Day 6: Luchon to Saint Girons

Sunday June 12, 2011, 85 km (53 miles) – Total so far: 598 km (372 miles)

I’ve got mixed feelings about today, it actually turned out OK in the end, but was very nearly the end of this tour, for me at least.

We left Bagnères-de-Luchon nice and early after another uninspiring breakfast and headed down a wide valley towards our first climb of the day. The valley road was beautiful with the clear skies revealing snow capped peaks on the high mountains behind us.

My bike, however, had developed an annoying creak which sounded like it was coming from the bottom bracket. I stopped a couple of times to see if I could make any adjustments that would help but without any tools and no obvious problems visible I resolved to stop at the next supermarket to buy a can of lube. Lube often working as a miracle cure for undiagnosable noises. But the reason for the noise was soon to become clear.

The Col des Ares was a fantastic climb, not at all steep, tree-lined and with great views of the mountains. I was really enjoying it until about 200 meters from the summit when my frame snapped – on the drive side rear dropout / chain-stay joint, right near the rear hub and mech (see photo below). The bike was still rideable (sort of, I’ll explain in a bit) so I kept going to the top before stopping to assess the damage.

We looked up the word for welder using the iPhone. It appeared we needed to find a ‘souder’ – in the middle of the Pyrenees, on a Sunday, with tomorrow a bank holiday. Arse, arse, and double arse.

Jon used his best French to interrogate an ageing woodsman who explained that there were no welders in the whole region, and even if there were, it was Sunday, and this was France.

In finishing the climb of the Col des Arse I had already established that the Pinarello would work OK when going uphill, albeit a bit noisily. This was because the tension of the chain kept the frame together. And in getting to our friendly woodsman I had worked out that I could go down hill too, but only if I stood on the pedals and free-wheeled. On the flat, however, the back wheel now flapped from side to side and rubbed on the frame. Fortunately there aren’t all that many flat roads in the Pyrenees so we decided to push on as far as we could and if the bike got worse we’d simply get a taxi to tonight’s destination St Girons.

The bike made it over the Col du Portet d’Aspet to the village of Portet d’Aspet where we stopped for lunch. This is where the iPhone really came into its own and saved the tour. Over lunch, I frantically browsed the internet for a solution and found a few tour companies operating in the area. A few of these were run by English ex-pats so I decided to call one and see if they could suggest a solution. I called Marmot Tours who offer fully supported cycle holidays in the Pyrenees ( they were very helpful and suggested I call Craig at Velomondo. Velomondo ( offer a bespoke bike hire and delivery service in the region and luckily for me they had a bike suitable for me to complete the tour on. We agreed to meet later that afternoon in St Girons where I would take delivery of my replacement machine. They also kindly agreed to ship the Pinarello back to the UK for me. Disaster averted.

Our hotel in St Girons was called La Flamme Rouge, named after the red triangle above the road indicating the final kilometre in the Tour de France. It was once owned by a former professional cyclist, but the new owners seemed less than friendly and were just cashing in on the many cyclists the name attracts. Because of this we elected not to eat in their restaurant, and they later refused to sell me a beer. The breakfast was shit too.

Le Grand Depart

Le Grand Depart

We took a coffee break to ponder the broken frame problem.

We took a coffee break to ponder the broken frame problem.

Summit pic

Summit pic

Half way down the Portet d'Aspet

Half way down the Portet d’Aspet

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