“The roads are quieter and less ‘engineered’ than the Alps but offer incredible views and challenges. The terrain feels more ‘human’ and perfectly suited to cycling. Travelling from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean is an unique adventure, reconnecting the rider to the soul of cycling”
– Simon Mottram, Rapha CEO
Day 1: Biarritz – Oloron-Ste-Marie
Stats: 127 kilometres, and 3,100m of climbing
Major Climbs: Col des Plombières (343m), Col d’Osquich (500m)
On our first day of riding, we leave Biarritz along the Route Impériale des Cimes (the Imperial Summit Route) into the undulating foothills of the French Basque country. The unique and vibrant local culture will be quite apparent in our resting place for the night, Oloron-Ste-Marie, a beautiful town with distinctly Romanesque architecture at the junction of two rivers.
Day 2: Oloron-Ste-Marie – Saint-Savin
Stats: 115 kilometres, and 2,700m of climbing
Major Climbs: Col de Marie Blanque (1,035m), Col d’ Aubisque (1,709m)
Today’s ride tackles some famous Tour roads, with the steepest gradients reserved for the first climb, Marie Blanque, which takes us above 1,000m for the first time. After the long, picturesque climb to the Aubisque we arrive at the Cirque du Litor, one of the greatest roads in Europe. Our dinner tonight in Saint-Savin will be memorable.
Day 3: Saint-Savin – Bagnères-De-Luchon
Stats: 109 kilometres, and 3,340m of climbing
Major Climbs: Col du Tourmalet (2,115m), Col d’Aspin (1,489m), Col de Peyresourde (1,569m)
A giant and memorable day in the mountains, the three main climbs were included in the first Tour de France Pyrenean stage in 1910. First up, the mighty Tourmalet, then the green Peyresourde and the gentler, pretty Aspin. It’s where Tour legends are made.
“The oft-told story of the watchmaker Eugène Christophe’s heroic refusal to give in when his forks broke on the Tourmalet in 1913 symbolises the courage and endurance which lie at the core of the great bike race. He shouldered his bike, ran 14km to a blacksmith’s forge in Sainte-Marie-de-Campan, repaired the machine and rode on. The repair took two hours and he was docked a further 10 minutes because, having only one pair of hands himself, he asked a young boy to pump the bellows for him. ”
– Graeme Fife, The Great Road Climbs of the Pyrenees
Day 4: Luchon – St-Girons
Stats: 127 kilometres, and 3,120m of climbing
Major Climbs: Col du Portillon (1,320m), Col de Portet d’Aspet (1,069m)
Tired legs and more difficult climbing on the way make day four a challenge, but heading briefly into Spain will keep things interesting, and we will pay homage at the memorial to young Fabio Casartelli, who was killed on the Portet d’Aspet in the 1995 Tour. The Chateau Beauregard, where we finish the day, is a delight.
Day 5: St-Girons – Gincla
Stats: 168 kilometres, and 3,300m of climbing
Major Climbs: Col de Port (1,249m), Port de Pailhères (2,001m)
A stunning parcours rolling past the famous talc quarry at Trimouns, which provides 8% of the world’s talcum powder. It’s an impressive sight, somehow ominous and sublime. The Pailhères, another Tour de France favourite, will be the second highest point of the week, behind the Tourmalet.
Day 6: Gincla – Collioure
Stats: 142 kilometres, and 2,050m of climbing
Major Climbs: Col d’Aussières (1020m), Col de Palomère (1036m)
The final stage says adieu to the high mountains as the azure Mediterranean appears on the horizon. The fishing town of Collioure, a favourite subject for Picasso and Matisse, is the perfect place to reflect on an incredible journey.