My First Proper Col!

Yay, I did it! Not just my first proper col (with obligatory pic at top) but also the first time I’ve ridden a road that first caught my eye on our first our holiday over here, six years ago almost to the day. It was awesome.

My Trek bike on the Col de Festes sign (Alt: 677m)

At the top! It looks like someone who came before me may have lost their keys. Oops.

I’ve been getting out and about for a ride one morning every weekend. It’s great to get that time again. The first morning I rode for just 12 miles and was out for an hour. The following weekend, since everyone had a nice time without me the week before, I ventured a little further clocking 19 miles in just over 1.5 hours. Today I decided to go for it – up and over the Col de Festes, meeting the peeps in Quillan park afterwards, which made the time away and distance manageable but still the longest and furthest so far. I clocked 23 miles in the just under 2 hours and made it to my rendezvous with the family in time to get the shopping. Just.

My stats are shocking. I Strava’d the whole thing of course and the only way is up from here. But I wasn’t riding for that. I was riding for the hell of it, because I can, because I can now leave the house for a couple of hours and just pedal. It’s been well over two years since I made it out of the house every weekend to ride. I love it.

And the route. Wow! This is a really great place to ride. Before I hit the main road I must have seen no more than three cars. Actually I was more worried about wild pigs and drunken hunters than cars. There were also a lot of trees and I was nervous on some of the wooded descents as the roads were littered in acorns, so I didn’t do those quite as quickly as I might have on a clear road. Hazards aside (and I’ll take acorns and wild pigs over BMW drivers and white van man, thank you) it was beautiful, quiet, and really fucking hilly  – for my unfit legs anyway.

Gradient Profile from the Col de Festes Ride

Two hills and one ever-so-slightly uphill ending

There was absolutely nothing sociable about it, either. I left the house, pointed my bike up the hill, and pedaled. Because I was worried about how long it would take (I hadn’t really been clear with James about my route because I just wanted to get on with it and not be persuaded that it might take too long) and wanted to make sure I made it to our meeting point in no less than 2 hours. It was tough, actually. I stopped at the top of the col for a photo and then again at the shop in Campagne-sur-Aude. By that point my legs were wrecked and I still had about 6km to go. It was a miracle that the shop was open. They were sold out of pain au chocolats but, nevermind, because they had Snickers. Snickers!! I paid the 80 cents (rip off) and quickly inhaled it before leaving the quiet back roads and joining the main road.

Although I used to love the out of the house all day rides, clocking up the miles, hanging out with my mates, bolting a nice cafe stop onto the day – sometimes a couple of cafe stops! – I also like these nose to the grindstone solo rides where I only stop if I absolutely have too. There’s something quite therapeutic about not stopping. Most of all, it’s wonderful to be able to get out again and in such beautiful surroundings. I’ll be fitter and faster before long, I’m sure!

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