The last time I was on the slopes of the Meyrand, it was 8 degrees, pouring rain, and I was forced to turn back after only 6km. Meyrand 1, Sarah 0. I had a score to settle.
Round two was going to be different. First of all, the weather was favourable. It was 20 degrees, the sun was out and there was hardly any wind. Second, I was going prepared with pockets crammed full of food and warm clothes. Off I went summit seeking and after almost two hours in the saddle I made it to the bottom of Meyrand. There was the sign indicating I was officially at the bottom of the climb. It was the same sign that had instantly convinced me to press on in trecherous conditions on my first attempt but today as I rolled past I knew I would reach the top.
The Meyrand is 22.4km long and has a gentle steady gradient between 5-7%. I got into a nice easy rhythm and just started counting down the kilometres. In the first 9km there are small villages, farms, and houses along the way but past that there isn’t much but nature, hairpins, and the occasional car or cyclist. I find most cyclists in France don’t do the passing head nod but on such a long climb the “bonjours” and “allezs,” along with the nods, were standard procedure from each passing rider. I couldn’t decide whether it was the bond of mutual respect or suffering.
Past the half way point, I began to notice the height I had climbed. I felt the temperature drop and the trees seemed to be mostly below me. As I kicked around a hairpin, I passed another rider who had stopped for food by one of the 1km interval signs, we both still had 8kms of climbing left. Although my legs were fine, I was beginning to feel the length of the climb mentally. Time for food I figured.
With 6kms to go, the road straightened out and I could see the next few kilometres of road ahead. I could also see the dark clouds that now covered the sky and again I felt the temperature drop. Two big groups of riders descending whooshed passed me all dressed in winter gear so I knew it wasn’t going to be a sunny reception at the summit. I pulled on my arm warmers and zipped up my gillet, the weather wasn’t going to stop me this time.
Before I knew it, another sign reminded me I only had 3km to go as I approached a small farming villiage at the top of the mountain, just before the crest of the climb. I was assaulted by the strong smell of “fromage chevre” as I passed through but I didn’t mind the strong stench when suddenly I could see the summit.
Another sign, 2km to go. In my eye sight was the view point with tourists milling about taking pictures. Last sign, 1km to go. I mentally targeted the view point as my finish line but as I arrived, my calculations and the lack of signage told me I wasn’t quite there yet so I continued around the bend. There was the sign. “Col de Meyrand, Alt. 1370m.” Triumphantly, I gave a little kick for the sign. I unmounted to soak in my reward and then giggled to myself that all the tourists were looking the other way admiring the view while I was admiring the sign. Of course I rolled back down to the view point to check it out but, again, unlike the tourists, I was admiring the twisty long road I just climbed more than the pretty mountain scape.
After snapping a few pictures, my no longer working body began to feel the cold and I knew it was time to head home. As I rolled over the top to continue down the other side, I was pretty happy I had conquered the climb. Meyrand, 1. Sarah 1. I also knew I would be back to tip the score in my favour.