I spent the night in Casa Spink, as honoured house guest of Rich and Jen, and their lodger Ben Perry, a softly spoken Canadian Pro tour rider. The house is palatial. I stayed in a room with floor to ceiling windows, approximately 20 metres from a train track. The Spinks supplied me with ear plugs and told me to wear a buff over my eyes. I followed their instructions to the letter. I woke up at 3am to a trembling roar, a feeling more than a sound and I couldn’t see and couldn’t really hear. It was terrifying. Then I remembered the sensory deprivation and the trains and managed to gain some semblance of sanity, bringing my heart rate back down to zone 4.
The house is cold. People wear woolly hats at breakfast. Spink talks about Arctic explorers, his specialist subject on mastermind, which makes it seem colder. They huddle together in survival bags for warmth. No-one takes the ear plugs out in case the cold gets in.
We went riding, me and the Spinkatron. He has legs like air–dried teak. The first 15 miles were done at 18mph, him on his 7kg C-Bomb, stiff as a 12 year old who just found a copy of Razzle in a lay-by, me on 25 kg of bendy bus, flexing like a drunk Irishman’s sphincter after 18 pints of Guinness. I let him go and after about 5 miles he realised I’d sat up. I only had two gels. Old Spinky reassured me this was fine, we’d go till lunch. Like a fool, I accepted this advice from the man of a 220 mile ride with Robert Gesink.
By the time we got to about forty miles even old Spinkmeister wanted a coffee. We managed to find a garage selling pastries and coffee. It wasn’t true garage style, the pastries were lush and not made by Ginsters, and she heated up the milk for the coffee. It was amazing.
I’m typing this on a phone, so please excuse the higher than average typo cunt. I also can’t caption that picture. You’ll have to come up with something witty. Maybe the three of you could have a competition.
Fortified by amazing garage scran we headed on to Cistella for lunch. It was an incredible community cafe thing and I had a bocadilla de tortilla as big as my head. After that we parted ways, although the grand depart was done in the cruellest of ways. Spinkanator gave me a look and then said something about “having to do the school run… chop on” and rode away into the distance.
I then headed to La Vajol and the border, an 8 or 9 mile climb with a lot of height gain, peaking at 2,500 feet. It’s not alpine, but it felt it and took a long time. I saw a Gert Big Eagle. It was enormous and made two ravens look small. At the top the road disappeared and I crossed the border on a dirt track, before plummeting down a beautiful wooded valley for miles and miles. I felt like a bandit, smuggling contraband across the secret routes. It was a thrill.
The run into Perpignan was a trial. I was tired after lots of hills, there was a sudden headwind and an enormous storm loomed on the left. I chased it towards the city and made it to my lodgings, got my bike in, when the heavens opened. It felt serendipitous, in the way that it won’t in a day or so when I’m pissed on for 7 hours.
Next up is Carcassonne.