With 3,250 metres of elevation gain in just 82 kilometres, the fourth stage of the Haute Route Pyrenees between Bagnères-de-Luchon and the summit of Tourmalet was the stage everyone had been waiting for in excited anticipation.
The weather didn’t want to play ball however, with fog, rain and cold conditions adding to the challenge as it accompanied the riders throughout the day. Showing courage, strength and determination, participants climbed the Col de Peyresourde and Hourquette d’Ancizan before the decision that the climb up the Tourmalet was canceled for safety reasons.
With the race being neutralized at the top of the Hourquette d’Ancizan, rides headed carefully down to Sainte-Marie-de-Campan where buses were waiting to bring them back to the Haute Route Village. Back in Argelès-Gazost, the riders took the time to recover their strength thanks to a hot meal and a good massage before returning to their hotel.
Taking advantage of the sun that had returned to the village in Argelès-Gazost, the riders gave us their impressions after a day which will undoubtedly be engraved in their memories.
“It was already raining a lot when we arrived at the start line in Bagnères-de-Luchon, so we didn’t expect anything less at the top of the passes. But then again, it’s the mountain so you never know what can happen out there,” said Belgian rider, Sebastien Debaye. “For me it is a satisfying feeling: to start this morning, ride in the rain and then to trust in the organisation and their decision to stop the race. There are always people on the road so it’s really nice, and when the Race Director said the race was stopped when we got to the top of the Hourquette pass, it was in itself a relief. It really was another experience and you have to be proud of what you went through.”
“We were told that we would arrive at the bus 17km after Hourquette. I gave the Haute Route staff my bike, I refuelled, I changed, I got my bag and I got on the bus. It was all really great, couldn’t fault it so thanks” added Sebastien.
Originally from the United Kingdom but currently living in San Diego, Mark Ibison was delighted to have had the chance to start the stage this morning: “It was a good thing to let the race start this morning. It went well if you were well dressed for it and I made sure I had my winter gear on my back. It was a good decision to cancel the stage at Tourmalet though because the descent into the rain and cold would have been terrible.”
For Canada’s Terry Waldron, riding in the cold and rain at the same time was a first. “I have previously raced in torrential rain for 6 hours and have also ridden in temperatures of -3 degrees. But when you mix the two, it is a little different. Today had to be one of the most difficult days I have spent cycling, partly because of the mental challenge in head as I am not confident descending. I can climb all day without a problem but the fear of going down in the rain was always there in my mind but I took my time and I did it so I’m proud of myself. “
While stretching, Terry added jokingly, “When I heard that the Tourmalet was canceled, I’m not going to lie I thought ‘oh yes’. I was really impressed by the way the organisation responded quickly by setting up shuttles. It was great!”
Tonight, riders will enjoy a good night’s sleep with a later start tomorrow ahead of the Stage 5 Time Trial. A first for the Haute Route, they will test themselves one by one on the ascent of the Col de Spandelles, an hidden jem of the Pyrenees.