o’clock on Saturday morning, the van loaded with overnight bags, picnics and bottles of water and headed for the first stop at Gensac, where we supplied coffee and cakes. The group looked great on the road, with virtually everyone in club strip.

Morning coffee and cake
Time for a natural break

Then on to St. Marie de Campan for a picnic lunch; it was quite warm, but fortunately nothing like the 41°C of two years ago. Everyone set off again in good spirits, except Bernard, who didn’t feel up to doing the climb of the Hourquette d’Ancizan, so he joined us in the van. Laurent isn’t a great climber, so we expected a long wait for him at the summit; we didn’t expect him to turn up in a big 4×4, though, having hitched a ride for the second half of the climb!

Lunch stop

At the centre de vacances in St. Lary, the rooms were clean and comfortable, the beer warm and the food unimaginative and insufficient, but that did nothing to dampen our spirits; it was great to be riding together again, especially as this was our president’s first club run in over two and a half years, since he had a horrendous accident, falling off a roof and breaking almost every bone in his body.

Sunday morning dawned grey, foggy and drizzly; Bernard was on his bike again, but we had Bruno for company in the van for the first stretch, the climb of the Col d’Aspin, as he had a hip replacement recently and had found the climbing uncomfortable the previous day. 

Riding out of the cloud

We collected unwanted layers of clothing when we passed the riders as they warmed up on the ascent of the Col and after a few kilometres the heavy cloud started to thin. I hadn’t realised till then that I’d only ever seen this col from my bike, which in my case means I’d only seen the bit of tarmac in front of my wheel. I was blown away by the sheer beauty of the landscape around us, enhanced by the fact of seeing it in inversion conditions, blue sky above, white cloud below. I think Robin must have stopped the van at every possible spot, to allow me to take photos.

The clouds begin to thin
Top of the col d’Aspin
Afternoon coffee stop

From the top, where Bruno rejoined the peloton, we stopped the van about every 20km on the way home to enable the riders to put on/take off waterproofs as the weather remained changeable, but it was a happy group that arrived back in Nogaro, ready for a beer or three in the clubhouse.