Glance at an elevation profile for this challenge ride and you'll notice a spike near the end. Until now I've tried to ignore it, leaving it sitting in my peripheral vision like the monsters I was convinced lived in the wardrobe when I was a kid.
Today the monster pounced. It's name is the Col du Pailheres which, according to our guide, "some people think is harder than the Tourmalet." Certainly the distance and elevation gain is comparable.
Our ride began with the lovely Col du Port; wooded, shady and relatively cool. A complete contrast to the building heat of the infernal valley road, tangling with trucks bound for Andorra and Spain.
The original Raid Pyrenean route was changed some time ago when a quiet col was transformed by traffic into a motorised hell, but we still get unpleasant sections.
Food in Ax Les Thermes and then the monster Pailheres. It. Went. On. Forever. The thermometer on the Garmin topped 37c. Tough.
Yet the East side is fantastic, no wonder the Tour will use it, climbing the serpentine road to the sparse summit.
The next two cols were meant to be mere bumps, but with the sun still blazing the Col du Moulls and the Col du Garavel were significant challenges.
All with the knowledge the Col du Jau was still to come. It took me 70mins to ride the 10km col, my legs tiring and my heart rate refusing to rise.
But what a descent. Despite the massive mouhtains of the Catalan Pyrenes still ahead, there was a real sense of leaving the high mountains as we swooped for mile after mile. From 1513m to under 400m in a long, bumpy plummet.
However, the clock is still ticking. We must finish at Cerbere before 1pm or we'll exceed our 100hour time slot. There's 98km to go with 620m of ascent, and a coast road with some steep wee climbs.
I can't wait!