Another Header

June 10, 2010


Filed under: Europe 2010, France, France, Road Bike Travel, Travel — anotherheader @ 9:38 pm

Becky around 6 km from the top of Hautacam

Our arrival in the French Pyrenees town of Argeles-Gazost signaled a change in the focus of our trip. To this point, the sights, fine food, and good wine had been our focus. Now it was time for some heavy-duty bike riding.

Innocent enough, the climb to Hautacam begins

Argeles-Gazost sits in the midst of classic Pyrenean road riding. The climbs ring with familiarity of the passage of numerous Tours de France. Nearby Col d’Aubisque, Col d’Aspin, Luz-Ardiden, Hautacam, Col du Tourmalet and others are all familiar names. Well, at least in our household…during the Tour de France…when the TV is on…and Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen are prattling on. With all these Pyrenean climbs close to our base in Argeles-Gazost, which ones would we ride and could we reach the top?

Numerous shrines appear along the route up to Hautacam. On this climb, praying that you'd get to the top seemed like a good idea.

For our first ride we chose Hautacam. We could reach the base of the climb to Hautacam easily from our inn. Simple enough. The Hautacam route climbs about 3,600 feet over about 10 miles averaging 6.8%. Roughly three Old La Honda’s from back home. Sounds reasonable, though the “6.8%” includes a much shallower run in and then the road climbs relentlessly around 8% for miles. At the start, the route to Hautacam passes through along a tree-shaded road through small villages. Higher up, the shade is gone as the sun-baked road passes open alpine pastures eventually reaching the treeless expanse at the ski resort base area near 5,000 feet. Unfortunately the beautiful scenery will not distract riders from the pain and suffering inflicted by this HC or “beyond category” rated climb. Hautacam has been used many times as a stage in the Tour de France most recently in 2000 and 2008.

Becky nears the last sweeping switchback before the Hautacam parking lot.

For us, on a hot day in the bright sun and with 30 lbs or so of full suspension mountain bikes, Hautacam was a beast of a climb. We made it to the ski resort base, but we suffered mightily. Perhaps our pintxos and txakoli diet (our food and wine choice at our last stop in San Sebastian) was not the best training regimen.

Becky stands under the signpost at the top. This type of signpost provides altitude and gradient information each kilometer.

With the mountain bikes, the descent was screaming fast. The relentless slope on the climb turns into a continuous full speed rip down the hill. At the bottom, all that was left was to pick the bugs out of the teeth and spin back to our room.

Back at our hotel, the aptly named Bon Repos (Good Rest, in French), we were ready to resume our training regimen. OK, so where do we find the fine food and good wine again?


  1. The greenery looks like Colorado.

    Comment by Paul E. K. — June 11, 2010 @ 12:28 pm

  2. […] being crushed on our climb of Hautacam we seriously doubted the lucidity of our col climbing endeavors.  Certainly it was foolish for us […]

    Pingback by Col du Tourmalet « Another Header — June 15, 2010 @ 9:59 am

  3. […] had already climbed Les Deux Alpes, Hautacam, Alpe d’Huez, and Col du Tourmalet on this trip.  That made for three hors catégorie and one […]

    Pingback by Bormio 3000 « Another Header — August 2, 2010 @ 6:39 am

  4. […] the route’s wet slick tunnels were scary pitch dark.  All of our descents off of the big climbs, Hautacam, Ventoux, Col du Tourmalet, and Alpe d’Huez have been ripping fast fun.  Sometimes it seems we […]

    Pingback by Passo dello Stelvio « Another Header — August 3, 2010 @ 6:52 am

  5. […] the way into Argeles-Gazost and Pyrenean road biking, we passed through the town of Lourdes.  The city’s major attraction and, seemingly, its major […]

    Pingback by France: Lourdes « Another Header — November 8, 2010 @ 10:09 pm

  6. […] the theme fixed in place, we left Argeles-Gazost and headed into the Pyrenees.  Our driving route covered many of the roads and passes transited in […]

    Pingback by Argeles-Gazost to Sort and onto Andorra « Another Header — November 13, 2010 @ 6:50 pm

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