HighRoad Pyrenees Cycling Tour
Rustic Charm and Legendary Riding
8 Days / 7 Nights
44|5’s HighRoad Pyrenees bike tour takes place in the 2nd of France’s great mountain ranges (after the Alps), which forms a natural frontier with Spain to the south. The Pyrenees are even more steeped in cycling history than the Alps, having hosted the Tour de France for well over 100 years. Tourmalet, Aspin, Aubisque, Peyresourde are mythic cols with legendary stories being added every year (like Chris Froome’s amazing attack on the descent of the Peyresourde in 2016).
The Pyrenees are different in character from the French Alps, too; with much of the central range being a National Park, we ride through unspoiled nature, dotted with rustic villages and lively spa towns. But your HighRoad Pyrenees tour is no outback camping trip! We have scoured the range for excellent hotels and quality restaurants serving fresh, local cuisine. After a day on the bike in the high mountains, you deserve the comforts of home.
Your cycling tour starts in the central Hautes Pyrénées, crossing the range in a westerly direction to finish in the bustling resort town of St. Jean de Luz, on the Bay of Biscay. Like our other HighRoad tours, once you arrive in the mountains, you will be riding your bike and not sitting in a van: after your airport pick-up there are no more transfers till you fly back home.
HighRoad Pyrenees is one of our very few ‘Hors Catégorie’ cycling tours, which are reserved for strong riders who can handle multiple days of long distances and sustained, steep gradients.
“Our group just finished 44-5’s Highroad Pyrenees tour. I was one of a number of participants who felt it was the best weeklong tour we’ve ever been on. The combination of spectacular, cycling friendly terrain, a great route, no shuttles necessary and John and Gerry’s care was unbeatable. My bike touring experiences include trips in Utah, Montana/ Alberta, Italy’s Dolomites and the Southern French Alps….. the Pyrenees trip was the best.” – Russ, USA
- Double occupancy: €2975
- Single Supplement: €425
- Deposit: €500 per person
Accommodation and Dining
- 7 nights accommodation
- All breakfasts, lunches and dinners (including wine)
- Energy bars, gels, snacks and water on your rides
- Pick-up and drop-off at Toulouse Airport
- All ground transport
- All baggage transfers
- Owner-operator guides to see to your needs
- Maps and elevation profiles of each day’s route
- Support van that will be on the road with you, offering assistance, encouragement, and nutrition
- 44|5 Cycling Tours jersey
- Transportation to France
- Alcohol outside meals
- Hotels before and after your tour
- Personal expenses, such as mini-bars, telephone or souvenir purchases
- Bikes (we can arrange for rentals)
Transfer to Hotel and Afternoon Ride.
Your Pyrenees bike tour begins at Toulouse airport, where we’ll pick you up and transport you to your hotel in the spa town of Bagnères de Luchon. After setting up your bikes and taking a “shake-out” spin, we will have a ‘welcome dinner’ in the hotel restaurant and talk about the amazing rides to come.
Col de Menté Loop. Approximately 90 km and 1700 m of ascent.
Your first day of cycling in the Pyrenees is the perfect intro, with a great valley ride out of Luchon to our first real climb of the tour – the Col de Menté. This climb, like many others on your tour, has a Tour de France story or two to tell (click on the ’climbs’ tab for more). It is a hard climb, but you are treated to a gorgeous descent on the other side, followed by a gentler ride all the way back to our hotel.
Tonight we walk into the spa town center for some great local fare.
To Argèles Gazost via the Col de Peyresourde, Col d'Aspin, Col du Tourmalet. Approximately 115 km and 3000 m of ascent.
The first of two ’Queen Stages’ on your HighRoad tour, you really don’t get deeper into Tour de France history than the high mountains we’ll be climbing today. Starting with the Peyresourde, right out of Luchon, our day will be a series of giant, legendary ups and downs, culminating in Argèles Gazost after a super-long descent off the Col du Tourmalet.
Dinner is at our Art Deco hotel in Argèles.
Ride: Valley Loop. Approximately 80 km and 1000 m of ascent.
A shorter ride through the Argèles Gazost Valley today to recover the legs from yesterday and rest them for tomorrow!
We dine just up the street tonight at a charming restaurant.
Ride: To Larrau via the Col de Soulor, Col d'Aubisque, Col du Marie Blanque. Approximately 120 km and 2800 m of ascent.
You’ll be happy to have rested the legs a little yesterday because we are back to the big cols again today, traveling a substantial 120 km in the process. The Soulor-Aubisque duo greets us first thing in the morning with a big combined climb filled with scenes of grazing cows, panoramic views from the summits, and a ’balcony road’ between the two that will take your breath away. The Marie Blanque, frequently seen in the Tour de France, is a ’little’ climb in comparison, and really scenic. Once you descend down the western side you are in the cycling-mad Basque Country for the rest of your tour.
Tonight we have dinner at our village hotel with a view over the valley that is rivaled only by the taste of the cuisine.
Col de Suscousse, Col de Soudet, Col de la Pierre St Martin. Approximately 70 km and 2000 m of ascent.
It’s ”only” an out and back today, but with long stretches of over 10% on this stunning climb, each way will seem like a completely different road. We ride today through the quiet, lush Uhaitxa Valley, which rises (sometimes sharply) to the Col de Suscousse, then the Col de Soudet, where you start the last push, above the treeline, to the Col de la Pierre St Martin, on the Spanish border.
Dinner tonight at our hotel with that same fabulous view!
To St. Jean de Luz via the Col de Bagargi, Col d'Ispeguy, Col de St. Ignace. Approximately 118 km and 2200 m of ascent.
Your final of riding in the Pyrenees is entirely through the beautiful Basque Country. We climb plenty of cols today, but they progressively get smaller as we make our way to the Atlantic coast, giving our tour a gentle finish. We also dip into Spain, over the Col d’Ispeguy – if we’re making good time perhaps we can stop for a cafe con leche!
Dinner is on your own in Saint-Jean-de-Luz.
Morning transfers to Toulouse Airport for your connection home or onward.
44|5 has chosen your accommodation for the best mix of comfort, cycling services and ride availability. You’re always within walking distance of village centers, restaurants, bike shops and other necessities.
Housed in an 18th century mansion and steps from Bagnères de Luchon’s thermal baths, the Hotel d’Etigny is an ideal place to start off our tour. The hotel has recently been renovated and now has a lovely garden and outdoor heated pool for you to enjoy after rides. The hotel is located in a quiet corner of town, a short walk to the cafes and restaurants of Luchon.
Built in 1930, Le Miramont Hotel has been recently renovated to its former Art Deco glory. This 3-star hotel is centrally located in Argèles-Gazost with views of the mountains and a garden outside to relax and stretch your legs. The Pucheu family promises you excellent service and the restaurant serves wonderful dishes, dreamed up by the head chef (the owner’s son) according to the season and what’s fresh at the market.
Housed in a rambling village house in Larrau, this 3-start hotel has been in the Etchemaïté family for 3 generations. The rooms are comfortable and modern and the village is a very pretty example of Basque architecture and atmosphere (there’s a Basque pelota court right across the street). Chef Pierre Etchemaïté and his team in the kitchen produce gourmet meals from quality local ingredients, served in a dining room with a gorgeous view over the valley below.
This 4-star hotel sits right on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, a short walk away from the center of Saint-Jean-de-Luz, a popular resort town on the famous Basque Coast. The hotel has large grounds, great views of the Bay of Biscay and a relaxing resort atmosphere.
All our HighRoad tours have plenty of elevation included and your Pyrenees tour is no exception. Below is a list of the most notable climbs we’ll be doing.
Col de Menté. Connecting the Ger and Garonne vallies, this steep climb with surely wake up the legs in preparation for the week to come. The Col de Menté has been used 18 times in the Tour de France, most infamously in 1971, when Luis Ocaña fell on the descent in a torrential rain, taking him out of the lead and allowing Eddy Merckx to win his 3rd straightTour.
The climb is 9.3 km long, with an elevation gain of 849 meters. The average grade is 9.1%.
This Cat 1 mountain pass forms the border between the Haute-Garonne and Haute Pyrénées French departments. Like the a few of the cols in your HighRoad tour, Peyresourde has featured in Le Tour since 1910, most recently being the scene of an audacious descending attack by Chris Froome in the 2016 edition.
The climb is 15 km long, with an elevation gain of 939 meters. The average grade is 6.1%.
Another classic climb in the history of French cycling, the Col d’Aspin was seen as late at 2016 in the TdF. Along with Aubisque, Tourmalet, Soulor and Peyresourde, Aspin forms the toughest TdF stage in the Pyrenees – the ‘Circle of Death’. The climb starts off gentle, with a steep kilometer in the middle, ramping up near the top again to over 8%.
The climb is 12 km long, with an elevation gain of 779 meters. The average grade is less than 6.5%.
The highest paved pass in the French Pyrenees, the Tourmalet is without a doubt also it’s most famous, seeing over 80 appearances in the Tour; more than any other col. There are several reminders of the Tourmalet’s storied past, including a statue of Octave Lapize at the summit (commonly known as Le Geant), a memorial to Jacques Goddet, director of the Tour de France from 1936 to 1987, and a new statue of Eugène Christophe (famous for welding his own fork back onto his bike during a stage in the Tour of 1913) in at the beginning of the climb in Saint-Marie-de-Campan. You are in the epicenter of Tour history on this climb.
The climb is 17.2 km long, with an elevation gain of 1268 meters. The average grade is 7.4%.
The climb is 19.5 km long, with an elevation gain of 1019 meters. The average grade is 5.2%.
This Hors Catégorie (HC) climb is yet another legend of the Tour, being a mainstay since 1910. The views from the top of the Aubisque are incredible and there is a distinct ‘pastoral’ feeling to it, unlike the bare ‘moonscape’ of the Tourmalet. The Aubisque was used as a summit finish in the 2016 edition of the Tour of Spain.
The climb is nearly 10.6 km long, with an elevation gain of 235 meters. Note: Combine these numbers with Soulor above – they are essentially one climb.
A newcomer to the Tour de France, the Col de Marie Blanque is one of our favorites in the Pyrenees. It is green, quiet and gentle (from the side we ride). It is also a major hangout for Pyrenean cows, so keep your head up!
The climb is nearly 11 km long, with an elevation gain of 587 meters. The average grade is 5.2%.
The Col de Soudet is 1540 meters high. We climb it on the way to the Col de la Pierre St Martin.
Col de la Pierre St Martin (via Col de Soudet). This high pass (1766 m) forms the frontier between France and Spain and has very rarely been used in the Tour de France. We climb it from our base in Larrau, up the lovely Gave de Sainte-Engrâce.
The climb is 18 km long, with an elevation gain of 1400 meters.
Col de Bagargi. A good, steep climb to start your last morning in the Basque Country, there are stunning views and a warm cafe waiting for you at the summit. If you squint you can see your day’s destination – the Bay of Biscay. The Col de Bagargi has seen Le Tour pass 3 times.
The climb is nearly 10 km long, with an elevation gain of 829 meters. The average grade is 8.5%.
Col d’Ispeguy. At 672 meters, this is definitely not our most taxing climb of the tour, but it forms your entrance into Spain (the autonomous community of Navarre), where we’ll spend a couple of hours before climbing back into France further to the west. The road up on the French side is small and winding. The descent on the Spanish side is wide and beautifully surfaced.
The climb is nearly 9 km long, with an elevation gain of 512 meters. The average grade is 5.8%.
Our last little climb before descending to the Atlantic Ocean.
The climb is 3 km long, with an elevation gain of 120 meters. The average grade is 4%.
A newcomer to the Tour de France, the Pyrenean ski station of Hautacam has only had a handful of appearances, starting in 1994. Like most ski-station ascents, Hautacam is a dead-end. The 360 degree views from the top of the climb are spectacular.
The climb is 14 km long, with an elevation gain of 1164 meters. The average grade is 7.8%.
The only mountain pass we’ll cross that is entirely in Spain, the Paso de Otxondo is long and easy. Look out for WWII bunkers in the area.
The climb is 13 km long, with an elevation gain of 270 meters. The average grade is 2%.
Your HighRoad tour is packed with Pyrenean passes. Here are a few others you’ll be hammering up:
- Col de Buret: 599 meters
- Col des Ares: 797 meters. First used in the TDF in 1910
- Col de Suscousse: 1542 meters
- Col de Burdincurutcheta (meaning ‘little iron cross’ in Basque): 1135 meters