Classic Cols of the Pyrénées

Price

£1,595.00 per person*

($2,041.60 USD or $2,791.25 AUD)

£200.00 deposit

£350.00 single room supplement

Dates

There are currently no scheduled dates for this tour, but please contact us if you want to schedule a private tour for six or more people.

Contact Us

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Highlights

  • 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

Joining the tour

Start

Pau airport and TGV station

Finish

Pau

Collection and drop off are from Pau airport (flights to Paris) and rail station (direct trains to Bordeaux and Paris).

Cycling level

10 out of 10

For riders who have strong confidence in their cycling fitness. Daily distances can be over 100 km on mountainous terrain. Tours will include climbs of over 10 km in length ( many made famous by the Tour de France!) .Cyclists should have the endurance to ride long distances and steep gradients over multiple days.

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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!

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)

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.

Distance: 130km

Day 3 (Tuesday)

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.

Distance: 85km

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.

Distance: 70km

Day 5 (Thursday)

 

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.

Distance: 85km

Day 6 (Friday)

Col d'Aubisque

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.

Distance: 115km

Day 7 (Saturday)

After breakfast, transfer to airport or railway station for homeward journey.

Not all cycle vacations are the same. Compare what is included in a French Cycling Holidays bike tour:

  • Flexible collection from local airport or train station
  • Quality Trek bicycles
  • Quality helmets (if required)
  • Water bottles (to take home as souvenirs)
  • Detailed riding instructions and colour route maps
  • Charming 3* and 4* auberges, inns and hotels
  • Buffet style breakfasts with croissants, pastries, meats, cheeses and cereals
  • Gourmet dinners for all 6 nights of your holiday
  • Fine wine (or soft drink alternative) with all evening meals and coffee to follow
  • 2 experienced bilingual guides with each tour
  • Delivery of your luggage to your hotel room each day
  • Entry fees to attractions and historical sites
  • Morning onward transfers
  • An unforgettable experience!

We try to include as much as we can within the price, while keeping things as flexible as possible. With the explosion of low cost airlines and the easy access to the TGV rail system from the UK, we believe that it is more economical and convenient for customers to arrange their own travel to the region. Links to the airlines and railway companies can be found in frequently asked questions.

Transfers

We provide the transfers to and from the local airports and the nearest TGV stations, and other locations by arrangement. If you have driven down, we arrange secure parking for your car and return you to it after the tour.

Hotels

We stay in very comfortable hotels, mostly 3*, occasionally 4*, and very occasionally superior 2* hotels which we choose if they have charm and comfort above their rating. All rooms have en-suite shower or bath facilities.

We select our hotels for their character as well as their facilities, and avoid chains in favour of independent privately run hotels.

Prices are based on two sharing in twin or double rooms. Singles are available on request. Where possible, we choose hotels with swimming pools as there is nothing quite like a dip after a day in the saddle!

It is sometimes necessary to change accommodation for reasons of room availability, minor adjustments to the route or upgrading the hotels. We will always endeavour to use hotels of an equal or higher level of comfort/facilities to those shown – please contact us to check for the most up-to-date information regarding your particular tour.

Meals

All evening meals are included, and we carefully select the restaurants for cuisine and ambience, and favour those with a strong regional flavour.

All meals include a starter, main course and dessert, some will have an additional cheese course. We are happy to arrange for our restaurants to cater for specific dietary requirements and allergies etc.

We do not include lunch, as the costing of these is beyond our control, but where route and weather allow we organise picnics; these feature copious salads, cold meats, cheeses, crusty bread, fruits, etc, and a choice of drinks; we ask for a contribution for the costs of the consumables, which usually works out at 8 or 9 euros per person per picnic. Where route or weather does not allow a picnic, we recommend suitable cafés and bistros.

Bikes & Equipment

We provide lightweight alloy framed Trek ‘hybrid’ touring bicycles with 27 indexed gears, fully equipped with lock, pump and toolkit (although our guides will generally be on hand to fix punctures and minor mechanical problems).

For carrying the items you might need during the day (camera, wallet, windbreaker etc.) we fit a capacious handlebar bag which also features a large map pocket. These clip on and off the bike in a flash so that you can always take your valuables with you when off the bike.

The bikes are meticulously maintained and we keep a wide range of sizes; female specific saddles are also available. We do not provide helmets automatically, as we find people prefer their own if they want to wear one, and sizing and fit is quite personal; however we always have helmets available for use. We also carry rain-capes should they be required (but hopefully not!). For certain tours we also have available 27 speed drop-handlebar race-style bikes, and tandems may also be available on certain tours by special request. We hire these locally, and charge on the additional cost. 

E Bikes

For nearly all of our tours an e-bike - electrically assisted bicycle - is an extra-cost option. These bikes apply a 'multiplier' to the level of input provided by the rider, the level of assistance can be adjusted for the terrain. This can be useful if there are members of your party have very different levels of bike-fitness and experience, as hills that look daunting suddenly become easy with an e-bike.

Please contact us for details.

 

Guides and Backup

There will be two guides on every tour; one cycling with the group and one in the minibus which will follow the group. The bus carries all luggage not required for the day's ride and will always be available for anyone at any point during the day. If for instance you want to take a day off the bike, or if a particular day seems a little hard, the bus will take you for as long or as little as you wish it to.

Everybody is provided with detailed route maps for each day, and both guides are easily contactable by mobile phone. The guides are enthusiastic experts on the local area and will be able to sort out any problems or special requests that you might have.

Sunday and Friday

Best Western Continental, Pau

The imposing Continental is a classically designed and beautifully furnished 3* hotel, located in town centre and the heart of the shopping and restaurant area. The hotel is close to the casino, art museum and the Henri IV Chateau.

Monday

Hostellerie Des 7 Molles, Sauveterre de Comminges

Enjoying a beautiful location on the border between the Haute-Garonne and Hautes-Pyrenees, Hostellerie des 7 Molles is a charming heritage boutique hotel in Sauveterre de Comminges. This picturesque town traces its origin to the Middle Ages and is surrounded by rolling hills, luscious landscapes, magnificent churches and chateaux. The 3* hotel has a welcoming swimming pool to cool off after a hot day in the saddle and a fantastic restaurant serving regional cuisine.

Tuesday and Wednesday

Hotel d’Angleterre, Arreau

Completely renovated in 2013, the comfortable and traditional Hotel d’Angleterre sits at the foot of the Peyresourde and Aspin Cols. The 3 star former coaching inn has a swimming pool and a dining room that is popular with locals, a sure sign of authentic cooking!

Thursday

Hotel Beau Sejour, Lourdes

Almost uniquely amongst hotels in this bustling pilgrimage town, the Beausejour too has a heated swimming pool in its tree-shaded gardens. The 3* hotel was converted from an 18th century mansion, and is one of the oldest buildings in a town that sprang up in the late 19th century after the visions of Saint Bernadette. The legendary grotto is in walking distance.

Below we answer all the most common questions that you might ask before choosing a French Cycling Holidays tour. If you have any further questions then please get in touch. We look forward to hearing from you.

How fit do I need to be?

Anybody who is reasonably active should be able to take part and enjoy our tours.

The tours have different levels of physical exertion — whilst the Loire Valley tours and Bordeaux tour are easy going; the Normandy, Provence Roman Heritage, and Burgundy tours are a little more strenuous, whilst and the Provence Lubéron, Dordogne and Languedoc tours require a reasonable level of fitness.

For nearly all of our tours an e-bike - electrically assisted bicycle - is an extra-cost option. These bikes apply a 'multiplier' to the level of input provided by the rider, the level of assistance can be adjusted for the terrain. This can be useful if there are members of your party have very different levels of bike-fitness and experience, as hills that look daunting suddenly become easy with an e-bike. Contact us via the contact page if you would like more details.   

The Sports tours are aimed at enthusiast cyclists who might want to bring their own road bikes. However, the rides are not races and there is no time limit - and there is always the minibus if things get too tough!

We would nevertheless recommend that anyone who has not taken any regular exercise for some time to consult their doctor before considering any activity based holiday. Bear in mind that a little regular riding before coming on a cycling vacation will always be a benefit to the experience.

How do I get there?

We pick up and drop off from the nearest international airports and TGV/railway stations to the start of each tour. (We can drop at a nearer airport or station by arrangement if more convenient for you and logistically possible). This gives everyone the option of making their way by the most economical or convenient means. The major options are:

Flying from the UK

Ryanair flies into following airports:

Nimes (for the Provence tours and Languedoc tours; Ryanair also fly out of Beziers and Montpellier for the Languedoc tour); Bergerac (for the Bordeaux tour), Dinard for the Normandy tour, Grenoble for Alpine trips and Pau (for the Classic Cols tour)

Ryanair operates out of Liverpool, London Stansted and London Luton Airports amongst others.

Easyjet flies into Montpellier (for the Provence tours) and out of Bordeaux (for the Bordeaux tour); it flys into Geneva and Lyon for Alpine tours and also out of Nice for the Alpine Raid.

British Airways prices can be reasonable if booked in advance — BA fly into Bordeaux for train transfers to Bergerac (Bordeaux tour), and Marseilles (Provence tours).

If we do not pick up from the airport itself, we will advise on rail connections from the airport to our pick-up points.

Rail for visitors from outside Europe / those already in France

The TGV can be an exceptionally quick way of reaching many French destinations from the UK and from Paris for those flying from overseas or UK regions.

The Eurostar SNCF (French National Railways) TGV websites may be useful. As a guide, London St Pancras to Avignon via TGV takes approximately 6½ hours; Tours takes 4 hours. From Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, the point of arrival for most intercontinental flights, Tours is 1½ hours by TGV, Avignon (for Provence) just over 3 hours.

Brive-la-Gaillarde is 4 hours from Paris by rail for the Dordogne tour. We are more than happy to advise on rail options — please contact us. Internet sales from the French SNCF site ( www.voyages-sncf.com sites are possible but are in French; the approved agency for the US and Canada is RailEurope ; however we are happy to advise and help with the French website.

Driving

This may be a good choice if your French Cycling Holiday is part of a longer stay. We will arrange secure parking for your car at or near our first hotel, and return you to your car at the end of the trip. (Note - this service may not be available on certain long distance sports tours - please check with us). The major ferry and crossing companies from the UK are Eurotunnel, P&O, Brittany Ferries, LD Lines, Speedferries and SeaFrance.

If it is more convenient for you to hire a car Europcar in our experience have the best rates for rentals where the drop-off is at a different location to the pickup.

However you choose to travel, we are very happy to help you sort out your itinerary.

What kind of pedals do you use?

Pedals are obviously fairly important on a cycling tour! We stock the following kinds:

Flat – i.e. no special cleats or grips, these pedals can be used with any kind of footwear. If you do not regularly use special pedals or cycling shoes, we recommend standard trainers/sneakers to wear while riding.

SPD/flat – we also have pedals with one side flat and one side an SPD cleat. This is the standard Shimano SPD compatible system; two bolts and the small cleat pictured on the shoe with the yellow sole. These cleats are ideal for cycling tours as the cleat is usually recessed into the bottom of the shoe. The pedals are visible to the right of the picture.

SPD/flat style pedals

Flats with cages – we have a small number of flat pedals with cages & straps – again if you are not used to this, we wouldn’t recommend starting a tour with them!

Other – we do NOT stock any other pedal systems. If you use any other kind of pedal, you are very welcome to bring your own and our guides can fit them to your bike for the week. However, we would advise against racing-style pedals such as the Look Keo, Shimano SPD-SL or similar, as these tend to have a large, protruding cleat on the sole of the shoe which makes walking around visits or lunch stops (or even nipping into a public toilet!) quite uncomfortable and dangerous. Sports tours are a little different as there are much longer days and less off-the-bike walking – a choice is ultimately up to you though!

Can I use my own bike?

We are happy for anyone to bring their own bikes. However, the budget airlines charge around £50 each way and packing and carriage can be a hassle. Our Trek bikes are of a high standard, and our customers usually express pleasant surprise at the quality of the machines, so it might be a better option to bring your saddle and/or pedals which we will be very happy to fit. In any case there will always be a backup bike should you have a mechanical problem. Please feel free to call us for advice on bike transportation.

What should I wear?

The main thing that people who are not regular distance cyclists worry about is a sore behind. This is not as is popularly thought due to too-hard saddles, but friction between skin and garments. This is why professional cyclists wear skin-tight lycra shorts with padded inserts. Many people feel a bit self-conscious in this sort of gear and your local cycle shop will have a range of padded undershorts which can be worn under normal clothing, or regularly styled shorts with sewn-in padded liners. Otherwise, lightweight comfortable clothing (tee-shirts, shorts, trainers) is ideal, with something warmer like a fleece just in case. As we will be dining well, you might like to take something presentable (but not formal — no-one on a French Cycling Holiday stands on ceremony!) for the evening meal.

How many people on each tour?

As well as being an active holiday, sampling the best that France has to offer, we believe that our trips should be an opportunity to meet people and make new friends. Our groups are limited to a maximum of 16, which is the largest number that we can give a personal service to, and a minimum of 6 people, which we feel is the number needed to achieve a group spirit. If we cannot achieve this number, we may cancel the tour giving a minimum of five weeks notice.

What weather are we likely to encounter?

We time our tours so that the weather should be ideal for cycling for each tour. For that reason we have our Provence and Languedoc tours in the late spring and early autumn, rather than in high summer when it can be too hot to cycle comfortably after 10 a.m. The Loire Valley, Dordogne, Bordeaux and Burgundy tours are more temperate, which is why we concentrate these tours in July and August. We cannot guarantee the weather, but it would be very unlucky to have more than one wet day on any of the tours.

Are there any age limits?

There is no specific upper age limit — the only constraint is a reasonable level of fitness. Children between 10 and 16 are welcome as part of family groups. We do not recommend these tours for children under 10.

Do I need travel insurance?

We require all participants to have travel insurance with full medical cover. It is part of the conditions of our tours that participant should provide evidence of suitable cover. If you have any questions about the cover required please contact us for advice.

What financial protection is in place for my booking?

In accordance with “The Package Travel, Package Tours Regulations 1992” customers of French Cycling Holidays Limited will be indemnified in respect of their net ascertained financial loss sustained arising from the cancellation or curtailment of the declared trip travel arrangements arising solely from the event of the financial failure of French Cycling Holidays Limited.

This insurance has been arranged by Towergate Chapman Stevens through Hiscox Insurance Company Limited.

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