Cent Cols Challenge Pyrenees

The Pyrenees has earned its reputation through unrelenting gradients and its remarkable isolation. This Cent Cols Challenge will cross the range for ten days without passing past or through a single major town – the riders will have only the sights and sounds of the natural environment to keep them company.

The cols are markedly steeper than the Alps, and known for a rugged and brutal beauty. Starting off in Perpignan, a short drive up the Mediterranean coast from the French/Spanish border, the route strikes out west towards the Atlantic. Stages Four and Five and the queen and king stages respectively, taking in 13 categorised climbs. From here, the route takes a brief skirmish to the Basque country before looping back on itself, heading northeast for four stages in the direction of Perpignan. This ride is for those who want to reset their limits.

Dates:
Monday 15th to Thursday 25th September 2014.

Features:

  • Ax-les-3-Domaines, Portet d’Aspet, Peyresourde
  • Entirely new route for 2014
  • Rural and isolated route.
  • Most technical of the Cent Cols Challenges
  • Lesser known passes scouted by Phil Deeker

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Stage One: Rivesaltes (Perpignan) to Ax-les-Thermes

Stats: 207kms. 4,450 metres climbing. 14 Cols.
Main climbs: Pailheres, Pradel, Marmare, Chioula
Description: After warming up legs on the hills still guarded by the ruins of Catharre castles, the duo of the Pailheres and Pradel take you up into the mountains in uncompromising style. The stage is set for what is to follow.

Stage Two: Ax-les-Thermes to Bagneres-de-Luchon

Stats: 206kms. 4,300 metres climbing. 12 Cols.
Main climbs: Port, Peguerre, Crouzette, Portet d’Aspet, Ares, Port de Bales
Description: After a fast downhill section to Tarascon begins a series of dramatic climbs with panoramic views. The Port de Bales,as the final climb of the day, will be one of the hardest moments of the whole ride. A tough stage.

Stage Three: Bagneres-de-Luchon to Argeles-Gazost

Stats: 204kms. 5,170 metres climbing. 9 Cols?
Main climbs: Peyresourde (east), Aspin, Beyrede, Tramassel (Hautacam)
Description: A trio of serious climbs means almost 2,000 metres of climbing in the first 50 kms of the stage. A relatively gentler part in the middle of the day?will provide some recovery time before facing the Hautacam at the end of the stage. Heroic stuff.

Stage Four: Argeles-Gazost to Larrau

Stats: 178kms. 4,400 metres climbing. 15 Cols
Main climbs: Spandelles, Marie Blanque, Labays, Pic d’Issarbe
Description: The first of two stages with a distinctive Basque flavour. This wild area provides a magical mix of Classic climbs and hidden pearls. ?Cow-bells take over from car-horns. The Pyrenees at their best. But watch out for the climb up to the Pic d’Issarbe, Soudet side.

Stage Five: Larrau to Oloron

Stats: 203kms. 4,700 metres climbing. 17 Cols
Main climbs: Soudet, Pierre St Martin, Port Larrau, Bagargui
Description: The tough climb up the Soudet sets the tone for this stage in the wildest part of the Pyrenees. A dip into Spain to come back over the Port de Larrau makes a striking contrast to the intimate climbs of the French side. Riders will hopefully be able to enjoy a fast run-in to Oloron before ?a well-deserved rest day.

Stage Six: Oloron to St. Lary-Soulan

Stats: 199kms. 5,540 metres climbing. 6 Cols?
Main climbs: Aubisque, Soulor, Tourmalet, Ancizan, Portet(Pla d’Adet
Description: A day with the Giants heading back eastwards towards the more familiar part of the Pyrenees. Rested legs will hopefully be ready to face another challenging stage of iconic climbs. But some will choose to opt out of the Pla d’Adet at the end of the stage…

Stage Seven: St Lary-Soulan to Oust

Stats: 195kms. 5,400 metres climbing. 7 Cols (‘tweaked’ for 2013)
Main climbs: Azet, Peyresourde (west), Hospice de France, Portillon, Artegous, Menté, Core
Description: Another ‘tweaked’ stage for 2013 : a beautiful collection of climbs that often figure on Le Tour but that are not considered ‘big’ climbs. Riders may disagree with that after this stage. The views from the tops across the pastoral valleys are some of the most picturesuqe of the whole Pyreneean range. Two new climbs, including the devilish Hospice de France.

Stage Eight: Oust to Saillagouse

Stats: 186kms. 5,260 metres climbing. 9 Cols
Main climbs: Latrappe, Agnes, Pailheres (west), Quillane
Description: Another intense start to the day with three big climbs in the first 50 kms. However, after a ‘revenge’ return to the Pailheres, the stage develops into one for the Rouleurs as the route?heads towards Spain again. (By going up the other side of Pailheres we avoid going round through Andorra, which is a busy road at any time of the year.)

Stage Nine: Saillagouse to Vernet-les-Bains

Stats: 185kms. 4,400 metres climbing. 10 Cols? (new for 2013)
Main climbs: Font-Romeu, Llose, Portus, Fins, Mantet, Ste. Eusebe
Description: Totally new stage for 2013 : lots of relatively unknown climbs and some more wild roads as this stage explores the Ceddarh region before heading east towards some pearls of the Pyrenees Orientales. A fierce penultimate stage.

Stage Ten: Prades to Rivesaltes (Perpignan)

Stats: 185kms. 3,700 metres climbing. 8 Cols (‘tweaked’ for 2013)
Main climbs: Jau, Aussieres, Roque-Jalere, Auzines
Description: The final stage offers superb views of this beautiful area used by many pro’s for their winter training. Quiet country roads lead riders all the way back to Rivesaltes, via more ‘lesser’ climbs…The beauty of this stage assures an overdose of images to take home.

Full price of trip: £2550

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