Cycling in the Pyrenees – Gran Fondo style!

Cycling in the Pyrenees – Gran Fondo style!

What’s better than doing the Col du Tourmalet? Well, doing it twice, of course! If you’re planning a trip to the get your mountain fix after the lockdown is over, it doesn’t get much easier than getting yourself out to the Pyrenees, where you’ll find a plethora of climbs to get your incline fix!

Before we get into some of the climbs, first, lets get logistics out the way:

  • How to get there? Wherever you fly from, chances are your closet airport is Toulouse. Hire a car and drive from Toulouse to the foothills of the Pyrenees (about 2 hours)
  • Where to stay? I’d recommend anywhere from Lourdes to Argeles-Gazost. If you want to be super close to the Tourmalet, I suggest Luz-Saint-Sauver (where the official Marmotte begins). From Lourdes to the start of the Tourmalet, you have very nice, and very flat old train track converted into a cycle path. Takes about 30 (ish) mins to get you easy access to lots of climbs, including the Hautacam and the Tourmalet. If you don’t want the extra warm up, just go for AG or LSS – you cant go wrong!
  • Accessible climbs (that we did): Hautacam, Tourmalet, Col D’Aspin, Col De Peyresourde, Port de Bales, Col du Soulor, Hourquette d’Ancizan.


Main rides

Below are the strava rides we did across 4 days. Unfortunately, one of the days was a total washout, but don’t fret, we got our incline fix across 4 days!


Arriving into AG on the day of the Pyaranees Marotte was quite a strange one. Arriving at the hotel for about 5pm, we had just enough time to build the bikes, and get to the foot of the Hauacam and see if we could see the last few riders go up what is the last climb of the Gran Fondo.  We were met with total carnage – exhausted riders were everywhere and the toll of 4,00 meters of climbing in the legs is clear to see. Seeing this sight, we decided to climb with the last few riders to give some encouragement, and what was meant to be good intention turned to shame, as locals started to applaud us for our efforts… I didn’t know the French for ‘fraud’, so I thanked them… The climb itself is a pretty nice one – 8% average, 13km long and a total height of 1520. The climb does go on after you get to the sign, so yu have the option to carry on, and turn around and descend. With the sun setting, it was time to go home and prepare for the main event – double Tourmalet.  

Double Tourmalet

This is it; this is what strava will call a ‘historic relative effort’.

Seeing the pain on the faces of cyclists the day before, it was time to have a taste of it. Now, officially, the Marmotte starts in LSS, where, after a quick warm up ride, you’re heading up the Tourmalet, before tackling d’Ancizan, d’Aspin, tourmalet and then Hautacam. We’re not going to do Hautacam, it’s a climb in itself up to LSS from AG, and, TBF, it was dark by the time we got there – but we did it the day before so I’m ok with that, even if you’re not 😊

An altitude of 2,115m, at an average of 7.5% for over 18km, the Tourmalet is a beast. Generally speaking, the climb is relatively nice for much of it, you have a couple of long drags. The fun really begins in the last 5k, a couple of 11% gradients mixed in with the altitude makes the lungs sing. Despite the pain, take it in, this part is also the most beautiful!


When you descend, you’ll find a water fountain at the very bottom, just before you start the climb for the Aspin. It’s a great spot to fill up for the next two climbs, which are tough in their own right. d’Ancizan will see you ride at an average of 4% for 16km, while the Aspin will take in 7% for 12km. Don’t be a hero, you’re going to need to keep those legs for the other side of the Tourmalet.

What do you think is the tougher side of the Tourmalet? That’s the question you’re going to ask yourself once this is all over. It’s a tough one. Doing the route in the Gran Fondo style, you’ll be forgiven for saying the second side, at this point, you’re super tired, the legs are starting to cramp, and you’re ready for the very long descent into LSS. The truth is, it is the second side! While you don’t have the short sections of 11%, you do have long drags of 9% - something similar to the Passo Gaiu, or the latter part of the Galibier. You also don’t have the same views, and that’s important! All in all, it just feel harder, with fewer sections to recover from. 

One important tip before you go up the second side of the Trourmalet - rememebr that water fountain, you'll pass it again and you'll need it again! 

You can find lots of different climbs from AG or LSS, some of the climbs we did included the Col du Peyresourde, Port de Balas and Soulour. The Port de Balas is a pretty special and extreamly quiet climb, but the descent is sketchy (IMO), one you should consider for sure, but if you're a cautious descender (like me), be warned, dont have carbon rims!

You can check out the other routes here:


Back to News