Cycling in the Pyrenees Foothills
Overview of Cycling in the Pyrenees Foothills
Cycling in the Pyrenees offers the ideal mix of mountain views and manageable riding, with the option of challenging climbs for those who want them. To discover more about our cycling style, see cycling with us.
We make our base in Argeles-Gazost, a spa town that is full of character, easy to reach (from Toulouse, Lourdes or Pau airports) and set in the foothills of the Pyrenees.
We have designed this trip to make the best of its location for moderate rides (it really is rolling country) and exploring valleys. We have found some special routes that offer a little more than the well-worn race stages, yet those wanting a challenge can easily tackle some famous cols. This holiday features intermediate level riding with routes planned to explore the area and not just climb for the sake of it.
This is also a perfect venue for occasional or even non-cyclists. The hotel has a pool and the town has plenty to offer, including a visit to the spas and wellness centre or a browse around the market for local produce. Nearby Lourdes offers many attractions, and just a few miles to the south you can enjoy the views from the chairlifts that serve the winter ski areas.
We time our visit to beat the draining heat of summer and hopefully give a backdrop of snow-dusted peaks.
We are based in one hotel and our trip offers five guided days exploring the area. We build our cycle fitness as we travel along the valleys and around the foothills, and can sample climbs to breathtaking views when we are ready. If you are lucky with your flight times you can ride 7 days in a row!
The routes are planned to provide time off the bikes as well as on them, and although the itinerary has a suggested distance for each day, the exact route is tailored to your needs during the week.
You make your way to and from the base in Argeles-Gazost; we arrange the routes, guidance, hotel accommodation. See here for what is included.
|Saturday 21 April – Friday 27 April 2018||£795|
Contact us if you want to discuss alternative dates or tailoring this trip.
Situated in the foothills of the Pyrenees just south of Lourdes, this spa town if full of character and things to do. We chose it because it is easy to reach, has plenty of gently undulating cycling around it, you can tackle some bigger climbs in a days ride, and it is simply a beautiful town to visit! See this site for more information.
The town offers a variety of restaurants and wide-ranging spa facilities dating back to the late 19th century, and the town retains a dignified and relaxing atmosphere. There are many ways of passing the time, with the public spa facilities, extensive market, wealth of narrow streets and little shops to explore; a short bus ride away you can visit the ski resorts or spend time in Lourdes.
So a great town to visit even before you consider getting on a bike!
As people will be arriving in Argeles-Gazost at various times, we will have a short ride locally (5 – 15 miles) as well as a welcome meeting and time to settle in. Dinner in the hotel is included and we will use that time to get to know one another and discuss the plans for the week.
Distance 14 miles, 800 ft (21km 242m).
Day two – Lake beauty
On our first day here we take a long but steady slope to Lac d’Estaing. This stunning lake has amazing clear blue water and views that will take your breath away.
We have plenty of time to relax in the beautiful little villages en route (this is not the main road for tourists or classic climbs) and we can relax by the lake with some refreshments. The descent is absolutely fantastic; never steep, we enjoy 20km freewheeling along a valley, admiring the chattering stream or the spectacular mountains behind.
Keen climbers can make a short sharp addition to the route which will certainly tax the legs but enable them to quickly rejoin the main party. This is a perfect way to sample the foothills, offering steady exercise or a hard workout as you choose to approach it. Some will want to make a day of this ride; others will be back for lunch and head off on one of the optional extra routes.
Distances: Lake only 22 miles, 2800 ft (36km, 859m); longer option 29 miles, 3,460ft (46km, 1054m).
Dinner in the hotel is included again, so we can discuss how we found the day and compare notes on our aspirations for the future rides.
Today we head north-east, away from the mountains. The day is about covering a few more miles in undulating but not severe terrain. Once again we’ll pass through some amazing settlements as we enjoy the backdrop of the mountains or the flatter views of the hinterland around Lourdes and Tarbes. Two circular routes take everyone out together for the first 35km; at that point the keener riders can take a longer loop to cover more ground and extra climbs whilst the rest continue on a flatter route. The routes converge at a convenient place and we ride back from Lourdes together along a flat, smooth tarmac bike path which has been built on an old railway line.
If the thought of hills makes you go weak at the knees, remember that our approach to cycling is to take it easy and enjoy the views. Speak to us before you book so you can be confident to choose the right trip.
Undulating terrain with one main climb. Distances 27 miles 1,500 ft (43km, 466m) or 38 miles, 2,900ft (61km, 891m).
Because the town offers so many restaurants, we will get together for a chat in the early evening then you are free to dine where you like (cost not included).
Today offers time to enjoy the local market with its local producers and craftspeople. Despite being a tourist town, Argeles-Gazost still hosts the weekly regional market and the whole town keeps its sense of community and local business. In the afternoon we head east and sample some more of the foothills. There are picturesque streams and gentle climbs on offer, an easy return along the cycle path or as ever a few leg testers for those who want them. Also available is the option to head south along the cycle path towards the ski resorts, and we can see the terrain, architecture and general atmosphere change within a short distance.
Total distance up to 40 km, undulating terrain.
We meet in the early evening to compare experiences and decide on the options for the next day. Once again, with special local ingredients on the menu we leave you the option of dining where you like this evening (cost not included).
We have been aware of the spectacular Pyrenees mountains to the South for several days and now it is time to pay them a visit. The ride is designed to take a whole day, cover 90km and have something for most tastes. We retrace part of the picturesque route that we did for Lac d’Estaing on day two then head onto the more famous route towards the Col do Soulor and the Col d’Aubisque. Pacing yourself is the main game as we take a relaxed break at Arrens-Marsous. Those after a faster ride will leave the break first and ride over the Col de Soulor to the Col d’Aubisque. The more sedate will take the moderate but still challenging route to the Col de Soulor. The groups will have the opportunity to rejoin as they both return via a gorgeous gradual descent to the north. We can take it easy along the valley westwards to Lourdes before the utter pleasure of returning to Argelez-Gazost on the smooth and flat cycle path.
Whatever distance option you take, you should expect a satisfying day full of memories.
Distances 56 miles, 5,460ft (90km, 1,665m) or 68 miles, 7,680ft (109km, 2,342m), undulating terrain.
We dine together in the hotel, celebrating the achievements and wondering how the pro riders would have tackled our route.
Although we skirted around Lourdes towards the end of the previous day, both energy and time might have been in short supply. Today we ride there and take in some more of the sights, including perhaps a ride on the funicular railway, which offers some of the most amazing views at no cost to the legs. We have a selection of routes to and from the town, and we will agree on the ones which will give the best recovery ride and riding enjoyment for everyone. This day is also designed to leave time to treat your weary muscles in the public spa facilities or in the hotel pool.
Total distance up to 60 km, undulating terrain.
We have our celebratory end-of-trip meal together and possibly discuss when we will next return.
Day seven – local riding and return home
Today sadly focuses on our return home. For those with later flight times we can revisit one of the shorter routes we’ve done or try a few more local roads. Whether you choose a relaxing amble around the town or a brisk ride out, you are sure to take home fond memories of this part of the world.
Total distance up to 40 km, undulating terrain.
We will be staying the whole time in one location for our holiday cycling in Argeles-Gazost, so there is no need to unpack more than once during this holiday!
Our hotel is situated in the centre of the town with easy access to restaurants, public spa facilities, the market place and shops. Bikes are kept in a locked garage. We have four nights half board and two nights Bed & Breakfast.
Come cycling in Argeles-Gazost for a taste of the Pyrenees foothills and cols. A leisurely pace and friendly atmosphere, we cycle to places, not just through them!
|Saturday 21 April – Friday 27 April 2018||£795|
We provide the location, equipment and know-how so that you can explore the area with guidance and flexible support. This break includes:
- 4 nights half board accommodation including one drink with your evening meal
- 2 nights Bed & Breakfast
- energy snacks and drinks during the rides
- motorised support with a qualified mechanic
- a cycling guide every day
- pre-planned routes
- informative discussions and instruction from the guides on some evenings (see optional activities below)
We can arrange suitable cycle hire for you (hybrid or road bike) and will agree prices at the time of booking (approx. £40 per day). We can also take your bike to the resort for you with costs from £75 return – call us to discuss.
People like our ‘relaxed cycling holidays’ because they are more than pedalling all day. We always offer free informal discussions on some evenings and a few visits to local attractions on some days. These are examples of the optional activities that you can take part in. We let you know the full details of these options and costs where applicable nearer the date.
- the natural and human geography
- tips on improving your distance cycling skills
- better photographs from a small camera
- time to reflect (we offer life coaching skills for those looking for more personal insights)
- spa and hot springs
- market visit
Getting to Argeles-Gazost
This is the fastest way to get to Argeles-Gazost. There are direct flights from the UK to Lourdes & Pau, both within 30 miles. Or fly into Biarritz or Toulouse, both of which are within 2 1/2 hours drive of our hotel in the town.
We will help you arrange a transit to and from Lourdes and Pau. Biarritz and Toulouse are ideal if you want to hire a car and do some exploring on your own in combination with this cycling holiday.
By Ferry and driving
It is a long way from the channel ports to the Pyrenees – upwards of ten hours driving. However, if you want to combine this cycling holiday with exploring other areas of France then it might work for you. Because Argeles-Gazost is in the South of France, any of the channel ports are relevant, and the approximate distances are:
- Dover – Calais or Dunquerque 2hr ferry; 800 miles / 12 hrs by road
- Portsmouth – Le Havre; 6 – 9 hr ferry, 700 miles / 10 hrs by road
Eurostar runs a very frequent service from St Pancras in London and you then go via Paris. It takes from 9 hours to reach Pau , see here for more details