Chasing the Tour – Part four, the Pyrenees

Our tour is called “The Alpes, Pyrenees and Paris” because these are our three main focuses. We will spend a few days in the Pyrenees at the same time as the Tour de France and then head west across the country taking in some rolling rides in Provence before reaching the Alpes while the race heads to the north-west of France for a few days.  We reconnect with the race in Provence and follow it all the way to the Alpes and Paris. 

All in all it’s 17 days, with roadside viewing of 9 stages of the race.  A busy schedule!

Our first mountain in the Pyreness was a warm up on a Tour de France favourite Col d’ Aspin.  This is a 12km climb at around 6.5%, which makes it twice as long as Mt Mee and a little bit steeper.  I was feeling fresh after a couple of weeks off the bike, so I gave my legs a good hit out on this climb reaching the top with Nuw Zulund Sam (read: New Zealand Sam). 

  TeamKP summits Col d Aspin at 1490m

TeamKP summits Col d Aspin at 1490m

  Claire on the climb up to Col d Aspin

Claire on the climb up to Col d Aspin

I had learnt a few tricks from TeamKP’s Craig in the past few months about subtly putting people in the hurt box on a long climb (yes Craig… I did notice that you’d get me talking and then up the pace!!) so I gave Sam a little bit of time in the hurt box to ensure that he wasn’t fresh enough at the summit to challenge for the KOM (King of the Mountains) competition.

  Stunning descents make France a beautiful country to ride through!

Stunning descents make France a beautiful country to ride through!

With the KOM in the bag, I rode back down the mountain to find Claire and ride back up to the top with her and Aaron for a few photos before it was time to roll to the town of Guchen to watch the Tour de France from the roadside.  One of the rewarding parts of these ascents is that they are typically followed by descents that range from 30 minutes to 2 hours without turning a pedal!

  Claire and Aaron are happy to have fund with the Vittel float on such a hot day!

Claire and Aaron are happy to have fund with the Vittel float on such a hot day!

  The early break of the day rolls through with Pierre Roland in the KOM jersey! (love the bike)

The early break of the day rolls through with Pierre Roland in the KOM jersey! (love the bike)

  Claire and Aaron have prime spots for watching the riders come through the town of Guchen.

Claire and Aaron have prime spots for watching the riders come through the town of Guchen.

  After the race has passed, we all head back to the catering tent to sit and watch the rest of the stage.  Lesson learned though... we parked the bus on the wrong side of town and spent five hours, instead of two, getting back to the hotel!

After the race has passed, we all head back to the catering tent to sit and watch the rest of the stage.  Lesson learned though... we parked the bus on the wrong side of town and spent five hours, instead of two, getting back to the hotel!

The second major climb in the Pyrenees was Col du Tourmalet from the Luz St. Sauveur side.  This was a 19km, 1500 vertical metre climb with a valley ascent before switchbacks and exposed roads with an average gradient of 7.4% including ramps that would go well in to the teens.  This climb, as much as it shouldn’t have been on paper, would turn out to be one of the hardest on the tour!

  The climbs are incredible.  One minute you're in the valley, the next your are well up the mountain... incredible views! 

The climbs are incredible.  One minute you're in the valley, the next your are well up the mountain... incredible views! 

  Aaron looks pleased to have made the top of Col du Tourmalet!

Aaron looks pleased to have made the top of Col du Tourmalet!

  Claire is also pleased to be at the top of the Tourmalet... though anyone who has ridden with Claire will understand it's either silence, or something else... on the hills!

Claire is also pleased to be at the top of the Tourmalet... though anyone who has ridden with Claire will understand it's either silence, or something else... on the hills!

  TeamKP summits Col du Tourmalet at 2115m.

TeamKP summits Col du Tourmalet at 2115m.

Our final climb in the Pyrenees was the Cold du Soulor – Col d’Abisque double- a spectacular 31km climb at around 8% that includes views across the valley and a traverse between the two peaks that will scare the pants off even the most skilled riders! This was a good ride, and I took the opportunity to hit the mountains hard with the GC (General Classification) contenders.

  Descending Col du Tourmalet.  Yes, these mountains are high enough that the snow hangs around most of the year!

Descending Col du Tourmalet.  Yes, these mountains are high enough that the snow hangs around most of the year!

  For those wondering, I do also ride my bike! I just spend most of the time camera in hand, and don't do too many selfies!

For those wondering, I do also ride my bike! I just spend most of the time camera in hand, and don't do too many selfies!

  Climbing Col d' Abisque with the Bikestyle Tours GC contenders

Climbing Col d' Abisque with the Bikestyle Tours GC contenders

  Cold d. Abisque - simply stunning!

Cold d. Abisque - simply stunning!

  TeamKP summits Col d' Abisque (Aaron is taking the photo today!) at 1710m

TeamKP summits Col d' Abisque (Aaron is taking the photo today!) at 1710m

  Not quite sure what the story is with the giant bikes on the top of the Abisque, but we decided to have a photo anyway! I did try to climb them... but its much harder than it looks!

Not quite sure what the story is with the giant bikes on the top of the Abisque, but we decided to have a photo anyway! I did try to climb them... but its much harder than it looks!

  Claire and Aaron descending the Abisque.  Note: this is the scenic and less dangerous section.  Check out the next photo for the danger zone!!

Claire and Aaron descending the Abisque.  Note: this is the scenic and less dangerous section.  Check out the next photo for the danger zone!!

  Claire and Aaron descending the Abisque.  Note the depth of the valley to the left of the image.  Much of the riding is done on the edge of a cliff between Abisque and Solour!

Claire and Aaron descending the Abisque.  Note the depth of the valley to the left of the image.  Much of the riding is done on the edge of a cliff between Abisque and Solour!

The climbing in France is well beyond anything I could have imagined before leaving Australia! The climbs are long, tough and rewarding all at the same time- and it hasn’t taken long for my climbing legs to appear so even on the constant 4-7% gradient we sit on during our “flat” rides the going is easy!  With four major peaks in the bag, it was time to pack the bus and head east.

Cam

Cameron is the Club Captain of the Kangaroo Point Cycling Club and will be blogging his way around France with the support of Claire the Treasurer and Aaron the President of the Kangaroo Point Cycling Club.

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