Mountain Camp in Occitanie: closer to medieval history

4 cols and 110 km

22.8.2017 – Words by Matthieu Bardou

It’s 6:30 a.m. when I hear the alarm clock ringing.

We arrived yesterday evening from Toulouse in l’Aiguillon (the Ariege department in the Pyrénées) because we wanted to sleep more this Sunday morning.

I woke up first and my teammate Hugo joined the breakfast with me five minutes after.

Coffee, honey waffles and chocolate biscuits — we didn’t need more fuel for ride.

One last check of our tires pressure, and we are gone for 4 cols and more of 110 km between Ariège and Aude departments.

The fog outside was thick so we decided to wait until 8 a.m. to have just a little bit more visibility.

Finally, we set out on the journey. After a short warm up of 5 kilometers to Bélesta the road started to rise in le “Col de la Croix des Morts” climb. I’m still afraid of this climb because it conditions the rest of the ride and my state.

Brilliant entrance on the Pays de Sault at 800 meters above sea level with a big and shinny sun.

We have a good cadence and the sun gave us a smile when we descended to Belfort-sur-Rebenty. The valley is so calm, the road is tight but we didn’t see more than three cars on this road. With the help of the falling downhill we arrived to the first hot checkpoint of the day : “le defile de Joucou” where the road is dug in the mountain.

It’s almost the half of the ride when we bifurcate to the departmental road that I dread because of the traffic.

Surprise! Only few cars, and another “defile”, the one of Pierre Lys, a spectacular road that I recommend to visit. It’s flat and we have good look on our bikes at more than 38km/h.

We finally arrived in Quillan with a traffic jam caused by the traffic lights. The greens appears and we enter the Col du Portel.

For the first 500 meters I decided to stay on the 50t of my crankset. Only for a few dozens of meters… The slope didn’t leave me a choice to climb the Col with suppleness. Bitumen is pretty good and the laces of the road are really smooth. Hugo arrived first: he is a strong climber and he enjoys ascends likes these.

Time to eat an almond paste and my first bottle is already empty.

A little descent to Puivert passing by Nébias with the fields on the left and Puivert castle on the right in the heart of the “Quercorb” country and we still have to keep going with the climb on the Col de la Babourade. Hugo chose to make the train for me and I beat my PR on strava with a strong and constant climb at 20km/h.

Back to Belesta after a rolling descent passing by the Col del Teil to bifurcate to “Chateau de Montségur”, one of the most popular Cathare Castles in the area.

A little pause in Fougax & Barrineuf, eating more almond paste and finishing my last bottle.

I don’t really like this climb because it’s really hard at the end and the road is rough but it’s a good way to finish a mountain GranFondo with a teammate. From the first hectometres, we’ve lost 4 degrees.

I did the train on five kilometers and Hugo has escaped to climb at his rhythm and arrived first at the top.

The last pictures and we came back to the start with a really fast descent to bridge Montferrier, Villeneuve d’Olmes, Lavelanet and l’Aiguillon.

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