The Col du Tourmalet is a climb made famous by victories in the Tour de France.
I tried to make today a "leisurely" climb, not all that possible on a climb of such length and gradient, but to help with this I took some photo stops along the way.
My first photo stop was just a few kilometres into the climb. I was thinking to myself that although my early start meant I experienced the solitude of a lone cyclists, it was far from quiet. Alpine mountains mean flowing water. Lots of it.
And as I was thinking this, I came across this.
I wound my way up through the village of Barreges where I saw my first cyclist of the day. Not on his bike yet, he was kitted out in lycra and getting into his van. He grinned at me from ear to ear and gave me a thumbs up. I would have loved to have captured the look of pure joy on his face, it was priceless.
The ascent out of Barreges is probably the most consistently hard part of the climb (though not the most difficult... more later). With that behind me, I took the time to snap a couple of shots, this one just past a ski station, with the warning to look out for livestock on the road.
And then this one, looking back down for a k or two. Luz St-Sauveur, where I rode from, is down behind the large green wooded hill.
From here I headed into a headwind, then into the shadow of Tourmalet for the last 5 or so kilometres of the climb. A few ks from the top I encountered a sheep who stared me down and stamped his feet, but luckily took no further action.
The first time I came to France, one of the very first climbs I did was Galibier from Lauteret. A lovely Belgian man warned me to "save something for the last kilometre".
I've learned that this advise is fairly good to keep in mind on most alpine climbs. Tourmalet is no exception, which is obvious from this profile on Climb by Bike.
By the time I got to the last kilometre, KKB had passed me (in the van, not on the bike) with some words of encouragement. Not far now, just a little longer to that last killer kilometre!
... and just so you don't think I'm off the scent of the marmotte... here's more wildlife...!