A Pyrenéan Adventure - A Weekend in Lourdes

 


 

I've never ridden a bike in the Pyrenees, but I've driven over it, or round it on numerous occasions. I've even hovered over it in a helicopter (Show-off- Ed) but never turned a pedal in anger. With this in mind myself and my friend, with a history of over a decade of riding holidays together, booked; and I set off on my busman's holiday.

Abandoning the girlfriend, dog and my desk after work on Thursday evening, a quick tube ride to heathrow, rendez vous in the bar in terminal 5 and a flight to Toulouse later, we collected our hire car and crashed out in an airport hotel.

By Chris Smith

Thursday 7th June 2018

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The next day, we drove the short transfer to Lourdes, our riding base for the weekend. We stayed in the Hotel Alba. A great four star hotel, close to the centre of Lourdes. The room was prepared early for us and we used their excellent, spacious bike room and it's facilities to assemble our bikes. (You can read more about the Hotel Alba and it's excellent cycle facilities here.) There is also handily a local bike shop just two doors away from the Hotel. As cycling hotels go, this is one of the best I've visited.

After we built the bikes, we grabbed a quick bite to eat and off we went.

Day 1 - By 3pm Friday afternoon we were at the top of the Col de Soulor. We rode up the beautifully tarmaced cycle path, and then swung right to take on the challenge of the Col de Aubisque. Sadly for us, the weather was against us and a thunder storm rolled in once we had crested the Col du Soulor.

A great 80km loop with 1500m of climbing gave us a real taste of what we were in for the next day. The Col de Soulor is a great warm up to the Pyrenees, a constant 8.5% for 6 or 7 km with little rest bite. The descent down the other side was a narrow twisty rollercaoster and the roll in to Lourdes; easy, (if sadly a little wet).

Relive 'Col de Soulour'

 

 

Day 2 - The Tourmalet

Day two was our queen stage. Over 2000m of climbing and 100km of riding. We wiggled our way out of our valley on tiny roads via a 500m col to the valley of Bagnères-de-Bigorre. We were going to ride the Tourmalet, the way the Tour will ride this July. 9% for over 12km meant we didn't change gear for an awfully long time! The Tourmalet is a persistently hard climb, but the descent from the top is fast and well worth the effort.  

Relive 'Col du Tourmalet'

 

Day 3 - The Hautacam

My favorite of the three iconic climbs in the area we rode during the weekend. The Hautacam's constantly changing gradient means a battle to keep the pedals turning and with ramps up to 15% and a persistent gradient of 7%, you can see why the pros call it the "cursed climb" with many a hero's challenge at the Tour failing on the Hautacam.

Relive 'Hautacam'

By lunchtime we were packed and back in the car to the airport. By Monday morning all that reminded us of what we had done were sore legs and some dodgy tan marks, but we had ridden 250km and climbed 5000m with only one official holiday day from work and one weekend away from family responsibility. We'd done it to a tight budget and had a great time. It might be a bit early to ask my friend's very sore legs where we are going to go next , but I can't wait for our next weekend escape.

Why not plan your own weekend escape using the website and go have your own weekend cycle adventure?

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