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Hors-categorie … or was that horse-categorie?

Thursday stage in the Pyrénées went over some pretty bighills, including the Col d’Aubisque, this year’s first hors-categorieclimb (that translates to "above-category" in English). It’s a climb thatbegins in a beautiful green valley and soon climbs up the mountainsideto the east, past a line of giant pine trees, including what looked likeone or two redwoods. The Aubisque then slaloms its way up a V-shaped side valley, makes asharp turn at the ski resort of Gourette before heading above the treeline on a narrow road that commands wide views of some of the rockiestpeaks in this part of France.

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By John Wilcockson

Photo: Kip Mikler

Thursday stage in the Pyrénées went over some pretty bighills, including the Col d’Aubisque, this year’s first hors-categorieclimb (that translates to “above-category” in English). It’s a climb thatbegins in a beautiful green valley and soon climbs up the mountainsideto the east, past a line of giant pine trees, including what looked likeone or two redwoods.

The Aubisque then slaloms its way up a V-shaped side valley, makes asharp turn at the ski resort of Gourette before heading above the treeline on a narrow road that commands wide views of some of the rockiestpeaks in this part of France. Broad green pastures are crossed on the wayto the summit, and once over the top on Thursday, we saw big herds of cattle… and wild horses!

Now that makes (horse) sense. It’s a horse-categorie climb! Well itwas for us. A line of horses was grazing just by the roadside, so we stoppedon the shoulder to take a look. Two of the animals took great interestin us, one probably the mother, the other — small, wiry and white withbig Mr. Ed-like teeth — probably the daughter.

Well, the little white horse very much liked a small sponge cake offeredit by Rupert, our Aussie companion, but he didn’t reckon on the horse gettinga little too friendly. Miss Ed almost took off Rupe’s hand with a “friendly”bite, and then cantered after him when he bolted toward the car. Maybeit was Rupe’s blue-and-white Hawaiian shirt that was so desirable.

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Photo: Kip Mikler

Well, then Miss Ed took a liking to the car, rubbing her rear end rathersuggestively first on one side, then the other. She put her head in Rupe’swindow — the one at the back on then right — so he couldn’t get back inthe car.

Luckily a gendarme on a motorcycle came along right then and shooedthe horse away and off the road. Back to eat grass, which I’m sure wasnot as fun as eating cakes and licking our press credentials.

When’s the next horse-cat. climb? Well, it’s Friday’s finish at Plateaude Beille, where, according to Rupe, they have sporting dog contests, Betterwatch out for your pants, Rupe!

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