92km, 1287m climbing: Arles-sur-Tech – Maçanet de Cabrenys – Esponellà.
Ed had explained to Yann and me the previous night that our only way into Spain was over the mountains. A reattempt of Col d’Ares was an option, but there was also the less intimidating Col de Coustouges. Yann was ready to give Col d’Ares another shot but Ed pointed out that Col de Castouges was a great climb. I said I’d sleep on it although I was definitely going with Col de Castouges.
The previous night, while eating our pizzas which I’m not sure were meant to be personal pizzas, we conveniently discussed food. Chris and Ed both agreed that there was an absolute need for a real meal in order to get the legs working on a bike. Yann and I had been unintentionally starving ourselves the first four days, eating just the amount we’d eat on a regular day.
On the morning of the 27th, Ed supplied an amazing breakfast spread that obviously involved pain au chocolat, which was quickly becoming a food staple of our Catalonia tour.
This power couple was to lead the way out of France on their lightweight road bikes. Intimidating, but my belly was full of pain au chocolat: I was capable of ANYTHING. Murder, even. I was to kill Col de Castouges.
That morning, Chris asked how my legs felt.
“Great!” I responded. I was amazed by how okay my legs felt after 1311m of climbing on a loaded steel bike the day before. If I could have given each leg a medal, I would’ve.
“Well, mine are killing me.”
“We’ll just go slow.”
I kept an eye on my cyclometer as I followed behind Ed: 26km/h. This speed is not my idea of “fast” but it’s not my idea of “slow” either.
Right before we made a left turn onto the road that would take us over Col de Castouges, Ed did a status check:
“You’re going a trifle fast.”
“I’m just taking it easy.”
What I wanted to say was, “Well, I’m a disappointment. Get used it to it.” Instead, I just made up some fluff about how Yann and I didn’t know what kind of cycling we had ahead of us.
Here’s the thing: I love climbing. Both on rocks while wearing very snug, sticky shoes, and while on my bike wearing either SPD or SPD-SL shoes. There are certain types of climbs I like more than others, such as “crimpy climbs” that require a lot of flexibility, or, on a bike, long ascensions at a chill grade (5% or under). The previous day, I had climbed a very short 20% grade hill and found myself fighting against pulling a wheelie because I had all the weight at the rear of my bike. Even without that kind of load, steep climbs tend to leave me wheezing.
Col de Costouges was what I’d call “comfortably challenging”. Low traffic, minimal blind curves, smooth pavement, and alternating sun and shade.
I was now carrying the weight of an autonomous community oppressed by the Spanish government in the form of a flag which Ed had taped to my rear rack. Yellow ribbons were a common sight throughout Catalonia, but I wasn’t immediately aware of what the ribbon represented. (I knew it didn’t mean 4th place!)
In October of last year, Catalonia held a referendum to become an independent state in the form of a republic. 92% of Catalans voted “yes” but the Spanish government was like, “Well, too bad! All your base are belong to us.”
I wondered whether the flag would act as a force field against aggressive drivers. 92% of Catalans would think, “Look at that nice lady who supports us. Let’s give her lots of space when we slowly pass.”
Ed held the belief that Spanish drivers were more respectful towards cyclists than French drivers. He also mentioned that the Danish were the worst. “I know, right. Danes are suuuuuuch dicks,” is something I would’ve said had I ever been to Denmark.
Nevertheless, he was right about Spanish drivers!
If you are French and unhappy with our assessment of your motorists, then just try to drive nice around cyclists. We merely want to enjoy sights like this:
Also, we want to enjoy meals such as this salmon carpaccio with colourful stuff:
The above meal was consumed at restaurant La Quadra in Maçanet de Cabrenys. It was in this town where Chris and Ed decided that Yann and I were to continue our quest without them.
Chris “My Legs are Killing Me” McKnight went on to ride down Col de Castouges and up again.
Ed “I Can’t Be Arsed to Save Stray Dogs” Scoble returned the Arles-sur-Tech headquarters, possibly hitting some dogs on the way. At least he likes cats.
Yann and I rolled into the town of Esponellà where we paid 35 Euros to pitch our little tent next to someone’s mobile home. This 35 Euro fee, I assume, goes towards the maintenance of their three pools, what appeared to be a half-finished mini golf course and their beach volleyball area. With all the cats that lived on the property, the beach volleyball area was more like a giant litter box with a net dividing the middle.
We had left behind the lifestyle of the rich and famous in Arles-sur-Tech, but we were going to be alright.
No other day of our trip did end up topping Day 5.