The fourth day of riding in Spain and France on the Cima Coppi Tour was originally planned to be the ‘queen stage’ of the Tour, 100km from Laruns, France to Bagneres de Bigorre crossing the Col d’Aubisque, Col du Soulor and Col du Tourmalet, while watching the Tour de France on the Tourmalet. As I alluded to yesterday, this was not possible without massive effort and neither Patricia nor I were up for that kind of effort as the Gendarmes (French police) had the roads barricaded at the base of the Aubisque, about 3 km’s outside of Laruns.
Instead, we left some of our extra gear with our hosts in Laruns and headed for the Col du Marie Blaque. It was a short day at 65kms and began almost immediately with the Marie-Blaque which starts going up just west of Bielle/Louvie-Juzon about 12km’s primarily north of Laruns. The East side of the Marie Blanque is not the harder side, but it is a good way to work up a morning sweat. The Col du Marie Blanque is known for being a short, beautiful climb with steep grades for about 4 km on either side. However, the grades on the west side are around 11-12% and on the east side between 7.5% and 9%.
The east side of the Marie Blanque is also greatly varied as there is the Plateau de Bénou about halfway up. The plateau is beautiful, but for us maybe the best part was that we could get authentic French crepes homemade right there by a farmer on his little farm on the side of the road. I tell you, nothing beats Crepes avec sauce du chocolate on the Col du Marie Blanque five hours before watching the Tour de France live.
The rest of the Marie Blanque is straight forward with one more km at 7.5% and then a few around 3-4.5% until the top. At 1085m the Marie-Blanque is not a killer col, but when I return to France next week, my ascent of the west side may change my mind. The descent is bad enough, as it was the steep side going down and hard on the hands especially for Patricia whose hand is still tender from her crash.
After the Marie Blanque we arrived in Escot and then searched for lunch in Asasp-Arros. We ate, and then had a leisurely ride along the D918 through the Foret de Laguns and stopped for cheese at a farm along the way. The road to the farm may have been the toughest 1km of riding I will do this tour as the road up must have been about 14%. Patricia decided to find shade and let me do the riding. I grabbed some cheese and we were off to Bielle were we concluded that day with the Tour de France and a short ride back to Laruns.