Tour de France 2023

Tour de France LogoI finally got to cycle the Pyrenees during my Tour de France 2023.

Okay, that should probably read “in the Pyrenees” for I cycled in the central part of the French Pyrenees range.

It would have been nice to cycle the “Raid Pyrenees” that is (also) available as a Tacx series of RLV’s.

This is covering many Pyrenees climbs, from East to West, and I’ve done that indoors.

There’s also an official (timed) Raid Pyrenees, crossing the range in max 100 hours (Randoneur) or 10 days (Touring) that can be cycled in either direction.

While tempting – I love “officially stamped” certificates1 – I didn’t do that as it requires another location every day…

Instead, we stayed in just one place: Bagnères-de-Bigorre.

I got almost every climb between Port de Balès and Col d’Aubisque on the “Been there, Done that” list, with limited car transfers where needed.

That meant no less than 25 climbs, but only a handful of passes were tackled from both ends: Tourmalet, Port de Balès, Peyresourde, Aspin and Hourquette d’Ancizan.

The Central Pyrenees extend eastward from the Somport pass to the Aran Valley, and they include the highest summits of the Pyrenees range.

These are:

  • Pico de Aneto 3,404 metres (11,168 ft)
  • Pico Posets 3,375 metres (11,073 ft)
  • Monte Perdido 3,355 metres (11,007 ft)

Part of the Pyrenees National Parc, the region where resided is also known as “Hautes-Pyrénées” and it’s the most interesting from a cyclist’s point of view.

That is, if you like blowing yourself to bits, like I do 😂

The highest (paved) road pass in the area, is the Col du Tourmalet (2,115m/6,939ft) which starts in Sainte-Marie-de-Campan.

That was not the highest altitude I reached during my Tour de France 2023, but in comparison to the “Hautes-Alpes” or the Italian Dolomites, the Pyrenees are not so impressive 2.

Then again, looking at the Top 10, ranked by difficulty, I had the feeling that this Tour might not be any less challenging than previous Tours:

Name Length Gradient
Col de Portet from Saint Lary Soulan 16.1km 8.7%
Col du Tourmalet 18.3km 7.7%
Col du Tourmalet from Luz Saint Sauveur via Super Barèges 18.9km 7.4%
Plateau de Beille 16km 7.7%
Col de Pailhères 18.6km 6.7%
Col du Tourmalet from Sainte-Marie de Campan 16.9km 7.5%
Lac d’Aumar / Lac d’Aubert from Saint Lary Soulan 25.2km 5.5%
Col de Tentes from Luz Saint Sauveur via Cirque de Gavarnie 30.1km 5.1%
Col de Mantet 21.1km 6.2%
Col de Pailhères from Usson-les-Bains 15.5km 7.7%

The Tourmalet is in there no less than three times, although two are near identical.

I did not climb the Pailhères, the Mantet or Plateau the Beille, as they were nowhere near our base camp.

Other “must do” climbs – besides the Port de Balès – outside of the top 10: the Hautacam, the Col d’Aubisque, the Col de Spandelles and the Hourquette d’Ancizan.

Luz-Saint-Sauveur is the starting point for the Col de Tentes, but also for Cirque de Troumous, the latter being outside of the top 10 too.

But like the Port de Balès, that one is a very hard nut to crack, especially if you go all the way and do not stop at the parking / restaurant…

Closest to our base camp Bagnères-de-Bigorre, were the climbs up the Tourmalet from Sainte-Marie de-Campan and the Col d’Aspin.

The other ends – and some other climbs – required a car transfer, but most of those transfers where no longer than 30-40 minutes.

From the cols in the Raid Pyrenees and the concluding Hautacam climb in the Tacx “Gers” collection, I remember having to almost throw up doing that, but in reality, it was tough, but not all that bad.

You know I often mention that while mathematically sound, these overall average grades mean jack shit and I encountered climbs that looked “okay-ish” on paper, but had my Edge showing double digit grades way too often.

More on what I planned and what I did in the menu at the right of this page…

1 I have two of those from France: the “Cinglé du Mont Ventoux” and the “Brevet de 7 Cols d’Ubaye” 😎
2 Although, as you can read on the Tourmalet info page, you can get – a lot, without drugs – higher if you take the gravel road dead-end fork “Col des Laquets“…










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