Demigod of Pain, Tyler Hamilton Descends from Clouds

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08/30/2003| 0 comments
by Paul Rogen
St Etienne de Baigorry church. Photo copyright Paul Rogen/Thomson Bike Tours.
St Etienne de Baigorry church. Photo copyright Paul Rogen/Thomson Bike Tours.

Demigod of Pain, Tyler Hamilton Descends from Clouds

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riders slow and turn their heads and Dunk Rock Road is defined by 300 year old stonewalls.   These stonewalls were higher and more elegant than our
New England versions.   Many think that the Basques may be the oldest established people of
Europe, the aboriginal ancestors to all that followed.   This is also Hemingway country where he hung out and wrote his first failed novels, but this area also inspired the cadmium yellow mountains of the Sun Also Rises .  I was really hoping that the very special surroundings could inspire us to physical, not literary feats today.


The picnickers along the road were beginning to thicken as we approached the base of the mountain.    There are signs at most major climbs in
, which indicate the length of the climb and the gradient of each kilometer.    We stopped and peed and gazed dumfounded at the sign.   Since we looked last night and since we went to the church and prayed, the gradient on the first four kilometers was still, 10.5%, 10.5%, 11.5% and 12%.   So much for magical thinking and the power of prayer.



Just as we mounted up and started to pedal, three gendarmes pleasantly held out their arms and indicated that we must walk our bikes.    While we were looking for respite, this was not the answer.    Flick control issues are similar the world over.     We pushed up around a gradual bend and past another gendarme.   When I thought we were out of sight, I mounted and, before I could turn a stroke, there came a shrill whistle.    I didn?t even look back and dismounted again.   Eighty meters around another bend and I mounted without flick interference and began my assault.    Wham, and I was into it, straight uphill and into the first switchback.   I sat and spun slowly and didn?t rise out of the saddle until the second switchback. I fell into a rhythm and began to slowly pass riders and walkers.   It was uncrowded and pleasant with a view back down the valley that called for a camera stop, but I passed it up in favor of momentum.    I kept at it for the next four kilometers, afraid to stop until I had it under my belt.    I rode much of it in tandem with my TBT partner from
, Mike Marquardt.   He sucked on his Camelback and I squirted a water bottle periodically as I clicked off each torturous km.   It gave me a hint as to how the Tour gods suffered.   I had broken a collarbone two years earlier and could not imagine how Tyler Hamilton could still be rolling in this 16 th stage of the Tour de France.


After, Mike and I paused and restored ourselves we proceeded up a few milder 5-6% gradient kilometers and came out on a small saddle where the cows were swinging their bells on steep grassy hillsides.   Looking


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