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Sunday, September 07, 2008

Tarascon-sur-Ariege to Gincla

From Screen Captures

We left Tarascon this morning late as usual and headed in the wrong direction to pick up a beautiful road known as route des corniches which starts in Bompas with a scary 15% grade which turned out to be a false scare as the road itself (D20) was relatively level. It was a lovely road, shaded by trees with farms and lots of things to look at. Riding along the ridge I was struck by how beautiful this road was --- it was definitely one of the highlights of the trip despite the relatively low altitude, winding its way high above the ridge where we could see the main national highway before, with views of the villages below us.

The descents were gentle and swooping, giving us lots of time to admire the views, and the climb was relatively gentle. Upon looking at my Michelin map, I saw that there was a trail marked from Cassou directly to Col de Marmare (1361m), bypassing Col de Chioula (1431m). Well, a rough stuff traverse this convenient begged to be tried, so we took it, knowing that it could be quite a bit of work. The trail started out nicely enough, with butterflies of varying colors fluttering before our wheels, and views of the surrounding peaks. About a couple of kilometers into it, however, the trail suddenly took a sharp left turn, and went up at what looked like a 30% grade.

Looking at my GPS unit, it looked like we only had 1km left, but we had to climb 300m in that time, so we got off our bikes, and braced ourselves for a slog. And a slog it was. It turned out to be a horse trail, and the hiking was tough, necessitating several stops to lift our bikes over rocks, tree roots, and other obstacles. We had to rest quite frequently, and by the time we summited we were tired. (And there was also a sign that said no bikes, which didn't do us any good!)

Our reward a 4 course 2 hour lunch with Creme Brulee as the dessert. We then went over Col des 7 Feres (1253m) and descended on D20, a gorgeous slot carved into a gorge along a river. By then it was getting late but we got to a tourist information center off the main road at the Axat intersection before it closed and booked a place in Gincla.

Riding into Gincla, we were impressed by the hotel we had booked sight unseen --- it was a Logis de France place, but because of the isolation it was very expensive.

A relatively easy day with 89.3km and only 1512m climbed (except for the rough stuff).

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