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Experience the rugged beauty and superb cycling of the French Pyrénées in an epic coast-to-coast ride
Beginning in Biarritz on the Atlantic coast, and finishing in Collioure on the Mediterranean Sea, our Transpyrénéenne is the definitive Pyrenean cycling experience. The route includes the majority of the classic Pyrenean cols, as we follow the Route historique du Tour de France. From the lush rolling hills of the Basque country in the east, through the dramatic jagged peaks of the high mountains, and finally to the arid Mediterranean countryside in the west, this grand touring epic has it all.
On the road, you will be supported by our professional guides, and will benefit from constant vehicle back up for the duration of the ride. Accommodation is in comfortable hotels and one restored 16th century chateau. The group size is limited to ten riders in order to ensure the highest levels of service are provided.
Day 1 : Arrive into Biarritz
Arriving into Biarritz in the early afternoon, our mechanic will help you assemble and check your bike. You will then have some free time to enable you to look around this charming resort town, or go for a swim in the late afternoon sun. In the evening, we will dine in a local restaurant serving Basque cuisine and our staff will provide you with a relaxed and informal briefing of the upcoming route.
Day 2: Biarritz – Lanne-en-Barétous
Major climbs: Col d’Osquich (507m) 5.5km at 5.3% (max 8%)
The opener of this six-day mountain classic begins with a paddle in the breakers and group photo, following which we cross the town for around 10km before picking up the route impériale des Cimes. As we pass through villages of traditional red-roofed Basque houses, the terrain is rolling and there are a number of short, steep climbs to test the legs.
The only col of the day, the Col d’Osquich comes at the 70km mark. At 5.5km with an average gradient around 5%, it provides a good warm-up for the tougher days ahead. The route then descends to the town of Mauléon-Licharre, from which point the road climbs gently to our destination of Lanne-en-Barétous, where we stay in a superbly restored 16thcentury château.
Day 3: Lanne-en-Barétous – Saint-Savin
Major climbs: Col de Marie-Blanque (1,035m) 9.3km at 7.7% (max 13%); Col d’Aubisque (1,709m) 16.6km at 7.2% (max 12%); Col du Soulor (1,474m) 2.1km at 5.2% (max 8%)
At a little over 90km, the second day is the shortest of the trip but it is here that the climbing begins in earnest, with threeTour de France staples on the menu. First up is the Col de Marie-Blanque. Its 9km begin steadily, but the gradient increases towards the summit with the final 3km averaging a brutal 12%.
After the descent, a short flat run brings us to the town of Laruns where we pause for a light lunch. Light, because the Col d’Aubisque – a 16.6km hors catégorie behemoth – kicks up sharply no sooner have you had time to digest your baguette. Although the Aubisque is one of the toughest climbs of the trip it offers some spectacular views, as well as a unique opportunity to attempt to mount one of three giant bicycle sculptures at the summit.
The Col du Soulor follows quickly on from the Aubisque, but we approach it from by far the least taxing of its three sides. After only another 2km of climbing, we begin the long, technical descent to the finish in Saint Savin. Here, an excellent dinner is served by a friendly chef who looks like he may well have consumed all of the foie gras available in the south of France.
Day 4: Saint-Savin – Bagnères de Louchon
Major climbs: Col du Tourmalet (2,115m) 19km at 7.4% (max 10%); Col d’Aspin (1,489m) 12.8km at 5% (max 8%); Col de Peyresourde (1,569m) 8.3km at 7.6% (max 10%)
The third day continues in the same vein as the second as we continue on the Route historique du Tour de France, and it is the toughest in terms of climbing. We begin by tackling the mythical Col du Tourmalet. At 2,115m, this is also the high point of the trip.
Next up is the Col d’Aspin. Although long, the climb is relatively gentle and the least challenging of the day’s three mountains, the average gradient being around 5%. We stop for lunch at the top, where you will almost certainly be joined by some of the local cattle herds.
After a very enjoyable descent, there is a long drag to the foot of the final climb of the day, the Col de Peyresourde, scene of many a legendary Tour de France mano-a-mano. It makes for a tough finish, with the gradient averaging almost 8% over 8km. After a very fast 15km descent we reach our destination for the day, the spa town of Bagnères de Luchon.
Day 5: Bagnères de Luchon – Tarascon sur Ariège
Major Climbs: Col des Ares (797m) 8.4km at 3.9%; Col de Portet d’Aspet (1069m) 4.5km at 9.6%; Col de Port (1250m) 12.3km at 4.8%
The route starts with around 20km of flat roads before tackling the Col des Ares, which (compared with the previous day’s exertions) is not too challenging. At around the 50km point comes the Col de Portet d’Aspet. This is the toughest col of the day, averaging almost 10% for 4.5km. Near the foot of the climb you will pass the memorial to the late Fabio Casartelli, a sobering reminder of the dangers of the sport.
We stop after 80km for lunch in an idyllic setting next to the river Lez in Engomer. A gentle descent then brings us to Saint Girons, at which point we turn south to follow the Gorges de Ribaute. The road climbs very gently to Massat, where we begin the final climb of the day, the Col de Port. At 12km with an average gradient of 5%, it is not as tough as the climbs of the previous two days. The descent from the top to the finish in Tarascon-sur-Ariège is one of the most enjoyable of the trip. The wide sweeping turns and good road surface make for a fantastic end to the day.
Day 6: Tarascon sur Ariège – Collioure
Major Climbs: Côte de Cazenave-Serre-et-Allens (911m) 7.2km at 5.2% (max 11%); Col de Marmare (1,361m)11.8km at 4.4%; Col des Sept Frères (1,253m) 3.2km at 1.6%; Col de la Dona (200m) 4.4km at 2.6%
The final day of our trip kicks off with a very steep climb of around 7km that takes us onto the Route des Corniches, a rolling plateau road with breath-taking views. At the 30km mark we begin the first ‘real’ col of the day, the 12km Col de Marmare. As climbs go, it is very pleasant, both in terms of scenery and gradient. From the top of the Marmare there is a short descent onto a second, higher plateau where we make our way through lush alpine meadows. A fabulous descent then brings us to Quillan: at around the 80km point, this town is our lunch stop for the day.
After lunch we ride through the spectacular Gorges de la Pierre-Lys, a limestone canyon with cliffs up to 300m high. Once out of the gorge the road becomes wide and flat, and we will be able to maintain a very high pace if we are fortunate enough to pick up a tailwind. We then turn in the village of Estagel and begin our final col, the short and gentle Col de la Dona. From the top there remains just 40km to cover across the plains surrounding Perpignan before we arrive finally at the Mediterranean. A short ride along the coast then brings us to our destination in Collioure. It’s then time to off the cycling shoes and take to the sea for the traditional post-ride dip, and savour the achievement of completing what is a truly epic grand touring route.
The Price Includes
- Private airport transfers
- Single room accommodation
- Assistance to assemble & pack your bike
- All meals and sports nutrition
- Professional mechanic
- Experienced guides & staff
- Professionally equipped support vehicles
- Complimentary products for use on the trip
- Client to staff ratio of 4-1