Tuesday, July 31, 2001

L’Ours Course de Pied

12km of Sauvage mountain running in the French Pyrenees
Sunday, 29 July 2001

The village of Fos on the border of France and Spain in the Middle region of the Pyrenees mountains was in annual festival mode for the Summer Holiday running of the Duathlon International Val’d’Aran; a significant event in the region, and one of the few of the notoriously hard Powerman circuit.

We had decided for Rob to enter the Powerman, only three days after we were due to arrive in Nice, about 8 hours drive to the west on a whim before leaving Australia. The World Championship Duathlon Team was not to be announced for a long time, and Val’d’Aran had the advantage of a sister event of a foot race (course de pied) prior to the big event which meant that I could participate in some way as well.

All things did not run smoothly and seamlessly from our arrival in Frankfurt in Germany, missing our connecting flight to Nice. With no other real option, we headed to the Hertz Rental Car desk, and drove to a town outside Nice, some 1,600 kms away, during the day. It was a deliciously hot, dry day (for me) ~ however a heatwave in France, for which all others suffered. The air-conditioning was on throughout to make Rob more comfortable until we stopped around 10:00 p.m.

After around 30 hours on the flight since leaving Canberra, and about 12 hours on the Autobahn’s (I caused white knuckles in a fully grown man as I took the wheel from the start of the journey and felt very comfortable driving at a pedestrian, slow lane speed of 150 km/hr), and then 130 km/hr on the French Auto routes, where Rob took over the later part of the driving as my head started to ache, a mix of up evening and morning medications not assisting the stress of continual driving and the unfolding realisation of how long it was going to take us.
Rob was feeling increasingly nervous and uncomfortable in his ability to attack the frightening mountain profile of the Powerman course in 48 hours time. A very late attempt to obtain a hotel room in the picturesque, and Riviera pumping village of Fe Jus proved unsuccessful, so we back tracked to the apparently cheap and basic chain of Hotels’ – ETAP which jutted the autoroute’s at regular intervals for travellers. A basic room was sufficient for our needs, and I climbed into the unmade bunk bed above the double bed below and sought sleep for my now raging mal d’tete quickly whilst Rob emptied the car of bike boxes and luggage as required for security.

He had an early start to return the Hertz Mondeo and collect the Renault Nevada Estate (station wagon) as part of our lease/buy back arrangement. If the Mondeo was a pleasure to drive, with a sports steering wheel and a curious brushed aluminium finish highlighting the interior, which I came to really like. The Renault on the other hand is a special delight to drive. As this was to be our sheet metal home on wheels for the next 10 weeks, this was a distinct advantage!

Time constraints required that we take the quickest possible route to the Duathlon region, bypassing many charming villages and settlements en route. The climb up the mountain from Fos, base camp (and transition area) of the


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