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Cycling, Wine and Cultural Tours in the Dordogne, Pyrenees and Southwest of France.

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Chateau de Pitray
Chateau de Pitray

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  • Without a doubt, this was the cycling trip of a lifetime. The route took us over some of the most challenging and spectacular terrain I've ever encountered. Being an avid cyclist, to have ridden climbs such as the Tourmalet, Aubisque, Marie-Blanque, Peyresourde, and Pailheres is an accomplishment I will brag about for years to come

    Rose Hewig, attended in 2009.

     

    Not to be believed! When this trip was first planned I thought to myself, are you crazy? 12 days of riding, 7000-8000 feet per day of climbing? The more I thought about it the more I wanted to do it, and so I did. What an amazing trip. As I have said to everyone, it was everything I expected and much, much more.

    Jeff Dux, attended in 2006 and 2010..


    Hello everyone, I thought that I would keep you focused and excited for the 2012 Pyrenees trip by posting some photos from my collection. These are not in any particular order, just great shots that will make you wish you were riding in the Pyrenees right now. Patience, patience. It will be worth the wait, as the trip is coordinated to avoid the summer crowds and also to take advantage of the good weather in the late summer/early fall that is best for cycling - not too hot, not too cold, and usually no rain (uh oh, I hope I haven't jinxed us!).

    If you haven't seen this already it is a map of the stages for the trip. I know, it's too small to make much sense of it so here is a link to the PDF version which is larger.

    Pictured above is the town of Saint Sevin, slightly south and up the valley from Lourdes. This is the town that we will be staying in at the end of the 9th stage, coming off of the Tourmalet. Technically the Tourmalet is the last climb of the day, but for those with energy still in their legs the Haute de Cam is just a few miles away.

    The very first time I came across a proceeding of sheep blocking the road was back in 2001, the first year I rode in the Pyrenees. This is a regular and normal event. I'm sure you'll have the opportunity to witness it yourself.

    Natalie finally got to ride the Pyrenees last year, though this was linked with one of my trips at the Chateau. She's a school teacher who try's to make me feel guilty for scheduling the Pyrenees trip after summer vacation. I suppose she needs to take a sabbatical or quit her job to join the trip. This is up the Col d'Aubisque, the west side, not far from the summit - 3 km - on a wonderful sunny day. Obviously great weather makes all the difference.

    This is in the foothills of the Pyrenees, just below the Col d'Aubisque, on a tiny country road. I try to keep us on the small, narrow and least traveled roads as we make our way from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean - that is the 4 day stretch in the beginning of the tour. This year, like last year, the trip is a clockwise loop, with the first 4 days in the foothills.

    Charles and Joe from the 2011 trip, in the foothills, on day 2. I think Charles - who was attending the trip for the 3rd time - is pumping his hand because he beat Joe up this climb. The foothills have plenty of short climbs. In the background you can see the high mountains. I can't imagine a better place to ride a bike ... look at the quality of this narrow road!!

    And turning around, pointing directly east, here is what the view looks like at the top of the small climb. Great rolling terrain for this wonderful 100 odd mile day.

    This is in the high mountains, looking west. This is on the 6th stage, the second day out from the Mediterranean. Note the dry vegetation typical of the eastern Pyrenees. The road you see to the right is part of the day's route, as is the Col du Porte de Pailheres. The Col du Porte de Pailheres will be your introduction to the first of many truly classic climbs in the Pyrenees.

    2006 was the first year that I offered the trip. Robbie descends a col in the Basque Pyrenees on the on day 1. Each consecutive day was as fun and as awesome as the previous.

    This shot is from last year, 2011. The rider without the helmet is a local Frenchmen who we caught up with on the climb. He picked up the pace to stay with the group all the way to the summit, then wished us good luck for the rest of our journey. He was a little in awe of our trip. Again, another small winding road climbing up into the mountains, literally no car traffic, on the stage that we leave the Mediterranean. The weather was slightly overcast but warm.

    On the stretch of road between the Col de Soulor and the Col d'Aubisque, high in the mountains, a tunnel is carved into the granite rock. It isn't particularly long, 70 yards about, but it has a bend so you don't immediately see the opening on the other side, and it is very dark inside as there isn't any electrical lighting. Finally, to make matters even more dangerous for cyclists, it's wet inside as the rock is seeping water. I think you can get an idea of how slippery it looks. It won't be as much of a problem for us as we will be riding up hill in our approach and not descending.

    Now this image may seem typical, more sheep, surrounding a parked car - they like to do that - though these have all been sheared. You did not notice that until I mentioned it?!

    It is hard to tell from the picture, but this 1.5 mile climb on a tiny back road has a pitch at the top of about 18%. No one expected this as we were traversing the foothills, 80 miles of 106 miles for the day, and "wham" out of nowhere. I love the way a little pain and suffering on a bike brings out the best in people ... nothing but smiles.

    Chateau Mauvezin, built around 1310, we'll ride right by it. I swear, I'm not making this up, this is a real photo from last year. The castle sits on a hill top, which means you riders will enjoy a short and steep 3 mile climb. This is part of day 3.

    Deep in the high mountains. If you take a good look you can see the road traversing the hillside in the background. This is typical Pyrenees Atlantique, lush and green, with small villages and communes nestled in the mountains.

    Charles and Ron, top of the Col d'Azet, and far off to the right is the ridge line of the mountain tops surrounding the Col du Tourmalet. Again, hats off to Charles for completing the ride 3 times, and Ron who did it at the age of 72. Ron's been riding and racing for 45 years, and he never misses a day of training.

    More locals at the top of the Col d'Azet. This was back in 2006.

    This is a very remote road. I wonder how these people live in the winter as they must get snowed in all the time. I suppose they are self sufficient. I like this photo because of the duck and the ducklings, along with the cows and the old house. The people who live up here are farmers, and it doesn't take much to realize that their lives are probably very similar to the generations that lived here in the first half of the 20th century. Once again a well paved road.

    That is all for now. Looking forward to the trip and meeting everyone. Take care.