We would be enjoying our first taste of the Pyrenees today, but not before going through some serious sunflower territory early on in the stage. In order to get far enough ahead of the riders, we had to leave early and the tour village waffles would have to be eaten another day. Not even a kilometer out of town, the sunflower fields began to appear. You would think that it was an easy decision to stop, but when each field that flies by the window is prettier than the last you become spoilt for choice.
Eventually we chose a spot with blooming fields either side of the road. From my previous experience I knew that the flowers would be swarming with bees, but I wasn’t prepared for the nettles - our poor exposed ankles! With yellow pollen dandruff covering our shoulders and an incoming swarm of stingers, we decided to make a ‘bee-line’ for the car.
Soon after the Jean Claude Van Dameries gave us the okay to drive onto the race route, we were told to pull over by the race officials, just so that the slower caravan vehicles could get back to the convoy. Since there was a possibility that we would be there for some time, I got to work perfecting my sandwich artistry. I feel that with my speed and finesse, I could have been turning out foot long baguettes at Toulouse Subway. On today’s menu, we had salami and cheese baguettes, which is the same daily menu we have had since the tour started. In my defense, I do mix things up a little bit; sometimes it’s Italian meat and French bread, other times it’s vice versa.
Col d’Aspin was the first of the category one climbs we would see, and I had initially picked a spot 3km from the top. Once we got there I found that the crowd was a little sparse but the view was great. We weighed up the options of risking a shot up the top with the masses and decided to go for it at the summit. After reaching the top, I jumped out of the car and left Speedy to fend for himself and find a park on the descent. The decision paid off as I got the best of both worlds with masses of spectators and a view to boot.
A successful day was followed by a meal at the Japanese buffet, highly recommended to us by the hotel reception. Speedy went in for the chicken drumsticks which turned out to be fried frogs legs and also tasted like chicken. Luckily we also had some of the finest French saki on hand to wash it down.