Stunning scenery, a great group, perfect weather – this trip will be hard to beat!
Following your arrival into Biarritz, we’ve plenty of time to transfer to the starting point of this superb tour. We’ll be spending our first night in St Jean de Luz, a fishing port on the Basque coast and now a famous resort, known for its architecture, sandy bay, the quality of the light and the cuisine, all situated just a few km from the Spanish border.
Today is a fine introduction to the Pyrenees, a taster of what to look forward to over the coming days. Riding out of St Jean de Luz, the riding is relatively gentle as we pass through several picturesque Basque villages with their traditional colouring and architecture.
This is the centre of the red pepper world. Our first taste of Pyrenean mountain riding is an excellent warm up for what lies ahead and comes in the shape of 2 minor cols; Col de St Ignace, followed by Col d‘Osquich and then it’s a gentle run into Montory, where we will spend the evening.
A big day lies ahead, big scenery, big distances, big views and a big mountain or two!
Things begin gently enough as we head from Montory toward Escot. Soon afterwards however we face our first real test of our tour when we meet the Col de Marie Blanque. At just 1,073m it isn’t a giant but we‘re taking it on from the toughest of the 2 sides and it will certainly test our legs. The descent of the eastern face is thrilling, picturesque and rewarding and before long grimaces will be replaced by grins!
Next up is a real Pyrenean classic; the ascent of the Aubisque. It begins gently enough and doesn’t really kick in seriously until the mountain spa town of Eaux Bonnes. From here things start to get a little more serious and we rise constantly to the summit at 1,709m. Once over the pass it’s generally downhill (although Col du Soulor does make an appearance to spice things up!) for the next 40km. We then arrive at our destination for today, the bustling town of Argeles Gazost where we can rest up and prepare for tomorrows challenges.
After Alpe d‘Huez, Col du Tourmalet is possibly the most famous of all the Tour de France climbs and since first featuring in the Tour in 1910 it has been a firm favourite of both professional and amateur riders. Topping out at 2,115m, the col is the highest point in our journey and one of the highest roads in the Pyrenees. This morning we’ll find out exactly why it has such a reputation. We’ll spend some time at the top of the pass to regroup and to admire the famous Geant du Tourmalet monument that marks the summit. With the highest climb of the week out of the way and a weight off the mind we’ll wrap up for the swooping descent into the village of St Marie de Campan, a tiny but very pretty village, famous for being the place that Eugene Christophe had to weld his broken bike back together in the 1913 Tour de France.
From here we start climbing once more, this time it’s the improbably picturesque Col d‘Aspin, with the tricky descent spitting us out on the outskirts of Arreau. A short flat section brings us to the ski resort of St Lary Soulan where we will spend our evening. The town is overlooked by the Pla d‘Adet mountain top finish where George Hincapie won his stage of the Tour de France in 2005 and which was a stage finish as recently as 2014.
Today is the shortest day of our tour and is a little easier than the previous few days challenges. Our route today still promises to pack a punch as it includes two beautiful and challenging climbs.
The day begins gently enough as we leave St Lary Soulan, gradually rising as we approach Col de Peyresourde, another Tour de France favourite, having featured in the race dozens of times since its original inclusion in 1910.
The view from the summit and the winding descent which follows are simply breath-taking. Our relatively short day allows us plenty of time to enjoy one of the famous crepes from the cafe at the summit of the Peyresourde or a café au lait in the town of Bagnères de Luchon before we take on our final challenge of the day; the Col du Portillon which summits on the border between France and Spain. The last 10km of the day is a swift descent on smooth sweeping hair-pinned tarmac, which delivers us to the Catalonian town of Bossost where we will spend a Spanish flavoured evening.
Back in the saddle for a full and action packed day on the bikes, we ease in gently as we drop down the Garonne Valley from Bossost to St Beat.
Make the most of the gentle start as the Col de Mente awaits to dish up a rather rude awakening. A sharp forested descent down the other side delivers us at the foot of the infamous Col de Portet d‘Aspet, the scene of the tragic death of Olympic Champion Fabio Casartelli in the 1995 Tour de France. After paying our respects at the Casartelli memorial we’ll continue, steeply upwards at first, before gently descending to Castillon. A few km beyond the village we begin the day’s final test as we haul ourselves over the Col de la Core and into the town of St Girons on the other side.
The ascent out of St Girons is via a very minor and infrequently used road that leads us into one of the prettiest rural areas of the entire tour. Dropping into the village of Massat via similarly minor roads our legs will be warmed up and ready for the Col de Port, the first real climb of the day.
As we all know by now “what goes up…........” and the next 20km or so is spent in a generally downhill direction! We continue beyond the town of Tarascon heading back into the hills via the Route des Corniches, the early stages of which undulate before rising more dramatically onto the cornice road. We end the day with a quick dash up and over Col de Chioula before turning off to the ski resort town of Ax-les-Thermes where, as the name suggests, we might just have time to soothe our tired legs in the thermal waters before dinner.
Those spectacular morning ascents have become something of a habit and we‘re not about to break it today! Sitting at around 2,000m above sea level, the Port de Pailheres is the second highest point on our journey and it’s a tough hair-pinned climb which leads us there. It’s more than worth the effort though, if not just for the view; once over the top, the world just seems to drop away and the sweeping descent is spectacular.
A small bump in the road takes us to Escouloubre and one minor col later we’ll be at the foot of Col de Jau, our final climb of the day. We will be riding at over 1,500m at the top of the Col de Jau, before we end our tour with 30km of flowing downhill to Prades, where we’ll spend the evening.
Alas, this is our final day of riding. We’re approaching the coast and the landscape and the vegetation have become unmistakably Mediterranean. Taking care as we negotiate a brief section of major road out of Prades, we’re soon back on the minor roads as we pick our way across country arriving on the coast at the town of Collioure before a short twisting ride along the coast to Banylus-sur-Mer.
With the mountains behind us, the ride today is, in the main, fast and flat and we should arrive at the coast early to mid afternoon. We will pack up the bikes and have time for a celebratory dip in the Mediterranean before drinks and dinner. Well done you’ve completed the Skedaddle Trans Pyrenean Mountain Challenge!
The French Pyrenees includes some of the highest and most challenging mountains passes in European road cycling and our route takes us over a number of the more serious Tour de France cols and as such involves a lot of climbing. Two or more significant climbs a day is not uncommon and many will include steep and challenging sections. Road surfaces are generally good although mountain weather can take its toll. Caution should be exercised, especially when descending as occasional potholes and gravel patches do occur. Descents are as frequent and long as the ascents and many feature numerous tight bends and switchbacks. Competent and confident descenders will undoubtedly enjoy the downhill stages, however all riders will be expected to exercise caution. Traffic is generally light throughout however it can become busier on occasional stages approaching towns and villages.
45-80 miles / 80-130 kms per day
For cyclists with stamina & a good level of fitness
Long & challenging days
Multiple tough or high altitude ascents, with steep sections over extended distances
Long & often technically demanding descents
Road riding for experienced riders
Our grading guidelines have been carefully created based on our many years of cycling experience, as well as customer feedback from our trips. Of course, if you're still struggling to figure out where you fit on the scale, do feel free to give us a quick call and we'll be more than happy to help!
For more information about our grading system click here.
You’re an enthusiast. It’s probably your main hobby and possibly the only sport you take seriously. You’re in pretty good shape and you ride as often as you possibly can. You might participate in the occasional cyclo-sportive and when you do, you probably opt for the longest distances. You love bikes and fantasise about the latest model or the joy of a new set of wheels. You love challenges and you’re looking for a tour with plenty of climbing, preferably with an opportunity to tick off some famous Tour de France cols or the like. You’re a competent descender, and you’re not afraid of speed, but you ride safely and within your limits at all times. You understand road etiquette and you’re comfortable riding in a bunch. You’re happy to do your turn at the front of the pack if the need arises. You know you can ride a century and probably have done a few. It sounds like you are a Grade 4.
We had a great trip in all respects! Most importantly we had excellent guides – all of them were excellent – probably the best we have had in all of our trips.
Are you keen to only travel with your family or friends? Struggling to find the right date? Well, we can organise a private departure for this tour and tailor aspects to suit your group's specific needs. Contact our friendly team and we'll help you turn your dream into reality.
A) Accommodation (shared twin / double en suite rooms)
B) Meals as per the itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
C) Full tour service, including Skedaddle guides
D) Unless stated, at least one leader qualified in first aid
E) Support vehicle and luggage transfers
F) Airport transfer on scheduled arrival day from Biarritz airport (BIQ)
G) Airport transfer on scheduled departure day to Perpignan airport (PGF)
A) Bike hire (available if required)
B) Flights and charges for travelling with your bike (if applicable)
C) Meals not stated in the itinerary
D) Single room (available if required)
E) Travel insurance
F) Personal clothing and equipment
G) Personal expenditure (souvenirs, bar bills, hotel facilities etc)
H) Entrance fees to museums and other attractions en route
I) Airport transfers on days other than the scheduled arrival / departure days
9 things you’ll only understand if you’ve been cycling in France...
What makes it special? The companionship, the scenery, the challenge?
Eat, ride, relax, repeat! We take a trip inside the mind of a cyclist as they navigate their day on tour...
Graham, Berkshire, UKThank you for a brilliant holiday...
Our tour leader was relaxed, confidence inspiring, clearly very experienced and competent whilst being very accommodating with focus on looking after guests. This years team is the new benchmark – the best guide team yet!
In terms of our guides, Isobel was very friendly, bursting with enthusiasm, helpful, well organised and very supportive / focused on customer service and Alexis who despite it being his first trip with Saddle Skedaddle, clearly quickly fitted in well with the rest of team and into the role. Again friendly, supportive and very helpful, as well as a brilliant menu interpreter.
There are cheaper companies / operators who we have used but as with most things in life you pay for what you get. Yes it’s more expensive, but then you get great service and have a brilliant holiday.
Thank you once again!
Ian, CanadaExcellent guides...
Kevin and Chris worked very well together. Good team. Always helpful. Good communication. Two excellent guides!
Mark, Bristol, UKPerfect...
Great holiday, really enjoyed every day. The route was really well thought out and the Tour leader was friendly, encouraging, and really knowledgeable. Both the guides and the other riders were really good company. and the hotels and evening meals were also very good.
It was just about the right level of intensity for me. Challenging rides every day but done at an enjoyable pace with enough time to recover for the next day. Finally the weather far exceeded my expectations (from the long range forecast) – perfect.
Chris, UKOur best holiday for a while...
I think this was our best holiday for a while. The guides were the best we have had. Perhaps our toughest holiday but we felt supported and encouraged as we were a close group cycling wise. The duration of the days was good as well. Finally once more a final thanks to John, Issy, and Alexis – I know they were working and we were guests but they all really made us welcome, supported and more like friends, they couldn’t do enough for us – brilliant.
Chris, Hampshire, UKA great trip!
We had a great trip in all respects! Most importantly we had excellent guides – from John to Isobelle and Alexis our French guide. All of them were excellent – probably the best we have had in all of our trips – friendly, supportive and just lovely people. Hotels varied and all of them were good, clean and comfortable with good facilities.
Lunches were absolutely great and up to the usual Skedaddle Standards!
The last few days of the route were quieter and wilder and the best days cycling of the trip. It was a challenging trip, but certainly an enjoyable one too!
Stacey, London, UKExcellent...
After morocco my second favourite holiday … the course is spectacular and challenging (but doable!) and the group camaraderie was supportive & encouraging. Our guides were truly excellent in managing the team and group.
Karen, Surrey, UKA trip that will be hard to beat!
Stunning scenery, a great group, perfect weather, this trip will be hard to beat! We enjoyed sunshine and temperatures of up to 38c. Finishing in the sea at Collioure was a fun way to end the holiday and the food/accommodation were first rate. Kevin and Chris were great and looked after us all so well all week.
The Telegraph (April, 2019), 10 of the best mountain holidays for 2019As seen in the press...
From St-Jean-de-Luz on the Atlantic coast to Banyuls-sur-Mer on the Mediterranean, this 434-mile (700km) trail is a bucket-list ride for keen cyclists. Following the Tour de France route, the itinerary takes in the challenging cols of Aubisque, Aspin and Peyresourde, and the highest, Col du Tourmalet at 6,939ft. The reward for cycling from 39 to 75 miles (62-120km) per day is the spectacular scenery running the length of the border between France and Spain.
Adrian, Kent, UKGreat, friendly guides...
Can’t fault Kevin or Chris – great guides and great blokes. Did an excellent job, very positive, very friendly and nothing too much trouble for them!