Day 5: Argelès-Gazost to Luchon

Saturday June 11, 2011, 101 km (63 miles) – Total so far: 513 km (319 miles)

The weather forecast promised some welcome sunshine today as our route covered the highest point of the trip. The Col du Tourmalet (2115 meters) was the first climb of the day and started almost as soon as we left Argelès-Gazost with a long straight uphill section following the Gorge de Luz before the climb proper began in Luz-St-Sauveur. There were plenty of other cyclists about too which was nice, we’ve seen surprisingly few on the trip so far.

Shortly after passing through the village of Bareges the road split in two with a new road for cars and the old road now designated a cycle path in honour of recently deceased former Tour-de-France winner and all round cycling legend Laurent Fignon. Both were signposted Col du Tourmalet so Jon took the car route and I took ‘La Voie Laurent Fignon’, the Fignon route was closed to motorised traffic so there were no car tyres to pick up sharp objects, consequently I punctured half way up. The weather was much better today and the views spectacular, we had a cake and a coffee in the café at the summit before heading down to lunch at the start of the Col d’Aspin.

The Col d’Aspin was a nice easy climb but the descent was something else. I would say, without doubt, one of the best I’ve ever done – and I’ve done a few. Nice and technical, but not too steep, with some nice long straight sections to give your braking hands some respite. Long too at 13kms. I was almost tempted to turn about and ride back up it just so I could descend again.

The Peyresourde was less inspiring, but the café at the top had some interesting wooden puzzles that entertained us over coffee before our final descent of the day to Bagnères-de-Luchon.

Bagnères seems to have a bit of life to it despite being out of season, a nice little town. It would be nice to spend a bit more time here and maybe tackle the area’s other famous Tour de France climb to Superbagnères, site of famous victories by LeMond, Hinault and Robert Millar.

View from Hotel room, first light.

View from Hotel room, first light.

The newer road up the Tourmalet.

The newer road up the Tourmalet.

The spot where I punctured on the Col du Tourmalet, la Voie Laurent Fignon. Sometimes the iPhone takes a good pic

The spot where I punctured on the Col du Tourmalet. Sometimes the iPhone takes an interesting pic

Approaching snow and cloud.

Approaching snow and cloud.

There were plenty of other cyclists about today

There were plenty of other cyclists about today

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