Classic Cols of the Pyrenees
French Cycling Holidays gives you the chance to ride some of the Pyrénéen climbs made famous by the Tour de France. Our route takes in the all the great climbs of the Tour de France as it passes through the Pyrénées, plus several lesser known but equally breathtaking passes.
Most day's cycling will cross at least one of the legendary cols of the Tour but, unlike the professionals, we will be able to enjoy the breathtaking scenery as we go. Optional shorter or longer routes will be available on each day's ride, so that cyclists with a wide range of abilities will be able to take part.
As with all our tours we offer full back-up with guides cycling with the group and minibus support. Our guides are cycling enthusiasts and fanatical about France with a detailed knowledge of the Pyrénées and their place in cycle racing history.
The Classic Cols of the Tour de France holiday will present a challenge even to experienced cyclists, but just because your legs are being put through their paces in the mountains, there is no reason the rest of you should be deprived.
We will stay in three-star hotels selected for their character and ambience to ensure your time off the bike is just as enjoyable as your time on it. Evening meals will not merely be a time to refuel, they will offer the chance to indulge in some of the fine food of the region. And, of course, what better way to digest the day's events than enjoy a glass or two of wine with new friends!
- The mighty Col du Tourmalet.
- The Col du Marie-Blanque the ‘killer in disguise’
- Lush green pastures on the Col d’Aspin.
- Views of the Pyrénées from the boulevards of Pau
- Tour de France history on every mountain pass
- Pau airport
- Pau TGV station
Day 1 (Sunday)
Transfer from Pau airport or TGV station to our hotel in Pau itself. The hotel is in the heart of the old part of the city, a few steps from the medieval chateau and the spectacular view of the mountains on the Promenade des Anglais. Bikes can be assembled at the hotel and if there is enough time there may be a chance to tackle the Col de Marie Blanque to the south of Pau, or take a loop out and back again with a couple of easy climbs to get the legs and bikes ready for the week. The distance for this optional ride is around 50km.
Before dinner there will be an introductory briefing from the guides to run through the schedule and options for the week, as well as a chance to meet the other riders.
Day 2 (Monday)
Temptation in the boulangerie.
Our week begins in earnest with a warm-up ride through rolling foothills - no major climbs today but plenty of kilometres through magnificent scenery. The first section takes us to the legendary pilgrimage town of Lourdes, where we stop for coffee. After this the route continues through the foothills with the majestic mountains on our right, through picturesque villages to lunch in Bagnères-de-Bigorre, a start town in many tour stages. After lunch we follow the river Garonne, here a noisy stream as it starts on its journey to the Atlantic at Bordeaux. We finish at a splendid hotel outside Sauveterre de Comminges, in enough time to relax by the large pool. A fabulous dinner awaits as a reward for the day's exertions.
Day 3 (Tuesday)
Port de Balès
The first of the big passes come today so yesterday's easier kilometres will have served as good preparation to find your legs! After a steady 30km of gentle uphill, we attack the fearsome Port de Balès. First included in the Tour in 2007 (before this part of it was an un-surfaced cart track) this 1755m pass is a beast because of the constantly changing gradients which include short sections of 12-13%. We will picnic at the top of the climb, before freewheeling 15km downhill. The fun isn't over however because we immediately start the climb of the Col de Peyresourde, a veteran of 40 Tours de France since 1947. The list of riders who have been first over its 1,569m summit reads like a who's who of climbers.
The descent from the Peyresourde brings us into the village of Arreau where our 3* hotel, with a refreshing pool, awaits us.
Day 4 (Wednesday)
Today is a loop day; no need to pack this morning as we will be returning to Arreau. There are two major climbs; the first is the little known Col d'Azet. At 1,578m the Azet is one of the prettiest cols in the Pyrénées; and though quite steep, the steady gradient means you will be able to enjoy the views. We descend into the bustling town of Saint-Lary-Soulan for lunch.
In the afternoon our route takes us to the ski station of Pla d'Adet at 1,675m. This has been the scene of nine mountain finishes in Le Tour – most recently in 2005 when George Hincapie took the honours.
Day 5 (Thursday)
Col du Tourmalet
Cirque de Gavernie
A big day! The first challenge is perhaps the most beautiful in the Pyrénées - the Col d'Aspin. After a steady climb to pass the summit at 1,489m, a fantastic descent to Ste-Marie-de-Campan, where we stop for coffee. Now for the Big One – we ride the most legendary of the Pyrénéen climbs, and one of the true giants of the Tour, the mighty Col du Tourmalet. Climbing 1,404m to its summit at 2,115m, over a distance of 19km, this is not a col to be taken lightly. The scene of some of the Tour's fiercest mountain battles, you will be glad to see the statue to Jacques Goddet as you crest the pass, and you will feel immense satisfaction at having conquered this beast of a climb.
After taking lunch on the Tourmalet, we descend into the village of Luz-Saint-Saveur and turn north towards Pierrefitte-Nestalas. For the super fit, the Hautacam is a 12km detour on the way home before before a fast cycle path right into the centre of the incredible pilgrimage town of Lourdes, where tonight’s hotel awaits.
Day 6 (Friday)
Our last day of riding is slightly more relaxed. Have a lie-in, or get up early to have a crack at the Hautacam if you didn’t yesterday. This is a tough climb at 1,560m, but with fresh legs it shouldn't prove too difficult.
The ride proper takes in the Col du Soulor at 1,444m. This is followed by a descent into the breathtaking Cirque du Litor then straight on to the short climb to the Col d'Aubisque, a hors categorie climb at 1,709m, but fairly easy in this direction. From the top of the Aubisque it's downhill (nearly) all the way back to Pau. At a charming restaurant a stone's throw from the chateau de Pau we meet up for a final celebration dinner. Raise a glass to a tough but immensely satisfying week of cycling and to new friends.
Day 7 (Saturday)
After breakfast, transfer to airport or railway station for homeward journey.
- Transfers to and from Pau airport or railway station.
- 6 nights 3star character hotel accommodation.
- 6 buffet breakfasts.
- 6 gourmet dinners with half-bottle of wine per guest per night.
- Experienced bi-lingual guides.
- Welcome pack with full information, route guides, advice and a water bottle.
- Luggage transfer. When we move hotels your baggage will be waiting for you in your room when you arrive.
- Full minibus back-up and mechanical support, including inner tubes.
What’s not included
- Travel to pick-up points
- Bicycle (you will probably want your own best bike; we do have a limited number of race bikes in a few sizes — please phone or e-mail to discuss)
- Lunches, although we will recommend good spots for lunch. For those who don't want to stop for lunch and would prefer to eat on the road, Tour de France-style, we will, for a very reasonable supplement, provide food suitable to be carried in your jersey pockets.
- Additional drinks or minibar costs (including beers, soft drinks and coffees).
2016 Dates & Prices
*Prices are per person based on 2 sharing. Single room supplement £350.
†A 5% discount will apply to all bookings of 6 persons or more.
“We had a great time. The food was exceptional; the guides were the best, they catered to our every need. A superb holiday.”
Carolyn Montgomery, Maine, USA.
“The Dordogne tour is a complete delight – Alan couldn’t have been a better guide.”
Margaret Miller, Victoria, Australia.
“Excellent value, great cycling routes. Can’t wait to do the next one!”
Carole Engelder, Texas, USA.
“Alan was outstanding in sorting out vegetarian meals, and for his wonderful picnics. An excellent tour, enjoyable in every aspect.”
Lea Stogdale, Manitoba, Canada.
“Carole and I recently returned from our Dordogne Tour and wanted to let you know that we very much enjoyed the trip – even better than lasts year's tour in Provence, though it too was heavenly. The Dordogne tour was in all respects a PERFECT holiday! Much kudos due to Alan and Chris for their attention to every detail.”
“Looking forward to more cycling holidays with FCH!
Eva Moldovanyi, Texas, USA.
La Ferme Lamy, Meyrals (St-Cyprien)
An ancient farm complex has been painstakingly restored to provide an oasis of calm in the rolling hills of the Dordogne. A very different kind of hotel experience, after a dip in the infinity pool you will be welcomed by Michel and Christine for a home cooked dinner made with regional specialities.
Le Renoir, Sarlat
Situated in the heart of the immaculately preserved medieval Sarlat, the 3* Renoir has all modern amenities like wi-fi and air conditioning whilst keeping the charm of its old stonework. A swimming pool is a pleasant surprise for a hotel in the centre of this bustling market town.
Hotel Beau Site, Rocamadour
The Beau Site was formerly the Capitanerie of the Knights of Malta in the later middle ages. Now it is a charming 3 star hotel, retaining all the history of its ancient walls. In the heart of Rocamadour, the hotel’s stunningly situated restaurant overlooks the Alzou gorge where the local specialities of Quercy lamb and Rocamadour goats cheese feature highly on the menu.
Manoir de Beaulieu, Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne
The Manoir has been transformed by the current owners, with airy and elegant rooms and a gourmet restaurant whose inventive cuisine is fast gaining an impressive reputation. The location, of the 3* hotel could not be better, on the market square of this bustling town and a short walk from the winding lanes of the old quarter and the banks of the Dordogne river.