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

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Wednesday 11 February 2015

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

The Vallée d'Aure, situated in the Hautes-Pyrenees to the south of Lannemezan, is no stranger to cycling activity. The Tour de France is an almost annual visitor to this area, tackling one or more of the many cycling challenges that can be reached from this stunning valley. Surrounded by high mountains and lush pastures not only are these climbs breathlessly tough, they are set against a grand backdrop of majestic summits and far reaching views. During our five day stay in the area we tackled 7 of these epic climbs. Read the descriptions below and follow the links for more information.

1. Col d'Aspin (1469m)
Arguably the most famous name in the region, the ascent from Arreau in Vallée d'Aure is the more difficult side at 12km and rising 779m at 6.5% average. However, the first 2km are almost flat meaning the final 10km are closer to 8%. It has been used in the Tour de France 71 times since first appearing in 1910, where it features as a Category 1 climb often linking the Col de Peyresourde and the Col du Tourmalet. We tackled this one from Arreau in the late afternoon sunshine, sweating against magical hazy views of the distant mountains.

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2. Col de Peyresourde (1569m)
Featuring 47 times in the Tour de France since 1910, this category 1 climb is longest when tackled from Bagneres de Luchon to the east. However, from Armenteule in the Vallée de Louron which extends off from  Vallée d'Aure, the 8.3km at 7.6% average gradient are still challenging with several sharp switchbacks combined with a dragging 2km at the top. The view from the col, looking both east and west is fantastic. We tackled this climb as part of a loop from Arreau that also included the Col de Val Louron-Azet.

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3. Col de Val Louron-Azet (1580m)
Short and steep are 2 words that describe this climb. Starting at Genos, just outside of Loudenville, from the Vallée de Louron side the climb is just 7.4km long, but with an average of 8.3%. The steepest sections exceed 13%! Not used in the Tour de France until 1997, it has since featured 6 times including in 2013 and 2014. We tackled this climb straight after the Col de Peyresourde as part of a loop from Arreau and the views from the col was, in our opinion, the best in the area with 2 dramatic valleys and countless peaks on the horizon.

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4. Pla d'Adet (1700m)
Starting in Vignec just outside of St Lary Soulan the climb to Pla d'Adet is a popular summit finish for the Tour de France featuring 10 times since it appeared in 1974, most recently in 2014. The road rises 861m over 10.7km at an average of 8%. But the average hides the fact that it is the opening 5km that really punish riders with many sections of 12%. We did this climb from Saint-Lary-Soulan on a baking afternoon and found it punishing, although the views over the valley below are postcard beautiful.

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5. Lac Cap de Long (2175m)
Despite not being used in the Tour de France, the climb to Lac Cap De Long, a mountain reservoir ringed by rocky summits of the Parc National des Pyrenees, is definitely the hardest climb in this list. At almost 24km long the climb begins gently for several kilometres but starts ramping up with most sections near the top in between 7-11%. Fortunately much of the climb is kept cooler by trees in the valley, although descending over 1300m continuously on a chilly evening was tough. We parked our motorhome in the car park at Le Pont du Moudang, near Argnouet-Fabian, to begin this climb, although it would be possible to start the ride from Saint-Lary-Soulan as well.

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6. Col de Beyrede (1417m)
Just north of the Arreau, this tough climb begins from Sarrancolin with a shockingly steep opening kilometre. This settles down quickly and the first half of the climb is relatively gentle allowing a good pedaling rhythm, when suddenly the road kicks up with several back to back sections well over 10%. The roads are narrow, with several farms and plenty of cow evidence, making this feel like a much less sanitised road than some of the more well known climbs. The gradient flattens again near the top to a gentle col, although the descent to the main road is poorly surfaced in places. The road you join leads back up to Col d'Aspin from the west, but we continued on to Horquette d'Ancizan instead.

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7. Horquette d'Ancizan (1564m)
Featured twice in the Tour de France, in 2011 and 2013 the Horquette d'Ancizan lies a little to the south of the Col d'Aspin. The climb from Ancizan in the Val d'Aure is tough, with a rise of 803m over 10.3km at 7.8% average, although some sections exceed 12%. We actually reached this col from the other side, having crossed the Col de Beyrede, as part of a loop from Arreau, and descending to Espiadet (1080m) before passing Lac de Payolle and approaching the col from the west. This made it a shorter climb, at just 8.6km and 2.6% average, although that hides the fact tht 4km front the top you descend almost 100m and have to reclimb it over a final, harder 3km approach.

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Other Rides Nearby
The Vallée d'Aure and Vallée de Louron lie right in the heart of the Hautes-Pyrenees and are bounded on both sides by other valleys also featuring spectacular climbs that we tackled as well.

Click here for a complete list of Tour de France climbs in the Hautes-Pyrenees 

To the west the road over the Col d'Aspin leads in to the famous Col de Tourmalet which itself leads to the climb to Station Luz Ardiden.

Heading up to Station Luz Ardiden

To the east the road over Col de Peyresourde continues to Bagneres de Luchon with climbs such as the Col de Portillon, Port de Bales and Superbagneres.

Nearing the top of Port de Bales

With so many climbs joined together a lucky cyclist with a support car could easily put together long, multi col loops or even consider tackling the Route des Cols, 34 cols from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, which is one we are considering for the future.

Other Related Posts:

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

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

See All Our Cycling Climbs in the Pyrenees

Hiking in the Hautes-Pyrénées & the Pyrénées National Park - Gavarnie & Cauterets

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