I really liked the optionality - being able to choose throughout the day. The week was very well paced and the routes were generally on quiet roads.
This road cycling holiday has been carefully crafted to allow you to cycle the best cols and stage endings that the Pyrenees has to offer as well experience its quiet roads and unassuming ambiance. It is a point to point journey traversing the region from East to West, taking in the infamous climbs that the professional Tour de France cyclists head up every year.
The joy of this holiday, and our other Classic Cols itineraries is in its flexibility. Using our in-depth knowledge of the Pyrenees, we have devised a Classic route which warms us up gently getting progressively tougher in preparation for your final ascent of the infamous Col du Tourmalet. Taken at a steady pace this route is manageable and enjoyable for healthy cyclists regardless of experience in the mountains, with the toughest day involving 1700m of ascent. It is route to open up the Pyrenees to you. However, this holiday also offers a fantastic challenge to those wanting to push themselves further and for longer: each day there are ‘optional extras’ increasing the possible daily ascent to over 3000m, making this holiday also suitable for those very fit cyclists who are regular cyclosportive entrants, and who would consider a Raid.
It is important to us that you book the correct holiday so do download and read the Trip Notes for all you need on how this holiday works, food, accommodation & travel… For the latest travel advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office including security and local laws, plus passport and visa information, check www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Departure Dates & Prices
Day 0: Travel Out
Included transfers from Toulouse airport to Ax les Thermes.
Our pick up times are when we will be leaving the airport, all being well. Please don’t book flights arriving later than suggested below (in brackets).
AM: Toulouse Airport @ 11:45 (for flights arriving before 11:15)
PM: Toulouse Airport @ 17:35 (for flights arriving before 17:05)
Full travel advice and flight details that meet this transfers can be found in our Trip Notes.
Meet your guides and have a welcome briefing and a great dinner.
Day 1: Round trip from Ax
Assemble bikes after breakfast before heading off to explore. The Col de Chioula (1431m) commands big views over the eastern Pyrenees and the ascent from the west has some very agreeable gradients. After lunch you have the option of a leisurely ride up the stunning Orlu valley or beasting yourself up the stage ending of Bonascre (1380m) or the HC climb of the Col de Pailheres (2001m).
Easier Route: Col du Chioula (38km, 830m ascent)
Classic Route: Col du Chioula + Orlu Valley (52km, 1030m ascent)
Harder Route: Col du Chioula + Plateau du Bonascre (54km, 1500m ascent)
CC Challenge: Col du Chioula + Col du Paiheres (77km, 2111m ascent)
Day 2: Ax les Thermes to Massat
From Ax you set off on the route des corniches. It undulates its way to the market town of Tarascon along the south facing side of the valley of Ax with constant views and beautiful villages. Pause here for lunch or those wanting a real challenge can take on the tough Plateau de Beille (1800m) stage ending. After lunch everyone heads over the Col du Port (1250m), a lovely climb with a couple of cheeky sections before descending all the way to your hotel in Massat. Relaxing is a good option, or you could always take on the mighty Col d’Agnes (1570m) with its col top lakeside café!
Classic Route: Route de Corniches + Col du Port (102km, 1410m ascent)
Harder Route: Route de Corniches + Col du Port + Col d’Agnes (108km, 2340m ascent)
CC Challenge: Plateau de Beille + Col du Port + Col d’Agnes (128km, 2980m ascent)
Day 3: Massat to Luchon
On offer today are two of the most popular cols in the Pyrenees. Climbing gently through ancient farmsteads, you barely notice the incline to the Col du Portet d’Aspet (1075m). A short descent through mixed forest (past the memorial to Fabio Casertelli) prepares you for the never-ending Col de Mente (1345m), or there is the option of missing it out, taking on instead the beautiful and gentle climbs of the Col de Burret (599m) and the Col des Ares (797m). After a pleasant winding descent you can stretch your legs with a very gentle (almost flat) finale into the bustling spa town of Luchon. There are two optional extras today, one at the start of the day, taking you over the Col de la Core (1395m) – famous for its cheese, and the other towards the end of the day where you have the option of making an excursion to Spain taking on the Col de Portillon (1293m).
Easier Route: Col de Porte D’Aspet + Col de Burret + Col de Ares (110km, 1300m ascent)
Classic Route: Col de Porte D’Aspet + Col de Mente (104km, 1600m ascent)
Harder Route: Col de Porte D’Aspet + Col de Mente + Col Du Portillon (122km, 2270m ascent)
CC Challenge: Col de La Core + Porte D’Aspet + Col de Mente + Col de Portillon – East (122km, 3050m ascent)
Day 4: Free Day in Luchon
Enjoy what Luchon has to offer on your ‘free day’; from its spa facilities to paragliding or mountain biking! The die-hard Tour enthusiasts and those who can’t bear to be separated from their road bike can take in the stage-end of Superbagnères (1804m) or the ever changing gradients of the Port de Bales (1755m), where Schleck and Contador had the famous chain incident!
Col du Portillon – West (1293m) – (22 km, 670m ascent)
Superbagneres – (38.6km, 1200m ascent)
Port de Bales – (70km, 1300m ascent)
CC Challenge: Port de Bales + Superbagneres (108km, 2500m ascent)
Day 5: Luchon to Bagnerre de Bigorre
You start your day with the rather steep but very beautiful Col de Peyresourde (1565m). You will be rewarded at the top by a cafe serving fabulous crepes! Those that really want to abuse their bodies could take in the Col D’Azet (1580m) and the mountain hugging Pla D’Adet (1680m). On the classic route, next up is the beautiful Col d’Aspin (1490m) which has been used more often by the Tour de France than any other Pyrenean climb. A spectacular downhill takes us through the small and quaintly bizarre town of Campan and on to our 3* hotel in Bagneres de Bigorre.
Classic Route: Col du Peyresourde + Col du Aspin [68km, 1750m ascent]
Harder Route: Col du Peyresourde + Col D’Azet + Col du Aspin [88km, 2315m ascent]
CC Challenge: Col du Peyresourde + Col D’Azet + Pla d’Adet + Col du Aspin [112km, 3215m ascent)
Day 6: Bagneres to Argeles Gazost
Today is all about the punishing Col du Tourmalet (2115m) – make sure you get your photo taken at the top – this is a real achievement! From here you can enjoy a 35km downhill all the way to the picturesque thermal spa town of Argelés-Gazost for an afternoon of justifiable relaxation. A few (tempting) optional extras including the TDF stage finishes of Luz Ardiden (1720m) and Hautacam (1616m) or a nice detour ‘up’ the valley to the village of Gavarnie for a glimpse of the world famous Cirque.
Classic Route: Col Du Tourmalet [60km, 1515m ascent]
Easy optional Extra: Trip to Gavarnie from Luz St Sauveur [adds 38km, 665m ascent]
Harder Route: Col Du Tourmalet +Hautacam [96km, 2700m ascent]
CC Challenge: Col Du Tourmalet + Luz Ardiden + Hautacam [125km, 3670m ascent]
Day 7: Travel Back
We offer included transfers from Argeles Gazost to Toulouse airport.
Our drop off times are when we will be arriving at the airport, all being well. Please don’t book flights arriving earlier than suggested below (in brackets).
AM: Toulouse Airport @ 08:20 (for flights departing after 10:20)
PM: Toulouse Airport @ 13:40 (for flights departing after 15:45)
Full travel advice including details on flights that meet these transfers can be found in our Trip Notes