"Meh," I said. "I've done 200Ks with over 15,000 feet. How hard could these be?"
Turns out -- pretty hard.
RandoGirl and I did a little 14-mile out-and-back on the first day, riding up to Els Cortals d'Encamp. This is a ski resort just outside of town, which during the season you can get to via a lift. We went up the hard way.
All of the Andorran routes had signs like this:
These were so you know that you were riding a famous cycling route, and also so you knew what the average gradient would be for the next kilometer. This one says the average is 9.4%, which doesn't sound too bad until you remember that it's an "average," which means that there are some parts that are "just" 9% and other parts 9.8%. And a kilometer at 9.8% is about as hard as a kilometer at 10%, and that gets hard ... particularly when the next kilometer averages 9.6%.
Which is a long way of saying that it took us about a two hours to get to Els Cortalis, particularly since I took a lot of pictures on the way up.
Here's RandoGirl, with Encamp in the background.
This remarkable house was built onto a promontory -- great use of nature, plus they had a gorgeous view.
RandoGirl near the top, smiling like always.
And we made it! Just as the light rain set in.
The descent down was fast. RandoGirl had brought her bicycle with disk brakes, and I found myself envying her that, particularly when we got to the steeper stuff near the bottom with the harsh switchbacks.
Back at the hotel, we got cleaned up, bought provisions, and went to lunch. I then took the car and scouted a route going over the Collada de Beixalis and coming back on the Coll d'Ordino. When I got back, a bunch of our friends had shown up, and we began to partake of the provisions.
From there, we all stumbled out to dinner at Border del Tremat on a lovely cool evening. The next day everyone wanted to do the same route as RandoGirl and I had done, with some folks coming down a different way. It took a lot of strategerizing, so Connie Weisner and I went up first to scope things out.
To go back we turned at Llac d'Engolasters and went through the park there to the other side. Then we took a different road down to Engordany, coming back up the main road to Encamp.
At the hotel everybody was ready to ride. Some drove one of the cars up to the parking lot at Llac d'Engolasters to avoid the steepest parts of the route, while the rest of us rode our bikes up.
Yeah, that's a tandem. Steve and Joyce Grizzle were hard core, biking the painful first kilometers of the climb. This was one of only two tandems that I saw during our stay in Andorra.
Zita Smith was a climbing machine all week, pretty much taking QOM points every time.
And here's the other tandem, with Mike and Patty Wilman, at the penultimate turn before the top.
Connie rode up with Karla McVey and Jill Flowers.
After we all got to the top, the motorcyclists who had been sunning themselves in their underwear had to pull up their pants.
Zita had been enjoying the demonstration of the European dress codes.
After a brief celebration, we descended to Llac d'Engolasters again. RandoGirl and Steve and Joyce had already seen the sights, so they headed straight down to Encamp the way that we had come up, along with Connie and Karla. The rest of us took the fun descent to Engordany, then came up the way that Connie and I had earlier.
After getting cleaned up, everyone took a break. Meanwhile, I ran down to Andorra la Vella to try to find a laundromat. Google said that there was one, but I never could find it. While there, however, I went back to the bike store there and bought the next larger jersey. Now I had a memento of the trip ... although it turns out that I got a more interesting one later.
When I gave up on finding a coin laundromat, I went back to the hotel and asked Anna. She said that there was a place that would do laundry down the road, so I took the clothes there. They had them ready the next day, and only charged me 11 Euros.
That night we went to dinner at Borda Vella in Encamp. I would show you pictures, but we were very busy eating and drinking and had more digestifs.
The next day would be our longest ride yet ... but that's for the next blog.