The sun was soon out and there were lots of last minute decisions on layers, waterproofs were off. Our main bags were due to be shipped to our next hotel but they hadn't gone yet so it was a bit of frantic stuffing things back in before setting off into glorious sunshine:
It was a brief but fast down before the climb commenced properly. The first section was a brutal stretch of steep fire road, thankfully short. It got the heart and lungs working, they appeared to be working properly, that didn't last! It was then a long tarmac climb, which would change to fire road eventually. Started climbing, climbing, climbing, steady pace. Not sure how long it went on for but it seemed for ever up, no point looking up, it all looked the same:
We kept climbing on and soon we were off tarmac and onto more fire road style. We were heading for the little town of S-Charl at 1810 metres. Once onto the fire road I was starting to notice a bit of a lack in oxygen. I was ok if I kept a nice steady pace but if I pushed hard and let my HR get above 165, say to climb a rise, I found it hard to recover and bring it back down. This got more pronounced as we kept climbing, so steady pace it was. I was climbing ok which I was a bit surprised about as long steady climbs are not my thing but it reminded me of my long training runs for the marathon, it was that kind of effort.
There wasn't much regrouping after we got onto the fire road sections, the lure of the cafe was too strong. So I had to remember to keep looking back and trying to take some photos on the move (not always successful!)
We caught up with a British couple doing pretty much the same route as us, although they weren't doing the bag shipping thing. The lad had a trailer with panniers and the girl had a very large rucksack. The trailer really consisted of a single wheel, with panniers on either side of it, nothing like a Bob trailer. We would see them a few times:
Next it was saddles down for the descent, the two Swiss residents just did it the Brits all asking if it was worth it. Long descent! Started off steep and fast fire road, I had a girly moment when I spotted one of the guys ahead getting thrown around on the track ahead and rounded the bend convincing myself it was going to be awful. I stopped dead at the top of a section because there were...wait for it....some rocks! D'oh, perfectly rideable if I'd kept going but due to steepness a bit tricky to get back on here. What I needed was some food.
It really was great descending, worth the climb, honestly. We had a section of "black" trail to ride which I have to say I was a bit worried about, thinking we would be riding down a sheer cliff but it was quite an easy rooty section which had been misgraded, really a blue. Well I say easy, not when your riding like a plank. There were perfectly rideable lines if you were paying attention, which I was struggling with I realised I need to get some calories in asap so had a caffeinated gel and hoped it would kick in soon.