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Cerbère to Hendaye - 8 Stages, an epic and beautiful ride through the Pyrenees

 

‘Raid Pyrénéen Touriste’

 

From coast to coast, over mountain after mountain, and along quiet narrow roads, this ride has to be at the top of any rider’s to-do list.  This route sees us travel from Cerbère to Hendaye, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, and covers 28 Cols (yes, 28) including several which are hors categorie.  You’ll face approximately 16,000 metres of climbing over a head-spinning 810 km…. and according to the Raid Pyrénéen rules, you have a maximum of 10 days to complete it.

 

There are very few challenges like this and the sense of achievement is equally unrivalled.  While the riding is tough this tour is made that bit easier by having Red Lantern Cycling supporting you along the way, from registration to luggage transfer, hotel booking to route planning.  We ensure that the minor details stay that way so you can concentrate on the challenge ahead without distraction.

Immediately below is the itinerary at a glance, which gives you an idea of the daily distances, Cols and accommodation centres, with more detail available below.  Our tour travels east to west from Cerbère.  We can, of course, reverse this route if there is group/club preference.

 

Currently available for bookings of 4+ riders only - Priced at £2500 per person

 

Contact us for details on suitable dates

Itinerary at a glance

 

Day 1 - Arrival - Flying in to Toulouse airport we will arrange for your collection and transfer you to Cerbère.

Day 2 – Cerbère to Prades - 123KM - Landmark Climbs: Col de Palomère

Day 3 – Prades to Ax-les-Thermes - 86KM - Landmark Climbs: Col de Jau, Port de Pailhères

Day 4 – Ax-les-Thermes to Aulus-les-Bains - 95KM - Landmark Climbs: Col de Chioula, Port de Lers, Col d’Agnes

Day 5 – Aulus-Les-Bains to Saint-Béat - 98KM - Landmark Climbs: Col de Latrape, Col de la Core, Col de Portet d’Aspet, Col de Menté

Day 6 - Saint-Béat to Arreau - 70KM - Landmark Climbs: Col de Portillon, Col de Peyresourde

Day 7 – Arreau to Argelès-Gazost - 80KM - Landmark Climbs: Col d’Aspin, Col du Tourmalet

Day 8 - Argelès-Gazost to Arette - 97KM - Landmark Climbs: Col des Bordères, Col du Soulor, Col d’Aubisque, Col de Marie Blanque

Day 9 - Arette to Hendaye - 158km - Landmark Climbs: Col Bagargui, Col de Burdincurutcheta, Col de Pinodieta, Col St. Ignace

 

What’s included:

9 nights in 2-star (minimum) accommodation on a shared occupancy basis

Breakfast, packed lunches and ten evening meals (1st night dependant on arrival time)

Luggage transfers between stopovers

Vehicle support during your rides

Transfers from Toulouse Airport, and to Bordeaux Airport (at recommended flight times)

 

What’s not:

Travel to and from UK airport

Flights

Travel Insurance

Drinks with meals

Meals other than those specified

Subsidiary or sundry expenses

 

NB. All routes are subject to favourable weather and road conditions.

Red Lantern Cycling Cyclist Ascending Red Lantern Cycling beautiful scenery

Sample itinerary:

 

Day 1 - Arrival

Flying in to Toulouse airport we will arrange for your collection and transfer you to Cerbère.  If you haven’t taken advantage of our Bike Transfer service you’ll have time to unpack your bike before we get together for an informal briefing on the days ahead.

 

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Day 2 – Cerbère to Prades - 123KM  

Our tour begins as the Raid Pyrénéen rules dictate, in Cerbère.  Today is about leaving the main roads behind as quickly as possible as heading to the real Pyrenees; quiet roads, Cols and cow bells.  There is a stop in Oms for the second stamp on your route card, but we don’t hit any climbs over 1,000 metres until the Col de Palomère (1,036m), and that is just before our descent to the first overnight stop in Prades.  Enjoy today because it’s as long and flat as it gets until you descend to the Atlantic.

 

Landmark Climbs: Col de Palomère.

 

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Day 3 – Prades to Ax-les-Thermes - 86KM  

This morning you face the Col de Jau (1,513m); it’s long and hard, but you knew this sort of thing was on the cards.  After the Col du Garavel (1256m) the climb up the Port de Pailhères takes you above 2,000 metres for the first time.  There is only one other Col on this tour that is closer to the sky.  It is tough, hitting 10% and climbing for 1,218 metres.  Relief comes with a stop at Mijanès for your card to be stamped.  What’s that?  We get it stamped at a patisserie?  Marvellous!  Near the top it gets tough, but the views, as always, make it worthwhile.  Then it’s a cracking descent down to Ax-les-Thermes and an overnight stop, where you can soak your feet in the thermal waters.

 

Landmark Climbs: Col de Jau, Port de Pailhères.

 

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Day 4 – Ax-les-Thermes to Aulus-les-Bains - 95KM

There are three big climbs today, and although they are shrinking violets compared to yesterday - and what’s farther down the road - an easy day it is not.  Col de Chioula (1,431m) is first up.  A climb of 720m in 10km tells its own story, as do the views at the top of the surrounding mountains.  A nice long descent should give you plenty of time to appreciate the area, while also keeping any eye out for stray cows!  The start of the next climb of Port de Lers (1517m) is a gradual ascent until the village of Vicdessos, where it ramps up -  807m in 11.3km - with average gradients of 10% thrown in for good measure.  There’s a short descent and then a 5km climb up to Col d’Agnes (1,570m) before cruising down the mountain to Aulus-les-Bains for the night.

 

Landmark Climbs: Col de Chioula, Port de Lers, Col d’Agnes.

 

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Day 5 – Aulus-Les-Bains to Saint-Béat - 98KM  

Today’s Col names are ingrained on the history of le Tour de France. The first climb of the day, the Col de Latrape (1111m), should not hold too many problems before you spin in to Seix, a control centre for the Raid.  Just outside of town is the Col de la Core (1395m) with 835m of climbing spread over 13km.  The Col de Portet d’Aspet (1069m) is infamous for the descent that sadly claimed the life of Olympic champion Fabio Casartelli on stage 15 of the 1995 edition of le Tour.  The descent is very steep – 17% in places - and therefore very fast.  A memorial to Casartelli sits on the side of the road.

Col de Menté (1349m) is another mountain which has written its name into Tour legend.  A small plaque details the story of Luis Ocana, who in 1971 went wheel-to-wheel with Eddy Mercx.  Ocana was the man in yellow after dominating Mercx in the Alps and the Pyrenees was his backyard.  However, the Col de Mente was consumed by a dramatic storm.  On the descent both riders made mistakes, but Ocana fell and as he rose to his feet was struck by three trailing riders.  His tour was over and Mercx refused to wear the leader’s jersey the following day.  With history to digest we head for our overnight stop in Saint-Béat.

 

Landmark Climbs: Col de Latrape, Col de la Core, Col de Portet d’Aspet, Col de Menté.

 

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Day 6 - Saint-Béat to Arreau - 70KM

The days get a little shorter now as we enter the area known as ‘the Bear’s Jaw’, following the Garonne River into Spain before re-entering France, where you encounter the Col de Portillon (1,293m).  A technical descent takes us into the Queen of the Pyrenees, the spa town of Bagnères-de-Luchon.  Straight out of town is the start of the climb of Col de Peyresourde (1,569m), which from the longer eastern side gains 950m in altitude over a 15.3km climb.  Breezing down the western side you’ll arrive at your accommodation for the night in Arreau.

 

Landmark Climbs: Col de Portillon, Col de Peyresourde.

 

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Day 7 – Arreau to Argelès-Gazost - 80KM  

The headline act, the Queen Stage of this tour, and the one you’ve been waiting for, or not depending on how you feel.  Today we enter the so-called ‘Circle of Death’ and take on two legends of the tour: Col d’Aspin (1,489m), and the Col du Tourmalet (2,114m).  There is no messing about this morning, as the climbing starts right from when you leave Arreau, but after you’ve conquered the beautiful Col d’Aspin you can enjoy the sweeping descent through the forest.  Next, it’s the Tourmalet, a Col dripping with cycling history, be it Tour officials being berated for cruelty, broken forks being fixed at the local blacksmith, or the scene of Eddy Mercx’s greatest ride.  Climbing the eastern approach it’s a 17km ride to gain the 1,284m that you’ll need to rise to reach the top.  After getting cards stamped at the top there is a 37km descent to enjoy before reaching overnight accommodation in Argelès-Gazost.

 

Landmark Climbs: Col d’Aspin, Col du Tourmalet.

 

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Day 8 - Argelès-Gazost to Arette - 97KM

With the Tourmalet behind you there may be a feeling of relief to go with that sense of pride, but the large stepping stones of the Col des Bordères (1,156m), Col du Soulor (1,474m) and the Col d’Aubisque (1,709m) should remind you that there are still challenges ahead.  As always the effort is rewarded with stunning views and exhilarating cycling through snow tunnels and the Cirque de Litor, a narrow ledge cut into the side of the mountain wall.  You’ll get your cards stamped at the summit before a 27km descent to Bielle, keeping your legs spinning so they remain warm, as there is still the Col de Marie Blanque (1,035m) to conquer - 586m to climb and just over 11km in which to do it.  After that there’s the extremely fast descent to Escot before heading in to Arette for the night.

 

Landmark Climbs: Col des Bordères, Col du Soulor, Col d’Aubisque, Col de Marie Blanque.

 

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Day 9 - Arette to Hendaye - 158km

Today there’s still a little more business to take care of before the scent of the Atlantic Ocean fills your lungs, notably the Col Bagargui (1,327m).  The start is gentle for the first 30 km with a control stop along the way.  Col Bargargui is approached from the eastern side, much less stressful than the western approach, although still more challenging than the 6% average gradient suggests.  Its undulating nature makes it hard to establish any sort of rhythm, but take comfort from the fact when you reach the bar/restaurant at the top you are over the worst of the climbing.  

As you near the end of your epic journey there are only three more climbs of note.  The ascent and following descent of the Col de Burdincurutcheta (1,135m) takes you on to the road to Espelette, and the penultimate control point, with the increase in traffic indicating that you are heading back to civilisation.  There are then the briefest of climbs up the Col de Pinodieta (176m) and Col St-Ignace (169m), which after some of the monster climbs you’ve battled against these shouldn’t challenge you too much.  Heading into Hendaye and along the coast to the finish line there is just the small matter of stopping in at the local tourist office, to get your card stamped to confirm your completion of the Raid Pyrénéen.  Well done!

Accommodation for the night is in Hendaye, with the opportunity to take some time to reflect on your achievement with your fellow riders.  The following day we will provide transfers to Bordeaux airport or to Bayonne and Hendaye for those returning via TGV/Eurostar.  Be sure to check out our Bike Transfer service for this trip, to make your journey to and from your trip easier for you, and safer for your bike.

 

Landmark Climbs: Col Bagargui, Col de Burdincurutcheta, Col de Pinodieta, Col St. Ignace.

 

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Currently available for bookings of 4+ riders only - Priced at £2500 per person

 

Contact us for details on suitable dates

What’s included:

 

9 nights in 2-star (minimum) accommodation on a shared occupancy basis

Breakfast, packed lunches and nine evening meals (1st night dependent on arrival time)

Luggage transfers between stopovers

Vehicle support during your rides

Transfers from Toulouse Airport, and to Bordeaux Airport (at recommended flight times)

 

What’s not:

 

Travel to and from UK airport

Flights

Travel Insurance

Drinks with meals

Meals other than those specified

Subsidiary or sundry expenses

 

NB. All routes are subject to favourable weather and road conditions.