June 7 and Arthur and Bert’s first birthday. I owe Trend a lot for putting up with me disappearing for hours on end during the training and for manning the busy fort for the six days I’m away – we knew the boys wouldn’t notice my missing their day but it was more of a special anniversary for us both. And it was to be a long day in the saddle thinking of the fun there’d be at home. I resolved to recount Happy Birthday as many times as I could that day to my imaginary friends just in front of me. I wasn’t so good at it going uphill, but it must have sounded strange on my descents!
So back to the biking, Day 3, the first of our 2 x 170km rides – straight into two monster climbs each to 1550m but with stunning scenery to take your mind off matters. Sunny but cool suits me well, too hot and it would have been a different challenge. Again the descents are breathtaking – proper fast and fancying yourself as a Tour de France racer but realising they’re probably going twice as fast as your 70kph! On, on though very quiet, remote countryside to the spiky climb of Col de Portet d’Aspet infamous for the death in 1995 of a Tour leader and Italian Olympic gold medalist Fabio Casartelli who died on the descent. Past his memorial and my body is maximising its effort to ‘top out’, through the sharp 17% cheeky parts of the ascent. A fabulous 20k descent, memorably going through a rustic village in the warm sun 6ft behind a gliding swallow at road height – it was a moment that stuck in time for me – I felt pretty free and above all, lucky to have the good health to be where I wanted to be.