Tour de France 2019 Route Reveal
25th October 2018

Coast to Coast

There is something special about any journey which takes you from the shores of one sea (or ocean) to the coast of another, and there are several great “coast to coast” cycle rides – the Raid Pyrenean though, is rightly regarded as the classic.  The official challenge is simple; dip your toe in the Atlantic, turn left, ride the length of the Pyrenees and have a dip in the Mediterranean less than 100 hours later… got to be done, right?

There is something special about any journey which takes you from the shores of one sea (or ocean) to the coast of another...

As an adventure, and one that passes through our back yard at that, riding coast to coast along the Pyrenees is something that caught our imagination a while ago, so having finally got the time, this Autumn we went for it, and it didn’t disappoint!

 

First, to take a step back…

There are different ways to approach a long ride like this and the (not insignificant) logistics involved:
  • Where to stay?
  • How much support is needed?
  • What tyres to choose (more on that shortly)?

We like to feel a sense of adventure, so we decided to camp each day at some pretty great campsites, which kept a great “connection” to the journey as our pedals started and stopped each day on the same patch of ground.

Support was never too far away, but again, we felt that having a vehicle creeping behind or hopping a few kms takes away from the adventure a bit, so the day’s rides were approached with a spirit of self-sufficiency!

There are different ways to approach a long ride like this and the (not insignificant) logistics involved

And how long to allow?

Yes, the official “Raid” challenge is 100 hrs – but make no mistake, that’s tough (as we really appreciate now!), so we opted for a more enjoyable 6 days to ride the route – still challenging 80 mile plus days, with 16km of ascent over the week, but also enough time to appreciate a fantastic ride.

 

Day 1: Took us from St. Jean de Luz on the Atlantic,

a bustling little harbour town full of surfers and cafes, gentle rollers and sunshine as we rolled along the promenade but it took only a little leap of imagination to imagine the furious Autumn storms rolling in from the ocean and bursting on the breakwater.

Turning “left” towards the distant med, the bustle is soon left behind as you roll through the Scottish feeling Basque country.  A real highlight of the route (courtesy of our desire to avoid main roads where possible) was the tiny winding road through the gorge of the Pas de Roland  - very off the beaten track, and with beautiful scenery.  The night’s campsite was in an amazing spot in Tardets Sorholus, with a friendly restaurant on hand serving Michelin star quality food – a great find in a tiny place.

Day 2: Tardets to Argeles Gazost.

Warmup over, day 2 took us through beautiful wooded fast rolling roads towards the Ossau valley and the looming Col d’Aubisque, the first major climb of many in the next few days.  The Aubisque didn’t disappoint on this occasion, the long serious climb from the Laruns side was a tough slog in the hot Autumn sun, but we were rewarded with spectacular views all around on a crystal clear day and a stunning descent of the balcony road before hopping over the Col du Soulor and completing the descent to Argeles Gazost.  Installed on a well-equipped campsite, we dealt with our athletic recovery for the hard day to follow (yes, beer and pizza).

Day 3: Argeles to Luchon

The biggest day; beginning with the long ascent all the way from Argeles to the giant Col du Tourmalet followed by the Col d’Aspin and the Col de Peyresourde – fatigue was making itself felt by the top of the Peyresourde with plenty of miles now in the legs, the descent to Luchon perhaps made up for this, (it’s one of the best in the Pyrenees), with refreshments in a couple of our favourite spots (carefully guarded secret) softening the memory of all those metres climbed…

Day 4: Luchon to Tarascon

Another tough day with the cols de Mente and Portet d’Aspet in quick succession followed by some fast rolling roads and a café stop in beautiful St. Girons before tackling the long and scenic Col de Port into the craggy landscape of the Ariege – a fast descent to finish and after another great meal, we tucked up ahead of a threatened overnight storm.

Day 5: Tarascon to Prades

Another long day with a spectacular ride out of Tarascon on the Corniche route, perched high up on the hillside with huge vistas over wooded hillsides just beginning to take on their autumn colours.  A Russian themed lunch at a café stop was unexpected – but did the trick, and we continued through limestone gorges and prehistoric sites past Axat towards the final hurdle – the Col du Jau, the last barrier before the long slope to the Med.  Here fate caught up with us: the long climb took its toll and cost us time; the even longer descent (with a trashed rear tyre – my own, slightly too light for the job) left us a few km from the finish in the dark.  A learning experience – but that’s what support vans are for!

 

Final day: Prades to Banyuls–sur–mer

Nice, relaxed and mostly flat with some roast duck thrown in in the cool little town of Thuir on the way, before the Med was suddenly in view and a rolling finish along the coast brought us to the wine heaven of Banyuls.

A great experience, challenging but well worth it.

We will be C2Cing again next season. Come and join us.

#c2c #rewardyourbike #allonsypyrenees #aypholiday

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