Exquisite French Climbs Part 3

In 2011, The Wattmeister rode much of Paris-Brest-Paris with Aussie Paul. On the qualifying rides, his antipodean strength enabled him to scale the steep inclines of Hackpen Hill, Symonds Yat and the Hawkesbury Monument on MAN gears, that is to say, a racing chainset combination of 53/39 teeth with an 11-25 cassette.

While the mighty Wattmeister twiddled his way up on NOT MAN gears, he winced as Paul made mincemeat of the prodigious gradients.

“Not as a tough as the Madeloc!”, he would pronounce after conquering each of these tough climbs. The seed was sown.

And so, The Wattmobile arrived at campsite Les Amandiers at the beginning of October 2016, just to the north of Collioure and overlooked by the medieval watchtower of the Tour Madeloc perched inland at 653 metres above sea level.

With the blessing of The Wattmeisterin, and with Paul’s words ringing in his ears, (surely it couldn’t be as tough as the dreaded Mortirolo), he set off into the backcountry along the D114. This is a lovely rolling corniche road which just happened to lead in the wrong direction. A small lung busting lane called Valmairie which runs parallel to the busy 914 ensured that The Wattmeister got back on track, but only by adding extra vertical metres to the expedition.

The beautiful D 86 winds up benignly through verdant vineyards to the Col de Sella, before cruelly plummeting down to a crossroads pass from where it kicks up again very sharply for 3 kilometres. At this point, assaulted by a mixture of heady views over the Mediterranean to the West and the sweet perfume of the vineyards, The Wattmeister chose to take the narrow traffic free road to the watchtower.

This last push to the top is only 1500 metres, but at 13 %, the average gradient on a gravelly pot holed surface is a serious test of mental and physical resolve. The Wattmeister strained every sinew to gain the top, reaching a maximum heart rate of 186 beats per minute.

Thanks to Aussie Paul for suggesting this one, it was worth every burst blood vessel.


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