Plateau de Beille from Les Cabannes – 1785m - 9 Months Before Le Tour Arrives

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Thursday 20 November 2014

Plateau de Beille from Les Cabannes – 1785m - 9 Months Before Le Tour Arrives

Driving away from Camping Le Sedour after more than 2 weeks of tranquility and enjoying the relative ease of campsite living was a sad occasion. After the longest time we had stayed in one place since leaving Holland 6 months before, the campsite had begun to feel very homely to both of us and it has hard to say goodbye. However, setting off shortly after lunchtime on Thursday we were also soon reminded of the thrill of being on the open road and immediately began looking forward to the adventures to follow in the days ahead. Our next stop was just 12km away in the village of Les Cabannes where the climb to Plateau de Beille began.

When we had been looking at options for moving on from Tarascon-sur-Ariege we'd initially thought of either the French coast at Perpignan and then south into Spain, or going directly to Spain via Andorra. However, checking the weather for the weekend ahead revealed that there were rain clouds expected over the nearby French coast, spreading inland just to the north of the Pyrenees, whilst the temperature in Spain to the south of the mountains were in the low teens. In contrast the Ariege region that we were already staying in was forecast to reach a balmy 20 degrees in the afternoons with lots of sunshine. Why move when the best weather is already above your head?

And so we had decided to try at least one more Tour de France climb before leaving the mountains and had chosen the nearby Plateau de Beille, partly as there was a motorhome aire right at the bottom and partly as it was such a challenging prospect and we wanted to give it a try. Reaching 1785m at the ski station summit, the dead end road out of Les Cabannes to Plateau de Beille rises a total of 1250m over 16km at a leg burning average of 7.8%. When the Tour de France visits this road for a summit finish, as will be the case next July, this climb is graded a hors categorie for a reason!

Parking the motorhome in Les Cabannes by mid-afternoon we immediately pulled on our lycra and set off to begin the climb, which rose out of the village centre just a few hundred metres from our motorhome. The sun was very warm and we found ourselves back in just our shorts and t-shirts as the climb soon had us working hard. A little too hard really since after some days off the bikes our enthusiasm had us pounding hard like we were racing the Tour ourselves. It was a surreal experience to be sweating up a Pyrenean climb in summer gear with a bright blue sky over head...on the 20th November.

Expecting an average of 7.8% we were a bit surprised to find the first 10km of the ascent to be closer to 9% as we rapidly ascended through autumn forests, quickly rising high above the valley floor. In no time at all the top of a vertical cliff face that stood towering above our motorhome was level with our eyes and we were still going up. Looking out over the valley to the mountains beyond, with even higher snow topped peaks just starting to poke out behind those was a real treat. When we'd been riding a few weeks beforehand the snow was yet to arrive, but now that it had started to show on the tops it really made the scenery that bit more majestic. We both felt a great sense of elation to be in this place, in the sunshine and healthy enough to just jump on our bikes like this. It was a wonderful feeling.

Towards the top of the climb the trees thinned out and the gradient eased as we began passing through more open terrain at the beginning of a flattened ridge that led to the ski station. The terrain meant that we could now look to both left and right to enjoy mountain scenery, with the view on our right (eastwards) being especially magnificent as the silhouettes of 3000m+ peaks capped with snow filled the skyline with the sun just starting to move behind them.

Arriving at Plateau de Beille in under 2 hours we were able to bask in the late afternoon sun and try and absorb this awesome view. We had never expected to have reached so high on our bikes this late in the year, but apart from one icy/snow covered section of road near the summit the way had still been clear. It had been a real treat for the two of us which we wanted to revel in for as long as we could, although since it was now 5pm we soon had to wrap up for the swift descent to our motorhome. It had been an unexpectedly good ride and one didn't want to forget. The only disappointment was that there was no sign at the summit for our customary photo.

Cycle Information: 
Motorhome Base – Les Cabannes
Start/ End Point: Les Cabannes
Distance: 16km
Ascent: 1250m

Average Gradient: 7.8%

Other Related Posts:
4 Amazing Cycling Climbs in the Ariege-Pyrénées, France - and 4 for the Future!

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

See All Our Cycling Climbs in the Pyrenees

7 Activities To Do Whilst Staying in Tarascon-sur-Ariege - Visiting the Ariege-Pyrénées

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