Follow in the tracks of the Tour de France and Vuelta de Espana as you challenge yourself cycling up (and down!) 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 to be rewarded with stunning views of the Midi-Pyrenees

  • Let your local cycling leader take you along the road less travelled

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 (if needed)

  • 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.

Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where and when exactly it will take place. If you can't arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.

If you have brought your own bike it is 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.

Nestled in the heart of the Pyrenees and on the banks of the river Ariège, 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-époque Casino, the Bassin des Ladres (a natural pool of hot sulphurous water) the Thermes (thermal baths), and tight packed streets and fountains. If you are feeling weary why not try the town’s one recreational spa, Les Bains du Couloubret

For those that have brought their own GPS device (e.g. Garmin) we can upload each day's ride directly to your device so that you never get lost no matter how fast (or slow) you are.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
After a quick bike check, set off on your first ride. Start by finding your cycling legs on a quick warm up ride on the (relative) flat before commencing our first climb of the trip up to the Col de Chioula (1431m/4700ft). The Chioula is an excellent introduction to riding in the Pyrenees, 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 most people choose to save their legs for the climbs later in the trip, but those looking for an extra challenge can tackle the 18km/11 mile long Hors Categorie climb of the Col de Pailheres (2001m/6565ft), the shorter Col du Pradel (1689m/5545ft), or the quiet but steep Ax-3 Domaines (1350m/4430ft). For an easier option the try the flat ride down the Orlu Valley.

Feature Climb/s: Col de Chioula (1431m/4700ft)

Ride: Approx. 41km/25 miles, one significant climb and descent, with approx. 930m/3050ft ascent in total
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
After breakfast leave Ax behind and take 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 (1250m/4100ft). While quite long at almost 15kms/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 12km/7 mile downhill ride all the way to our destinations for this evening, the small village of Massat.

If you have energy to spare you have the option of tackling (unsupported) the challenging 18km/11 mile-long Col d'Agnes (1570m/5150ft) – 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)!

Feature Climb/s: Col du Port (1250m/4100ft)

Ride: Approx. 75km/47 miles, undulating to starts, with one significant climb and descent, with approx. 1400m/4600ft ascent in total

Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today is a big day on the saddle, with 3 cols on the menu. Start easy with a long, slightly down ride for almost 30kms/19 miles to the small town of Saint Girons before starting the first climb, the relatively gentle Col du Portet d'Aspet (1075m/3525ft).

From here it’s a short (but sometimes steep) descent through forest and past the memorial to Fabio Casertelli before arriving directly at the base of the feature climb for the day, the 11km/7 mile-long Col de Mente (1345m/4410ft). 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 you enjoy a gentle ride into the vibrant spa town of Luchon.

If you’d like to add an extra challenge then instead make a left at Saint Beat and make a detour into Spain and descend into Luchon via the Col du Portillon (1293m/4240ft). While steep in parts (up to 17% in the corners!) it is a beautiful climb among verdant forest.

Feature Climb/s: Col du Portet d'Aspet (1075m/3525ft) and Col de Mente (1345m/4410ft)

Ride: Approx. 105km/65 mile, flat/slighty downhill to start, with two significant climbs and descents, with approx. 1600m/5240ft ascent in total

Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today is a free day to relax and 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 are looking to continue your cycling challenges solo then the nearby climbs up to the ski resort of Superbagnères (1804m/5920ft) and its unique views of the high mountains along the France-Spain border, or the one of our favourite climbs in the Pyrenees, the 20km/12 mile-long Port de Bales (1755m/5760ft)

Ride: No included cycling today
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today features not one but two epic climbs, the Col de Peyresourde and the Col d’Aspin.

The Col de Peyresourde (1565m/5130ft) 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 6km/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 definitely 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 (1490m/4890ft) which has been used by the Tour de France more often than any other climb in the Pyrenees. A pleasant 25km/16 mile downhill takes us all the way to our hotel for the night.

Featured Climbs: Col de Peyresourde (1565m/5130ft) and Col d’Aspin (1490m/4890ft)

Ride: Approx. 70km/43 miles, climbing almost immediately from the start, with two significant climbs and descents, with approx. 1750m/5740ft ascent in total
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Few climbs in cycling conjure up a bigger sense of awe than the highest pass in the Pyrenees - the mighty Col du Tourmalet (2115m/6940ft). Named “l’incontournable” (“the unavoidable”) in France it is the only way to get through this part of the High Pyrenees and as cyclists we couldn’t be happier about it. Not that the first Tour de France cyclists to cross it in 1910 was happy as he yelled out the infamous words “Vous êtes des assassins! Oui, des assassins!’ (French for ‘You are murderers! Yes, murderers!‘)” to nearby officials watching him pass. Our ascent is a lot easier these days, on smooth roads and of course the support vehicle should you ever need it.

After the obligatory photo stop at the summit and the statue of ‘the Giant’ cyclist it’s a freewheeling 35km/22 mile downhill all the way to the charming spa town of Argelés-Gazost. Most people will simply put their feet up and relax, but if you still have the energy the nearby Tour de France stage finishes of Luz Ardidens (1720m/5640ft) and Hautacam (1616m/5300ft) are worthwhile options.

Tonight why not celebrate your Pyrenean cycling achievements over dinner and a few beers/wines with your fellow riders - you've earned it!

Featured Climbs: Col du Tourmalet (2115m/6940ft)

Ride: Approx. 60km/37 miles, climbing almost immediately from the start, with one significant climb and descent, with approx. 1520m/4990ft ascent in total
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Your Pyrenean cycling adventure comes to an end today. There are no activities planned and you are free to leave at any time but there plenty of amazing rides still to do in the surrounding area – such as the beautiful 30km/19 mile leviathan Col d'Aubisque (1709m/5600ft) and its spectacular Cirque du Litor - so 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.

View Essential Trip Information

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