Again, It's Not About the Bike
? or how three amateur riders experienced the 2002 Tour de France
that ride.? I had reached that time.
After suffering a while, maybe a long bite-sized kilometer, I started to sense the top. The mountain ridges all sloped upward toward what I was sure was the Col d? Aubisque. The fog or clouds were rolling past me. I was out of contact with Peter, and Hervey was somewhere behind me. Peter already had warned us that we would not stay long at the top; if there were any wind at all because it would be too cold. Shortly, I pulled into the last gradual rise to the top of the col. Peter was there waiting for me and shook my hand. We hardly had time to read the granite plaque that confirmed what our senses knew perfectly well, before Hervey came up. We got 2-3 pictures and zipped up our shirts and took off. I was tickled by the near certainty that the other two Dunk Rock Roadies were going to make it.
We descended fast past cows with bells dinging intermittently and sheep getting pushed away from the impending circus of the Tour de France. It was so fast that my ears popped. We zipped through a dark dripping tunnel that made me worry about the peloton coming through the next day at 80 kilometers an hour and just losing it. Then we started slowly to climb again. My favorite place in all the Pyrenees is the Col du Soulor, which is this high mountain bowl of open meadows, dotted with grazing cows and sheep. You can look unimpeded across the cirque and see the road climbing up ahead, but it is mild in pitch. It was hardly daunting after the Aubisque. We topped the col together and started a long drop down to the valley floor. I took my time at 40-50 kilometers an hour while Hervey and Peter flew at 60 kph plus. Hervey held Peter off and would not let him pass the entire descent. This takes some doing because Peter rides like the old pro he is and doesn?t take lightly to second place when challenged. We regrouped at the bottom; Hervey noticed that his water bottles had collapsed with the sudden drop in air pressure from the quick descent. We laughed with pride and pacelined at 30-40 kph the last twenty kilometers to the Hotel Chez Pierre d? Agos where we rendezvoused with the other Dunk Rock Roadies. We all felt like Kings of the Mountains. Don and Bob had, in fact, made it up to the top of the Aubisque, then turned around and gone back to the van and drove around the mountains, passing through Lourdes on the way to the hotel. They swore they didn?t stop for healing waters but, if they did, we understood. They earned it.
Don repeatedly told of looking over a valley on their descent of the Aubisque, ?There were hawks soaring out there, and