14th June 2016
The morning was blustery & overcast but spirits were high and there was a group photograph in front of the castle, before we set off at 8.00.
Although we started out on pretty lanes with a smattering of ‘normal’ roads, much of the day was spent on the former & the scenery ranged from lovely wine growing terrain to undeveloped mountainsides & deep, green valleys. Our journey took us South & West via Limoux, Puivert & onto Ax-les-Thermes, the latter, as the name suggests a spa town although the ‘baths’ were closed when we got there (the French really don’t seem to like working these days do they!).
It was a mixed bag of riding with some flat, some undulating, some very long, quite steep climbs & some spectacular downhills. What was common throughout the day, was the fabulous scenery and the relatively quiet to very quiet roads. There were wonderful vineyards, pretty small towns & villages & great mountain scenery. As we had climbed about 1700 metres, we also saw snow on the mountaintops, which left us with no illusions as to how high we had climbed & how cold it could get – this is a ski area, after all!
There was a great lunch stop at Puivert where there was a café with a very nice terrace, by a man made lake & where we all gathered for a coffee, chat & talk about the morning. Lunch was actually courtesy of DA & out of the van, but good food, good variety & very welcome.
Knowing that post lunch had some heavy climbing (as in fact had pre lunch), I didn’t hang around too long & was soon, once again grinding low gears & feeling all the familiar areas begin to ache, seize up or both.
With around 10 kms to go we had a quick water stop & decided to don jackets as the air was beginning to get very cold & there was promise of a downhill, to end the day. The downhill didn’t come before a fairly brutal bit of climbing but when it came, oh how good it was!! I flew!! About 8 kms switch backing down hill with little traffic, superb scenery & a pretty decent road surface right in to the gorgeous town of Ax-les Thermes with its raging river, pretty buildings & mountain backdrop. A flow of e-mails from the Group suggests that the town (or at least its bars, has them in its spell). The Group is in two hotels & we are in Le Chalet, which is quite delightful & we have a nice room, with balcony overlooking the river, the Spa building and the mountains.
Statistics for the Day;
12.00 mph average
1949 metres of climbing
5 hours 20 minutes in the saddle
(I would like to disclose top speed down the mountain but modesty & a Judith backlash says I must desist!)