2 Cols Craziness- Col de Peyresourde (1569 m) and Col de Val Louron-Azet (1580 m)

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Thursday 30 October 2014

2 Cols Craziness- Col de Peyresourde (1569 m) and Col de Val Louron-Azet (1580 m)

When the 2014 Tour de France departed St Gaudens on 23rd July (Stage 17) they had 4 big climbs ahead of them. We'd already tackled one (a Pla d'Adet summit finish) the day before and with the fine weather continuing in the Pyrenees we decided to tackle 2 more on Thursday. Our plan was to cycle south from our overnight base in Arreau, following the Vallee du Louron  south towards Loudenvielle, from where we would bear east to climb the Col de Peyresourde, a total climb of 900m from our motorhome. Once reaching the top, legs permitting, we'd head back down through Loudenvielle to begin our second climb to the Col de Val Louron Azet (Col d'Azet), ascending a little under 700m before cruising down the opposite side of the col towards Saint Lary and back to the motorhome. Phew! It sounded so easy and we'd done more total climbing in one day before...we thought.

The road climbed gently at first as we ascended an easy few hundred metres to the start of the Peyresourde which began a few kilometres north of Loudenvielle. Starting at 900m we would cycle up to the col at 1569m over the next 9.5km, an average of 'just' 7%. However, as seems to be the norm on these climbs what that really meant was a couple of flattish kilometres followed by a more incessant 8 - 9% for the rest. Although the pros had ascended this col from the other side last July, the climb was a similar gradient and it felt good to be heading towards another landmark. In fact, the time seemed to fly by despite the relatively long dragging sections interspersed with just a small handful of switchbacks.

The only downside was that after the stunning open scenery we'd enjoyed the previous day towards the Pla d'Adet, this route often faced away from the mountainous backdrop and a smattering of cloud cover left us feeling a little chilly in the breeze. Never mind, we pushed on nonetheless and after an hour and a half of riding we crested the col, just as the clouds began to disperse. From this lofty viewpoint the view finally opened to reveal distant peaks to both the east and west, with pointed ridges extending along the skyline. It was a great reward for our efforts, as was the oats and banana we enjoyed as we sat looking east towards the peaks.

After twenty minutes or so it was time to move and we swiftly cruised down to Loudenvielle to contemplate the second climb of the day. A short rise out of town made us wonder if our plan was so sensible after all since even in the short descent a deep ache had developed in our legs from our first effort of the day. It was a stark taste of the sort of challenge the pros must overcome day after day on their epic mountain stages. However, reminding ourselves we were (trying to be) hardy cyclists and resolving to at least try the climb and see if our legs would wake up once more we threaded our way to the base of the Col d'Azet.

This particular climb would take us from 970m to 1580m over just 7.5km, a daunting average of 8.1% which got going almost immediately. Our legs didn't really have much of a choice but to warm up quickly and we soon rediscovered our climbing rhythm as we zig-zagged up the short switchbacks. Unlike the Peyresourde earlier that day, the Col d'Azet was one of the most beautiful climbs we had yet attempted with spectacular panoramic views over the surrounding mountains.

With the bright sun that had emerged from the clouds, the excitement of tackling this famous col and the breathtaking scenery we both felt pretty euphoric (and breathless) as we pushed on ever upwards towards the top. Stopping only briefly to take a few snaps, although the gradient was especially harsh in places, the shortness of the climb meant that we reached the top relatively soon to be treated to one of the best viewpoints we had yet discovered in the Pyrenees.

Although the Col d'Azet is relatively low, its position nestled between the Vallee d'Aure and Vallee du Louron mean that it looks out over a huge number of peaks in every direction. The epic scale of the scene in front of us was magnificent and difficult to put into words, with the warm afternoon sun providing the perfect setting to sit and enjoy it for as long as we could. It was a real magical moment for both of us after our exertions. It was particularly rewarding to be able to look back to the Peyresourde and ahead to the Pla d'Adet that we had visited the day before, in addition to Pic de Neouvielle in the distance (3091m) above the Lac de Cap de Long that we had also cycled to on Tuesday.

Sadly, as the sun began to set we knew we still had at least 15-20km left to reach the motorhome and with the long shadows starting to creep into the valley floor ahead of us we knew it would be chilly. So we said farewell to the Col d'Azet and raced downhill, braced against the chilly air as we entered the shadows of the hills but feeling happy and contented to have enjoyed this amazing day, plus a little proud that our legs had managed the effort.

Cycle Information: 
Motorhome Base: Arreau
Start/ End Point: Arreau

Climb to Col de Peyresourde
Distance: 8.6km from Armenteule in the Vallée de Louron
Ascent: 654m
Average Gradient: 7.6%

Climb to Col de Val Louron-Azet
Distance: 7.4km from Genos just outside of Loudenville
Ascent: 614m
Average Gradient: 8.3%

Other Related Posts:
Road Cycling in the Hautes-Pyrénées - The Most Famous & Difficult Climbs of the Tour de France

7 Spectacular Cycling Climbs From Vallée d'Aure, Hautes-Pyrénées - Arreau & Saint-Lary-Soulan

Tackling 4 Amazing Cycling Climbs in the Ariege-Pyrénées, France - and 4 for the Future!

See All Our Cycling Climbs in the Pyrenees

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