Morning is when the wick is lit

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Morning Quote by http://www.quotegarden.com/morning.html - Cycling Madeloc Port Vendres France
Location: Port Vendres, France

Carpe diem they cry. That the morning is the best time of day is obvious to some.

Pre-dawn and cycling are intertwined in my existence. Darkened shadows, blinking LEDs, the still silence audible rushing by cold ears.

Port Vendres under darkness
Location: Sunrise over Port Vendres, France

Port Vendres under darkness
Location: Sunrise over Port Vendres, France

For days the allure of Tour Madeloc sitting atop Balcon de Madeloc had beckoned, to be taken not by day but by sunrise. The brilliant colours of sunrise in this region have attracted the likes of Matisse, why not a man and a bicycle too.

Banyuls-sur-Mer sunrise from Tour Madeloc
Location: Sunrise over Banyuls-sur-Mer, France

In the darkness the mtb-treaded 29er “Gutchi” (as it has been named, pronounced similarly to the luxury brand) crept out through town. It would be an hour of straight up before the tower stood proud and the sun rose. Seeking a paved route, the tower quickly grew further away. With a feebly-flickering white LED leading the way, the alternate route straight up the rocky single-track it would be, by the Moulin and aiming for Fort St Elme where bitumen was a certainty.

Later I would be glad that the route was climbed in darkness, the surface of loose rocks, potentially 7-century old untamed pathway cragged and with ankle-braking unevenness only becoming glaringly obvious later on the descent.

Fighting away the bracken and bush closer to the Fort, the weary LED emerged to frighten a flock of birds and a couple taking their first cup of tea camped happily in St Elme’s saddle. Stunned and confused might be understatements. “Bonjour” broke the tension as they were confounded by early-morning Australian ‘carpe diem’.

The black carpet swept easily beneath the Gutchi until the spirit of dirt took hold for the short cut by the hommage to the young lad lost in the fires many years earlier. In the darkness, under the cover of trees, kept company only by the crunching of stone and sand underneath, his spirit was not lost on my tingling spine.

A short descent that awakened forearms with hidden gullies, rocks and surface deviations quickly passed and the black carpet returned for the final 5km ascent to the Tour Madeloc. Hints of a new day chimed between breaths and squelching of rubber on bitumen. The last kilometre befriends you with grades of up to 18%, a subtle reminder that it ain’t over ’til it’s over.
The road to Madeloc, Port Vendres France
Location: Route to Tour Madeloc, France

The air cooled with each rise of 100m and stars began to hide. That unseen beauty began to emerge, metallic blue hues, purple and orange sneaking around wisps of white. The silhouettes gave way to rocks and trees and with one last squelch of the tyre, Tour Madeloc stood proud.

Sunrise over Banyuls-sur-Mer France
Location: Sunrise over Banyuls-sur-Mer, France

Sunrise over Banyuls-sur-Mer France
Location: Sunrise over Banyuls-sur-Mer, France

Sunrise Balcon de Madeloc France
Location: Route to Tour Madeloc, France

Sunrise Balcon de Madeloc France
Location: Route to Tour Madeloc, France

Sunrise Balcon de Madeloc France
Location: Out-the-back(!) of Tour Madeloc, France

Towering over the mediterranean, as daylight broke the towns of Collioure, Port Vendres and Banyuls-sur-Mer emerged from their slumber and warmed to the glow of another fine autumnal day.

Sunrise Balcon de Madeloc France facing north
Location: Port Vendres, France

Rising in the darkness, tackling unseen single-track, disturbing tea-sipping campers and climbing for an hour in the night was surely rewarded by the view emerging this day. Why we choose to rise so early and tackle unknown pitfalls and rewards in darkness is not to be explained, but that we can is enough for me.

Sunrise Balcon de Madeloc France looking to Canigou
Location: Collioure, France

Sunrise Balcon de Madeloc France
Location: Route to Tour Madeloc, France

Strava this ride here.

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