Day 2 of our Bike Tour in the French Pyrenees starts off with our longest and hardest bike route for the week. If you can ride today comfortably, you’ll have no problems with the rest of the week. That’s not to scare you. Not at all. But many people have concerns about how hard our bike tours really are, so we assure them that “it’s all downhill” (figuratively) after Day 2, our first full day of riding in the Pyrenees.
- approximately 130 kilometers with 3400 meters of climbing (thats 80 miles and about 11,170 feet)
- two major climbs: the Port de Balès and the Col du Peyresourde, both featured mountain climbs of the Tour de France
The ride starts out by gently cycling downhill for several kilometers through the Aure Valley and along the Neste d’Aure River. We then turn onto smaller, country, farm roads that gently roll from village to village. By now the morning valley fog should be lifting and the sun shining brightly above us. We’ll warm up through this undulating terrain before turning towards the town of Mauléon-Barousse and the base of the Port de Balès.
The Port de Balès climb is a more recent addition to the Tour de France race. The road was not even open until the 1980’s and then only by four wheel drive. It wasn’t until as recently at 2006, when the organizers of the Tour de France were looking for new and challenging routes in the Pyrenees that the Port de Balès was paved and then used the following year, 2007, for the first time in the Tour.
As you start up the Port de Balès, don’t be intimidated by the first few hundred meters; they start off steep! Then it will settle out with a gradual climb for several kilometers, but don’t get too comfortable, because the road will tilt up again and you’ll have several kilometers with sections around 10+%. But don’t worry. You can do it! As you ascend, you’ll cross a cattle guard about two-thirds of the way up. As often in the Pyrenees, you’ll need to watch out for “Animaux Sauvages” or “wild animals” on the road. That cattle guard was a sign that you’ll be riding in a section of farm land, where cows, sheeps or goats are free to graze where they wish. That means they may be crossing the road as you ride by. As you reach the top of the Port de Balès, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the surrounding snow-capped peaks and can savor the glorious, twisty descent that follows.
From your descent, you’ll come straight into the Col du Peyresourde. In contrast to the previous climb, the Peyresourde is a much larger road that connects the adjacent valleys in the Pyrenees. Even so, its surface is good and the traffic is relatively light and there’s plenty of room for you to attack this monumental mountain pass. As always, the In Situ support van will be out on the route to assist you, should you need to top off your water bottles, grab a snack or just take a break. We typically come through the Col du Peyresourde around mid-afternoon, so be sure to keep hydrated, cool and use the van if you need it. We want to make sure you’re the best prepared to have a good time!
After the Col du Peyresourde, prepare to enjoy the long, sweeping descent lasting over 20 kilometers (12 miles) back into the Aure Valley and eventually our trip hotel.
You made it! Nice job!