7 days| 5 cols | 450km | + 7,000m
AUBISQUE - TOURMALET - PEYRESOURDE
You’re an enthusiastic rider and you dream of tackling the mythical cols of the Pyrenees, the scene of so many extraordinary feats during the Tour de France. But you find high mountains a little daunting and you have little experience of long climbs at high altitude. COL CYCLING ADDICTION provides you with a chance to take the plunge and, with our help, meet the challenge of these iconic rides.
Aubisque-Tourmalet-Peyresourde, the “Big Three”, are all on the agenda. They are a must! But rest assured, we are not going to be racing up them hell for leather. However fit you are and whatever your experience as a climber, you can do the ride at your own pace and take time to enjoy the magnificent scenery of the Pyrenees. Our stages are around 80 kms long with a maximum altitudegain of 1500 m. Every climb up one of the Big Three will be followed the next day by a shorter recovery ride so as to be fit and ready the day after to take on the next iconic climb. So wait no longer and join us to discover the Pyrenees and their legendary cols!
Our upcoming dates
For transfers from Biarritz and Toulouse airports, please contact us (for these airports, transfers take place between 11:00 and 15:00). Installation at the gite for the stay. Preparation of bicycles and a short trip to the Ossau valley to rustle your leg.
The col du Pourtalet has only once featured in the Tour de France, in 1991, as part of a stage starting in Jaca in Spain and ending in the Val Louron. And yet it deserves better. The vallée d’Ossau which leads up to the 1794 m col is one of the most beautiful valleys in the Pyrenees. As you ride the last few kilometers up to the pass you get superb views of the mighty Pic du Midi d’Ossau, a giant of volcanic rock. With its twin peaks and magnificently characteristic outline which can be admired from Pau and even further, the Ossau is an emblematic summit for the entire region of the Béarn.
The col du Pourtalet is a little over-graded as a 1st category col and you shouldn’t be too frightened of it. It is a long road, 28.5 km from Laruns, but it climbs regularly with an average 4.5% gradient. It’s a perfect route to test your endurance in the mountains and work out the right pace for riding a long distance climb. There are some steeper sections just before and after the village of Gabas, almost 9%, so you need to manage your efforts carefully: just right to hone your climbing technique. There’s two kms flat along the lake at Fabrèges to give you a chance to recover before the final climb with still 9 km to go before you reach the pass, with your sights set on the Pic du midi d’Ossau! At the pass, the Spanish ventas, with their typical tapas bars, provide a great location to celebrate the first climb of the week! The perfect surface of the Pourtalet road gives you a fast and easy run back down to Laruns, enjoyable from start to finish. A wonderful way to limber up for the week’s riding!
Trilogy: Act I. The Aubisque is a true legend! It is the second most often climbed col in the history of the Tour de France with 73 climbs since the first race in 1910 when the road over the col was still only a rough dirt road that competitors ran over carrying their bikes. Frenchman François Lafourcade was the first rider in the history of the Tour to cross the Aubisque in the lead, on the incredible 326 kilometre stage with 6,000 metres of height gain between Luchon and Bayonne. The first high mountain stage devised by the Tour organisers required the riders to cross the Peyresourde, Aspin, Tourmalet and Aubisque cols. Unbelievable! In Bayonne, the winner, Octave Lapize, shouted at the organizers "murderers, you are murderers! "The Legend of the Tour was born!
The Aubisque pass is a "must" to climb for anyone who claims to be a cyclist. It is the gateway to the world of high mountain cols, an initiatory ascent into the exceptional playground of the Pyrenees. From Laruns at 520m, the ascent begins gently up to the spa resort of Eaux Bonnes, 4 km at 5% on a perfect surface. When the road leaves Eaux Bonnes, the slope suddenly increases with a short maximum of 13% where the road crosses to the other side of the river. The rest is a long ride up slopes ranging between 8 and 9%, a challenging section that needs to be carefully managed because after Gourette, there are still 4.5 km to climb. Up to the Hotel des Crêtes Blanches the gradient often runs into 2 figures. Apotheosis or torment, the zig-zags of the last mile offer a perfect route to the summit in a beautiful setting.
Depending on what you want to do, and what your legs want to do, you can continue along the spectacular road that sweeps over the Cirque du Litor towards the Col du Soulor and finally descends through the remote and wild valley of Ferrières. An exceptional day in the mountains!
Yesterday may have left its mark. It is time after this splendid introduction to take a little rest and recoup your strength for the rest of the programme!
Today we are going to tackle the Col de Marie Blanque, a magnificent viewpoint over the entire Ossau valley and ideal for a day of active recovery.
But if you prefer you can enjoy a a bit of rest at the gîte. The afternoon will be given over to a wellness session at the spa at Eaux Bonnes.
The Marie Blanque col has already been climbed 13 times by the Tour de France since the first time in 1978. It is 1035 m high, and is often a crossing point before taking on the Aubisque or even the summit of the Tourmalet, as during the 2010 Tour.
Depending on what you want and what your legs feel like doing, we can climb the pass either from the Ossau valley side or the Aspe valley side....
From Bielle, 440 m, it is a relatively easy two-step ascent, 2nd category, 5.1% average. A first climb of 5.5 kms to the Col du Porteigt with a sustained start at 9/9.5%, takes us to the Benou plateau, at an altitude of 900 m. This is an extraordinary plateau shaped by the Ossau glaciers of the Quaternary era. A moment of recovery on the plateau provides a welcome break before the second part of the ascent, another 6 km, with a short 2-figure passage which is a good test to see how your legs are taking the strain. The return through the Bois de Baget is an ideal hilly route for an easy return to our base, before going to relax at the Spa of Eaux Bonnes.
Doing the circuit in the other direction is a completely different kettle of fish! From Escot, the climb up to Marie Blanque is a formidable 1st category col, only 9.7 kms and 7.7% average for a height gain of 715 m, but the last 4 kilometres are a really tough challenge: 11% average and sections exceeding 15% and even 18%, with not a moment's respite before the descent down to Bielle! It is not surprising with such a percentage that Bernard Thévenet, double winner of the Tour de France in 1975 and 1977, ended up getting off his bike to walk up this wall during the 1978 Tour stage from Biarritz to Pau! Before the "Giant" that awaits us tomorrow, it is probably wiser to keep this slope for another time and enjoy the spa!
Act II: Tourmalet! Is there a bigger icon in the eyes of cyclists around the world? Undoubtedly ranked at the top of the list of "Giants", the Tourmalet is a real myth in the history of cycling, much more tyah just its hors-catégorie ranking! After its first appearance in 1910, it is by far the most frequently climbed col on the Tour de France, with no less than 86 climbs to date. In 2019 the Tourmalet will be a stage finish after a ride from from Tarbes to the summit at 2115 m, via the Soulor. It’s the highest road col in the French Pyrenees, and climbing it is nothing less than a high-level pilgrimage, full of legends and so symbolic!
Climbing the Tourmalet from its western side is a personal choice. The two sides of its ascent are just as difficult but the ascent from Luz Saint Sauveur is, in our view, more spectacular. The warm-up from Lourdes goes up the river valley to the entrance of the Luz gorge. Between Soulom and Luz, the road runs through a narrow and austere ravine, opening out on to the Pays Toy, the territory of the "little people", a nickname given by the people of the plains to the inhabitants of Luz, Barèges and Gavarnie for their small size... It is in Luz, at 711m, that the climb really begins. 19 kilometres to reach the summit at 2115 m, 1400 m height gain with an average gradient of 7.4% and double-digit sections, up to 13%, that's the challenge! But beyond the difficulty of its length, its gradient and the high altitude of the col itself, climbing the Tourmalet has a very special flavour for cyclists all over the world. Cycling up this special“Monster” is also a point of entry into the history of cycling and an opportunity to become part of the myths and legends from the first conquering heroes up to today's champions.
Very quickly after leaving Luz, the gradient increases to reach an average of 8%. It takes some getting used to, and there are very few moments of respite. At the end of the steep ride up through the village of Barèges, 1250 m, there’s the first key passage: a long ramp with a two-digits gradient before the road flattens out a little up to Tournaboup. Here you can choose to follow the old Tourmalet road, a variant of the "Laurent Fignon" ascent that is now reserved for cyclists and offers spectacular views of the valley. At the junction of the two roads, there are 4 kilometres left. In an extraordinary finale the road rises up towards the sky, with a spectacular view of the observatory of the Pic du Midi at an altitude of 2877 m. The last kilometre, still a 13% gradient at this altitude, will take its toll, but at the top, the giant statue of Octavian Lapize, 1st conqueror of the Giant in 1910, will reward your efforts. Congratulations!
Act III of the Pyrenean Trilogy, the Peyresourde Pass is a Giant that needs no introduction. It first appeared in the history of the Tour in 1910, in the incredible "murderous" stage from Luchon to Bayonne. With 67 climbs, it is one of the most frequently climbed cols of the Tour de France after the Tourmalet and Aubisque. It has all the characteristics of a HC pass, but the organisation of the Tour defines it, strangely enough, as a category 1 climb.
From the beginning of the climb proper at Bagnères de Luchon, 625 m, the programme is almost banal: 945 m of height gain over 14.5 km with a 6.5% average, nothing scary at first sight... But the figures are misleading! The Peyresourde consumes your forces treacherously. Kilometre after kilometre, relentlessly, each pedal stroke up the hill brings you closer to the red zone. The constant gradient between 8 and 9% with a few sections at more than 10% make it a really difficult climb where endurance is the key to success.
We start from Saint Bertrand de Comminges, a famous ancient and medieval city, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The imposing cathedral reflects the richness of an exceptional archaeological and architectural heritage, with 2000 years of history! To warm up we follow the Garonne valley to Chaum where we branch off to reach Bagnères de Luchon, a spa town with an old Belle Epoque charm. Bagnères is the starting point for 2 other great climbs of the Tour de France, the Port of Balès and the ascent of Super Bagnères, 2 other jewels to climb absolutely some other time.
The cimb up to the Peyresourde begins abruptly as soon as you leave the town with an 8% ramp that starts piling on the pressure. Then come 2 easier kilometres and then again the gradient increases to 2 figures before the magnificent chapel of St Aventine, just before the crossroads with the road that leads to the Port of Balès. After Garin, there’s another section at 12% and then the final sustained cimb up the last 4 kilometers and the famous curves where the broad view opens up over all the peaks of the Luchonnais with altitudes over 3,000 m. The milestone of the col at 1569 m marks the border between the departments of Haute Garonne and Hautes Pyrénées from where we will ride down to Arreau. But first we stop for a moment to get our strength back at the famous creperie!
After this wonderful collection of the legendary Great Passes on the high road over the Pyrenees, our week ends with a relaxing stage. The Jurançon hills and their winding roads will be the setting for our last “surprise” day on the bike. The ride across the Pyrenean foothills offers magnificent views over the entire mountain range, from the Pic du Midi de Bigorre to the Basque Country. Superb! But it’s tough climbing in places. The roller coaster hills are so demanding - it is not unusual to find 20% gradients! - that the Tour de France 2019 includes a 27 km time trial stage there from Pau, and that says it all!
Our tour will pass through the famous Jurançon vineyard, and a stop to taste this excellent wine at a renowned vineyard will be an opportunity to celebrate this fantastic adventure in the Pyrenees.
After a hearty breakfast, the time will have come, with regret, to prepare for the return trip. Your luggage will be heavier now, filled with memories of all these fantastic climbs!
Transfer to Pau - Lourdes/Tarbes - Biarritz or Toulouse airports