Follow in the tracks of the Tour de France as you challenge yourself on the legendary climbs of the 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!


Start
Ax-les-Thermes, France
Finish
Argeles-Gazost, France
Destination
France
Style
Original
Theme
Active Adventures, Cycling
Code
AXXP
Physical rating
Ages
Min 16
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why you'll love this trip

  • 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.

  • Let your local cycling leader take you along the road less travelled and discover some hidden gems that only local cyclists (and your leader) know about!

Is this trip right for you?

  • Just as a heads up before you book: this trip is new to our range this year. And while we have thoroughly researched every detail of the logistics, new destinations can sometimes throw us some unexpected surprises. More often than not, it’ll be a great surprise, but every now and again there might be a hiccup. We like to think that’s what puts the ‘adventure’ in ‘adventure travel’.

  • Our ‘Road Cycling’ trips are physically the hardest Cycling trips we do at Intrepid and can be a definite physical challenge. However, we believe that anyone confident and competent on a bicycle with a good level of fitness, can both complete and enjoy them.

  • Although this is a group trip, the differing levels of cycling fitness are more pronounced in the mountains. There will be times when you are likely to be riding on your own (but safe in the knowledge that the support vehicle and group leader are never too far away).

  • On this trip we have a single leader that rides with the group, and another that drives the support vehicle (acting as a back-marker where needed). Where the vehicle cannot travel directly with the cyclists (e.g. a cyclists-only path) your leader will assign a person from the group to act as a back-marker.

  • The route is designed so you can cycle from hotel to hotel. The support vehicle will almost always be available in case you need to take a break for an hour (or a day) but only has space for a maximum of 5 people.

  • There may be times when the leader asks you to use the support vehicle for your own safety (such as on steep descents on windy days) – please respect this decision.

  • As the riding is on sealed roads there are no off-road technical cycling skills required. However, we highly recommend frequent downhill cycling practice before your trip to best prepare for the long and steep descents.

Itinerary

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.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
It’s very important that you attend the welcome meeting as we will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this time. If you are going to be late please let your travel agent or hotel reception know. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.
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.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
The feature climb today is Col de Chioula (1431 m/4700 ft). The riding distance is approximately 41 kilometres (25 miles) one significant climb and descent and an approximate elevation of 930 m/3050 ft
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.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
The feature climb today is Col du Port (1250 m/4100 ft). The riding distance is approximately 75 kilometres (47 miles) with one significant climb and descent and an approximate elevation of 1400 m/4600 ft.
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.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
The feature climbs today are Col du Portet d'Aspet (1075 m/3525 ft) and Col de Mente (1345 m/4410 ft). The riding distance is approximately 105 kilometres (65 miles) – flat, slightly downhill to start, with two significant climbs and descents, reaching an approximate elevation of 1600 m/5240 ft.
Today is a free day to relax! Perhaps rest those tired legs in the thermal baths or enjoy the many options Luchon has to offer – from its belle epoque architecture to a myriad of outdoor activities. If you’re looking to continue your cycling challenges solo, then test your stamina on one of the nearby climbs up to the ski resort of Superbagnères (1804 m/5920 ft) and admire the unique views of the high mountains along the France-Spain border. Alternatively, try out one of the most popular climbs in the Pyrenees, the 20 kilometre-long (12 mile) Port de Bales (1755 m/5760 ft).
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today features not one, but two epic climbs: The Col de Peyresourde and the Col d’Aspin. The Col de Peyresourde (1565 m/5130 ft) 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 picturesque, 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! After a long and enjoyable descent, roll straight into the final climb for the day, the long but steady Col d’Aspin (1490 m/4890 ft), which 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.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
The feature climbs today are Col de Peyresourde (1565 m/5130 ft) and Col d’Aspin (1490 m/4890 ft). The riding distance is approximately 70 kilometres (43 miles), climbing almost immediately from the start, with two significant climbs and descents and approximately 1750 m/5740 ft ascent in total.
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 Ardidens (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!
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
The feature climb today is Col du Tourmalet (2115 m/6940 ft). The riding distance is approximately 60 kilometres (37 miles), climbing almost immediately from the start, with one significant climb and descent and approximately 1520 m/4990 ft ascent in total.
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.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

6 breakfasts

Transport

Bicycle, Support Vehicle

Accommodation

Hotel (7 nights)

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. Bicycle hire is not included in your trip price. Please advise us if you wish to hire a bike at time of booking and provide your height so we can organise a suitable sized bike. See the Transport section of the Essential Trip Information for bike details.
2. Bike helmets are compulsory on this trip. We are unable to hire bike helmets locally so please ensure you bring your own bike helmet from home. There are several local options to purchase a helmet if you do not wish to bring your own.
3. On this trip we have a single leader that rides with the group, and a support staff that drives the support vehicle (acting as a back marker where needed). Where the vehicle cannot travel directly with the cyclists (e.g. a cyclists-only path) your leader will assign a person from the group to act as a back marker when needed.
4. While we will always endeavour to ride the advertsied route, due to the quickly changing weather in the mountains there may be times when the leader chooses to vary/shorten or even cancel the route due to safety concerns.
5. A Single Supplement is available on this trip, please ask your booking agent for more information.
6. Many of the hotels and restaurants on this trip only reopen in June, and services are usually a bit slower in the early part of the season.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

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