Pyrenees Day 2 - Into the Mountains
Col d'Aubisgue & Col du Soulor

Originally this was the day I was fearing the most -  an 85 mile day culminating in the HC Climb of the Aubisque. A complete reversal of my usual Alpine days of big climb in the morning and easier afternoons. The schedule change made this day easier; an extra 20 miles yesterday meant that we were 20 miles fresher at the foot of the Aubisque than we would have been.

Anyway before that it was a 7am breakfast and an 8am start - we wanted to be out on the road before the big group of Canadians who were staying in the same hotel and who are doing a similar route. Plus our guide Claude likes to go for a ride when we have reached the hotel so an early finish helps him. Apart from struggling to eat breakfast that early I am too in favour of the early starts and extra free time in the afternoon. I could, for instance go for a dip in the hotel pool or ride 5 miles up the road to the 'parc animalier de Pryenees'. Instead I chose to stay here and and recover - tomorrow is the Queen stage featuring the Tourmalet and Aspin.

Back to today, it was fresh at 8am but our ride started with a 2km climb that soon warmed us up. This is a un-named undulation round here but back home it would major feature. The road continued to undulate for the first 35km (see profile at bottom of page) before an easy 10km false-flat climb up the Ossau Valley to Laruns and the base of the climb. By now it was very hot so we filled our bidons and started the first major test of the week.

The Aubisque starts easy; the first 4km to the  thermal-spa town of Eau Bonne was around 5% but it got much harder after that. Multiple kilometres at 10%, a long stretch at 13% and an ever-changing gradient. Alpine roads are much more consistent than Pyrenean roads and that makes roads like the Aubisque much more tiring than the stats suggest they will do. One rider was still having issues with the set-up of his hire-bike so he jumped in the van for the second half. I was second man up, it took me 1'40'' to climb, plus a couple of minutes to stop for photos.

Col d'Aubisque: Road signs says 1,709m, my Garmin says max height 1,680m

Aubisque - land of the giants

We had lunch at the Col before a 7km descent, including the famous stretch from a tour photo where a stretched peleton climb up the narrow road with next to no barriers, before the 2km climb to the Col du Soulor at 1,474m

Then a glorious descent on beautiful tarmac - I almost beat the van back to Argeles-Gazost - and a 5km ride along the valley, past the zoo, to the hotel at Agos-Vidalos. There is a well-used variant to this route, rather than using the undulating route via Arudy, there is the option of taking the road a few km to the south over the Col de Marie-Blanque which meets our route in the Ossau Valley at Bielle, about halfway between Arudy and Laruns. I have driven over this climb - it is brutal. It is only about 6km in length but the top 3km average about 12%. Claude says it is 2km shorter.

Strangely despite my Garmin telling me that the max height I reached was 1,680m when I exported the file to create the profle, the peak is showing 'correctly' at 1,709m. Could  the Garmin be undercalling the total height gain of 2,100m for the day?
Profile - from GPS Vizualiser .com
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