Start out with easier climbs to get used to cycling in the mountains before tackling the truly challenging climbs later in the week.. Ascend the mighty Col du Tourmalet, the most popular mountain pass in Tour de France history and highest pass in the Pyrenees.. Stay in small Pyrenean villages and towns whose people, character and charm never fail to capture your heart.. Test your legs on the steep slopes and switchbacks of the Col de Peyresourde and be rewarded with stunning views of the Midi-Pyrenees.
Welcome to road cycling – the Intrepid way. This trip takes you to the border of France and Spain and the mighty Pyrenees Mountains as you ride through the same terrain as the Tour de France and the Vuelta de Espana. Earn your bragging rights as you conquer the easier climbs of the Col du Port, Col de Mente and the true legends of the Col de Peyresourde and Col d’Aspin, and of course the mighty Col Du Tourmalet as well as some hidden gems that only local cyclists know. This is a trip to test your cycling skills and fitness but rewards you with sublime Pyrenean vistas, thrilling downhills, great company and an excuse to eat as much French pastry as you want!
Breakfast Included: 6 Lunches Included: Dinner Included:
Your Pyrenean Cycling adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm today. Nestled in the heart of the Pyrenees and on the banks of the river Ariege, Ax is a spa town with a history dating back 800 years. If you feel like exploring, just follow the marked trail through the old town. The trail takes in the Belle Epoque casino, the Bassin des Ladres (a natural pool of hot sulphurous water), the Thermes (thermal baths), as well as narrow streets and picturesque fountains. If you’re feeling weary, why not try the town’s recreational spa, Les Bains du Couloubret. If you have brought your own bike, it’s a good idea to assemble it today to ensure that everything is in perfect working order. There is only one small bike shop in town that carries very limited stock of road bike parts. For those that have brought their own GPS device, we can upload each day's ride directly to your device so that you never get lost no matter what pace you are riding at.
After a quick bike check, set off on your first ride. Start by finding your cycling legs on a quick warm up ride along the relatively flat road, before commencing your first climb of the trip up to the Col de Chioula (1431 m/4700 ft). The Chioula is an excellent introduction to riding in the Pyrenees as it’s a long steady climb with a very manageable gradient for the most part. Once at the top, the views over the Pyrenees are impressive, as is the long descent back down into Ax. In the afternoon, you might like to save your legs for the climbs later in the trip, however if you’re looking for an extra challenge, why not tackle the 18-kilometre (11-mile) long Hors Categorie climb of the Col de Pailheres (2001 m/6565 ft), the shorter Col du Pradel (1689 m/5545 ft), or the quiet but steep Ax 3 Domaines (1350 m/4430 ft). For an easier option the try the flat ride down the Orlu Valley.
After breakfast, take to two-wheels and leave Ax behind as you make the short climb up to the beautiful and quiet Route des Corniches, a small road with more cows than cars, and dotted with charming villages (and the occasional ruined castle). The road is high above the valley of Ax and offers beautiful views before dropping back down to the market town of Tarascon. Stop for a quick bite to eat before heading on to your next Col, the Col du Port (1250 m/4100 ft). While quite long at almost 15 kilometres (9 miles), this lovely climb has an average gradient of only 5% and is classified as ‘one of the easier big climbs’ in the Pyrenees – so shouldn’t tax the legs too much! From here, it’s an enjoyable 12-kilometre (7-mile) downhill ride all the way to our destination for this evening, the small village of Massat. If you have energy to spare, you have the option of tackling the challenging 18 kilometre-long (11 miles) Col d'Agnes (1570 m/5150 ft) – it’s a tough one, but the views at the top after a series of hairpins are amazing (the coffee at the lakeside café is pretty good too)! Please bear in mind that this optional ride will be unsupported, and you will need to navigate the routes without the assistance of your guide.
Today is a big day on the saddle, with 3 cols on the menu. Begin easy with a long, slightly down ride for almost 30 kilometres (19 miles) to the small town of Saint Girons, before starting the first climb, the relatively gentle Col du Portet d'Aspet (1075 m/3525 ft). From here it’s a short (but sometimes steep) descent through forest, passing the memorial to Fabio Casertelli, before arriving directly at the base of the feature climb for the day – the 11-kilometre-long (7-miles) Col de Mente (1345 m/4410 ft). It does get steep in parts but is often shaded by trees – a welcome relief in the height of summer. After a pleasant winding descent, enjoy a gentle ride into the vibrant spa town of Luchon. If you’d like to add an extra challenge, then instead, take a left at Saint Beat and make a detour into Spain and descend into Luchon via the Col du Portillon (1293 m/4240 ft). While steep in parts (up to 17% in the corners) it is a beautiful climb among verdant forest.
Today is a special ride and one that few cyclists in the Pyrenees get to experience. Ride from our hotel in Bagneres de Luchon and cycle up the moderate slopes of the legendary 16km/10 mile Col de Peyresourde (1569m/5130 ft). This is one of the truly legendary climbs of the Tour de France, with the race going up the scenic climb over fifty times since its first appearance in 1910. It begins on a fairly steep road, passing through quaint villages before the scenery really opens up. The last 6 kilometres (4 miles) are especially striking, with stunning views of the Midi-Pyrenees. Don’t forget to stop at the café on the summit – the coffee and crepes are well worth the wait! Take a moment to here marvel at the views before enjoying the flowing descent all the way down to Arreau and on to the Pyrenean ski town of Saint-Lary-Soulan.
From here you can decide to rest your legs at the hotel or take on the challenge of climbing to the most picturesque (and yet relatively unknown) climb in the Pyrenees, the Lac de Cap de Long. At 2160 metres, the route to the lake is one of the highest paved roads in the French Pyrenees – higher than Col du Tourmalet - but the long (23km/14 mile) climb is a truly beautiful place to ride a bike.
Cycling distance: approximately 90 km / 50 miles
Elevation gain: with 2630m/8630ft
Feature climb/s: Col de Peyresourde and Lac de Cap de Long
Enjoy a relatively quiet day on the bike you start with a 12km/7 mile easy descent to the foot of the long but steady Col d’Aspin (1490 m/4890 ft), a climb that has been used by the Tour de France more often than any other climb in the Pyrenees. A pleasant 25 kilometre (16 mile) downhill takes you all the way to your hotel for the night. Rest well for tomorrow’s epic riding day.
Cycling distance: approximately 50 km / 31 miles
Elevation gain: with 950m/3120ft
Feature climb/s: Col d’Aspin
Few climbs in cycling conjure up a bigger sense of awe than the highest pass in the Pyrenees – the mighty Col du Tourmalet (2115 m/6940 ft). Locally named l’incontournable (the unavoidable), it’s the only way to get through this section of the High Pyrenees, and passionate cyclists are thrilled to have to opportunity to take it! However, the first Tour de France cyclist to cross it in 1910 was not quite as keen, as he yelled out the infamous words ‘Vous etes des assassins! Oui, des assassins!’ – French for ‘You are murderers! Yes, murderers!‘ to nearby officials watching him pass. Don’t worry though, your ascent is a lot easier these days – on smooth roads and of course with a support vehicle on hand should you ever need it. After the obligatory photo stop at the summit with the statue of ‘the Giant’ cyclist, it’s a freewheeling 35-kilometre (22-mile) downhill stretch all the way to the charming spa town of Argeles-Gazost. Take the chance to put your feet up and relax, or if you still have the energy, the nearby Tour de France stage finishes of Luz Ardiden (1720 m/5640 ft) and Hautacam (1616 m/5300 ft) are worthwhile options. Tonight why not celebrate your Pyrenean cycling achievements over dinner and a few beers or wines with your fellow riders – you've earned it!
Your Pyrenean cycling adventure comes to an end today. There are no activities planned and you are free to leave at any time, but with plenty of amazing rides still to do in the surrounding area – such as the beautiful 30-kilometre (19-mile) leviathan Col d'Aubisque (1709 m/5600 ft) and it’s spectacular Cirque du Litor – you may wish to stay on for a day or two. We’ll be happy to assist with booking accommodation.