James and the girls worked tirelessly and with great enthusiasm to ensure that we had a safe, stress free and exhilarating holiday. I appreciate, that as punters we only see a small part of all the hard work and organisation going in to a holiday tour like this, but the results were exceptional.
At Marmot Tours we have a lifelong love affair with the Tour in the Pyrenees, a mountain range that we adore for its hidden charms, unexploited terrain and traditional mountain culture. We believe it to offer the best road cycling in the world. Add to that, the Marmot expertise in supporting cyclists, the close relationship we have with our local hotels ensuring you excellent locations on the trip, and the madness of the visiting Spanish Tour fans from across the border, then you will know where (and with whom) you should be watching the Tour this year.
In 2017 our flexible itinerary gives you the opportunity to cycle some or all the cols from Stage 11 (St Girons to Foix) before the pros and Stage 12 (Pau to Peyragudes) after you have seen them by the roadside on the slopes of Port de Bales on Thursday 13th July. It will be an unforgettable day giving you a mix of cycling (to get up to our Hospitality suite which will be in a fabulous spot on the mountainside) and relaxing as you enjoy a bbq and delicious spread with satellite TV coverage (in English) of the approaching riders.
These 2 stages travel through a beautiful and renowned region of the Pyrenees but with our Classic Cols itinerary we also show you the beauty of some of the climbs further East, so you get to conquer some historic Tour cols not covered by this years Tour de France route. The route choices available to you each day, in terms of distance and how much climbing you want to take on, make our trip suitable for those wanting more emphasis on the ‘holiday’ or those wanting the emphasis on the ‘cycling’.
Departure Dates & Prices
Day 0: Travel Day
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)
These coincide with direct flights from Birmingham (Flybe), Stansted (RA), LHR (BA), LGW (EJ), Manchester (Flybe) and Bristol (EJ)
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). Being in a bar to watch the stage 9 ending (Chambery) of the Tour is always going to be a good option!
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
The pros are on a rest day today but not for you! 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. This leads nicely into the Col du Port (1250m), a lovely climb with a couple of cheeky sections, before descending all the way to your hotel in Massat. Some of you will no doubt be tempted to attempt the ‘challenging’ gradients of the Mur de Peguerre (1375m). ‘Our’ translates as ‘wall’ in French and anyone that makes it to the top will see why! The pro peloton will be heading up here in 4 days time when we hope that this year, the stage won’t be ruined by a sprinkling of tacks as it was in 2013.
Relaxing in Massat is a good option or you could always take on the mighty Col d’Agnes (1570m) from 2017’s Stage 11 route, 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 + Mur de Peguere + Col d’Agnes (115km, 3250m ascent)
CC Challenge: Plateau de Beille + Col du Port + Col d’Agnes (128km, 2980m ascent)
Day 3: Massat to Luchon
On offer today are some of the most popular cols in the Pyrenees and much from the 2017 stage 12 (in the opposite direction). 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, where there is a great choice of bars from which to watch the pros roll into Pau at the end of stage 10.
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: Day Rides from Luchon or a Well Earned Rest!
Bagneres de Luchon is exceptionally well positioned between the legendary stage ending of Superbagneres (1804m) and the Western Side of the Col de Portillon (1293m). Today you have the opportunity to take on either or both of these great climbs. However, Luchon is also a very pleasant place to enjoy a day off the bike with its thermal baths, some excellent walks and the opportunity to try paragliding! Whatever you decide to do, the town will be buzzing with Tour preparations today.
Col du Portillon (West) – 22km with 670m ascent
Superbagneres – 38.6km, 1200m ascent
Day 5: Port de Bales
Today is all about the Tour, celebrating this incredible race and the strength and determination of its participants! First experience the elaborate show that is the publicity caravan, throwing out Tour memorabilia ranging from hats & washing powder to saucisson. A brief moment of calm follows till the arrival of helicopters heralds the approach of the pros and all the spectators go nuts!
This is your chance to experience the Tour from the roadside, more specifically, from the excellently positioned and fully stocked Marmot Tours hospitality suite! Earn your lunch by climbing the lovely Port de Bales, lured by the smell of the BBQ! Stay on the pulse of the Tour action with our live satellite TV coverage with English commentary. At the end of the day when the pros have all finished too, you get to roll down to the valley and back to your hotel in Bagneres de Luchon.
Port de Bales – (70km, 1300m ascent)
Day 6: Luchon to Bagneres de Bigorre
Start your day with the rather steep but very beautiful Col de Peyresourde (1565m) which the pros climbed from the other side yesterday! Tour fanatics may want to ‘nip’ up to Peyragudes to relive Tour moments from yesterday! Back on the Peyresourde and 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 . Meanwhile the pros will be cycling through Massat and taking on the Col d’Agnes that many of you will have climbed on Monday 10th!
Classic Route: Col du Peyresourde + Col du Aspin [68km, 1750m ascent]
Harder Route: Col du Peyresourde + Peyragudes + Col du Aspin [94km, 2600m ascent]
CC Challenge: Col du Peyresourde + Col D’Azet + Pla d’Adet + Col du Aspin [118km, 3500m ascent)
Day 7: Travel Day
We offer included transfers from Bagneres de Bigorre 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)
These coincide with flights to Birmingham (Flybe), Stansted (RA), LHR (BA), Manchester (Flybe), Bristol (EJ), and LGW (EJ).