Day 12: Ripoll, Spain to Saillagouse, France

A Polish rider with our bikes at Toses, the top of the ride

This is looking ahead at about 1500 meters

And this is heading down into the big valley on the other side of the pass
The road going down is similar to the road coming up - a very long, relatively gentle, hill

I'm in France tonight, having ridden through the Pyreneese today. Today's ride was short - less than 50 miles - and hard - almost a mile of climbing with 80% of it in one hill about 13 miles long. It took me several hours to grind up that hill.

The first part of my ride, from Ripoll to Ribes de Freser, was a gentle uphill along the river. Quite pretty and quite pleasant, although the traffic was a bit noisy. On that that section I was passed by and later passed a Spanish tourist riding a MTB with large rear panniers and a Bob trailer. I passed him at Ribes de Freser when he stopped to dig his camera out to take a picture. I'd already taken several pictures while he was searching for his camera. I don't know if he stopped at Ribes de Freser, or rode on, but I didn't see him again.

Leaving Ripol, heading for France

Here is the loaded cyclist looking for his camera

And this is the image I think he wanted to photograph - without the truck!

Most of the rest of the ride was climbing along the wall of a big valley, and then descending along the wall of another big valley. As I climbed towards Toses, I was passed by several men riding racing bikes, one of whom had a large backpack. He was in good shape, going at least twice as fast as I was even with that heavy load on his back. I was also passed by a large number of motorcycles: apparently this route is very popular with them. When I stopped to eat at the top. I visited with the fellow with the backpack and a couple who were on motorcycles. I think all three of them were English and I think he was serious bike racer.

There were markers every 100 M starting at 1000 M

Looking back down the valley at about 1500 M

The long climb was beautiful and rather boring! The pass, called Toses, is at 1800 m or 5900 feet. That required almost 4000 feet of climbing from Ripoll. That wasn't a problem, although my legs are tired. The problem was that between Ribes de Freser and Toses, it was just one long climb. The climb was never really steep - I could always manage 5 mph or more, often 7 mph - and it really wasn't that hard, but it was boring. Mentally, that kind of climb is harder for me than a climbing a similar distance with varying slopes, e.g the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was also the sort of climb where you could see the roads, still climbing, many miles ahead. That doesn't help!

I still remember how hard it was, five years ago, when I rode the, then new, section of I-26 from near Erwin, TN to Sam's Gap on the NC border, just before it was opened. It was much harder than the old road which has the same endpoints. The old road runs along a creek and the, at the end of the valley, climbs steeply to the gap. It is a fun ride. The new road seemed to have a constant grade all the way and I had to force myself to just keep riding to get to the top. I hated that ride.

The road today wasn't as bad, in part because the grade did vary some, and in part because it was in the Pyrenees, but I was suffering badly from boredom when, 3 km from the top, a Spanish rider coming down, stopped to tell me it was only 3 km to food and water. We were having a hard time communicating, so I called out to another loaded rider who was passing, He turned out to be Polish, so that didn't help the communications a lot, but talking with them relieve my boredom.

The Polish fellow and I rode on, to the top, and took pictures. Then I went to the restaurant - no menu, only snacks, but they had espresso and I really needed some - and he rode on to Pugicerda. I didn't know that it was pretty much all down hill to Pugicerda from Toses, but, even if I had known, I would have stopped. My breakfast this morning was two greasy donuts and water. My snacks, on the way were three greasy donuts - Spanish clones of Crispy Creams, only smaller - and two apples. At the restaurant, I had a croissant and a pastry with my coffee. It worked, but good breakfast would have helped.

After the long grind up, there was a similar, but much faster, coast down into a large, beautiful valley surrounded by mountains. Puigcerdą is the big town in that valley and the border between France and Spain run through the valley, quite near to Puigcerdą. When I saw the sign for France, my bike just took off in that direction .

This is Puigcerdą, looking north

And these are the mountains looking south from the same spot

This is the valley where I am staying tonight Saillagouse is on the left end

Tonight I am in Saillagouse, which is a small French town about five mile inside of France. My tired legs took me over the 100 M high 'bump' between Puigcerdą, and Saillagouse, but weren't happy about taking me much father today. Tomorrow I'll ride to Carcassonne, which is a bit over 80 miles from here. Hopefully, most of those 80 miles are downhill.
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