Pyrenees Day 5 - Into the Eastern Pyrenees
Col de Porte & Pas de Souloumbrie

Unbelievably Day 5 is already here and equally unbelievably after last night's thunderstorms and rain at breakfast, we set-off on a cool but dry day. The forecast was for the cloud to lift through the morning but with the chance of rain or thunderstorms in the afternoon. Claude had a few options up his sleeve should the weather turn but as it was we set off as per the original plan.

We headed back to Saint-Giron and then had a 30km false-flat climb up the valley to Massat - a steady low gradient, spinning in the small ring and maintaining a heart rate in the low 130s. It was a perfect warm-up for the first challenge of the day, the Col de Porte. This is a relatively gentle climb (hence it's Cat 2 status) but after enjoying the warm-up so much and feeling good I thought I could fly up. I went too hard and after a few km I was suffering - that is what 4 days of Pyrenean riding does to your legs. It was getting muggy by now but the clouds were lifting and despite relatively low altitude, this was another picturesque climb. I was first up, though not necessarily quickest as I left the coffee stop before John and Dan.

Col de Porte - cloudy but dry

We then had a descent to Tarascon-sur-Ariege, a short piece of flat and then the very short but steep 4km climb to Cazenave (Pas de Souloumbrie) for our lunch time picnic. By now the sun was out and any thoughts of rain were long gone - we have been very lucky with the weather.

The road along the plateau - Routes Corniches - undulated and then climbed to around 1,050m. We were all feeling a bit slow after lunch and progress was quite sedate but eventually we reached the foot of the Col de Marmare. Along the road we passed under a working gondola; this was surprising as very little 'fun' stuff is open outside the school holidays and the mountain served didn't seem to be high enough for a ski-resort. Turns out that the gondola transports talc (or was it chalk) from a quarry and rather than run lorries up and down narrow lanes, a cable-car system is used to transport the rock down to the valley floor.

(Un)fortunately we couldn't climb the full route of the Col de Marmare due to the road being closed near the top so we had to miss both the Marmare and the Col de Chiola (would have been highpoint of the day at 1,431m) but we climbed about half of the Marmare before descending into Ax-les-Thermes. I did (briefly) consider climbing the Chiola from Ax but just didn't have the energy. We start tomorrow with a 1,300m climb to over 2,000m so need to save something for that. Plus it started raining soon after we arrived so a good decision all round.

The Route des Corniches is to the right, way up above the valley with the main road to Andorra

Profile - you guessed it from GPS Visualizer .com
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Apologies for the delay in publishing Day 5 - a few things caused this; my Garmin lost GPS so I had to get a file from John of our exact route, the hotel wifi was rubbish and I wanted to explore Ax-les-Thermes (go for  beer)