Rolling down the time-trial ramp in Saint-Lary Soulan for the fifth stage of the 2018 Haute Route Pyrenees, riders set off one by one to take on the climb up the Route des Lacs to Cap de Long. Setting off at 20s intervals, each rider had the opportunity to go mano a mano with the mountain for 22km, ascending 1344m in the process to reach the dam of Cap de Long.
The atmosphere on the start line was electric as riders assembled to cheer each other down the ramp and the local cycling enthusiasts cheered every single rider like their own. Turning out in his skinsuit for the time trial, Philippe Béchet of Switzerland admitted it was nice to have a lie in the morning: “it was great to get up at eight this morning,” he said, “I still woke up earlier but stayed in bed to enjoy the recovery.”
Exiting the town of Saint-Lary Soulan after rolling down the time trial ramp, the first section of the climb remained relatively rolling on a large road before turning right over a bridge onto the smaller route des lacs to take on the main part of the ascent. Winding through the trees and out of the shadows on the bottom half, riders entered the Lacets de l’Ecureuil and the Lacets des Myrtilles in the sun, with incredible views all around them.
Rising out of the valley alongside the turquoise blue lake, you could just about make out the finish line in the distance, perched next to the dam above the final few hairpins. Celebrating with those around him once he had made it to the summit, Jason Elswood was delighted with the climb: “that was a beautiful stage,” he exclaimed, “I had Rémi on my tail the whole way but he didn’t quite catch me. I’m riding as a Duo with my wife, so we stayed together at the start but then she told me to just go for it.”
Riding his first Haute Route, Pedro Ross was equally impressed with the beauty of Cap de Long, “That was tough but it is so beautiful here,” he explained, “it was totally worth the effort to get up here. This afternoon is for rest though, I’m going to have a massage, do some stretching and then have a nap”.
Chris Woodcock had also enjoyed the climb, “I feel like I’m getting stronger,” he said, “that felt good, you ride faster but it still hurts the legs. I’ve got to be pleased with that after five days.”
“That stage was refreshingly short,” added Daniel Nuss, “it was great, I really enjoyed it,” he said.
John Young had already planned his picture stops for the return ride down the hill when he reached the finish line, “that was fantastic, definitely one of the nicest climbs I’ve done,” he said, “I wanted to stop for pictures on the way up, but I think I’ll do that on the way back down.”
The fastest riders on the day were once again Ruari Grant and Hannah Rhodes-Patterson, each taking home a brand new watch from TAG Heuer in the process. The fastest Duo team was also Team Mintuliina once again.
With just two stages left before finishing in Pau, tomorrow’s sixth stage is the final big mountain stage that includes a summit finish on the Alitport 007 in Peyragudes.