2015 UCI MTB World Cub Round 1 – Lourdes Pyrenees April 2015

UCI MTB World Cup Lourdes
UCI MTB World Cup Lourdes

For the weekend of 10th to 12th April Lourdes will be the first location in the Pyrenees to host what will be round one of the 2015 UCI MTB World Cup series. In 2013 the hills above Lourdes accessed by the Pic du Jer funicular hosted the French national downhill series le Coupe de France.

Spectators who line the course will get to watch the best in the world take on the mountain in male female and junior events. Access to the course is free, but spectators will have to walk up, since the funicular will be reserved for riders and officials. The Team Pits areas are a fantastic place to meet and get autographs from some of your favorite riders. Concerts and shows will be held day and night close to the pits at the bottom of the run.

The track starts at an altitude of 900meters at the top of the Pic du Jer Fanicular. It will be 2km long with an altitude drop of 477 meters. Training will be held on the Friday the 10th April with qualifying on the Saturday, before the finals on the Sunday.

Sam Hill, winner at the Meribel MTB World Cup 2014
Sam Hill, winner at the Meribel MTB World Cup 2014

Thanks to the popularity of Lourdes as a tourist destination, there are a number of options to get to the event. Tarbes/Lourdes Airport is just 15 minutes away and has flights from Stansted and Milan twice a week (Ryanair), Madrid (Iberia), Bruxelles (Jetairfly and Brussels Airlines) and Paris (various airlines).

Pau Pyrenees airport is just 50 minutes away, with flights from London city (City Jet), Paris and Lyon (AirFrance) and Marseille (Twinjet).

The train station of Lourdes is located in the city center, 4km from the World Cup site.

Lourdes is located 180km from Toulouse via A64 motorway/autoroute. Take exit n°12 to Tarbes-Ouest. Then the national route 21 brings you all the way to Lourdes.

Bike friendly accommodation in and around Lourdes:

Hotel Lourdes – Beautiful bike friendly hotel in central Lourdes with secure bike storage room. 5 minutes by car or 10 minutes by bike.

Chez Passet – Popular bike specialist Accommodation on the outskirts on Lourdes with beautiful rooms, fully equipped bike storage and workshop and a swimming pool in the uci-mountain-bike-world-cup-2014garden.

Pyrenees trip – Gite Belle Vie, Cols Tourmalet, Aspin and Peyresourde

Gite Belle Vie - Start of Col du Tourmalet
Gite Belle Vie – Start of Col du Tourmalet

Sunday 22nd of March the weather remained very unsettled, but at least I woke with a view of the mountain. In the morning I popped down the road to meet Eric and Angela, the owners of their very interesting and beautiful Gite Belle Vie. The property is set in an idyllic position surrounded by forests, a mountain stream and grazing farmland. It is set back a couple of hundred meters back from the main road but very close to the starting point of both the Col du Tourmalet and the Col d’Aspin in the village of Saint Marie de Campan.

Three rental Gites have been lovingly created from old stone outhouse with 1, 2 and 3 bedroom. Each can be rented individually, or together with a group of up to 12 people. Eric and Angela can also provide breakfast and or an evening meal, brought right to your Gite. All have modern kitchens and living rooms, complete with wifi throughout, television with TNT satellite plus wood burning stoves if the evenings get a little chilly. Each unit has its own private terrace and other seating is dotted around the grounds, including a one around a specially created fire pit next to the banks of the stream.

What makes this business even more interesting is that their son runs his own cycling guiding and tours, which can be based at the Gites as well as other locations around France. He is able to design and create bespoke cycling holidays or vacations to match each individual clients requirements. Many of these tours involve the participation of ex professional cyclists.

Col d'Aspin
Col d’Aspin

Since the Col du Tourmalet is unfortunately closed at this time of the year, I headed east over the Col d’Aspin and down into Arreau in the reverse direction of what will be part of the stage 11 of the 2015 Tour de France. From here it’s up the Louron Valley and over the Col de Peyresourde and down into the spa town of Bagnères de Luchon, the start of the famous climb to Superbagnères. From Luchon it is possible to pass into Spain via the Col du Portillon.

Bagneres de Luchon
Bagneres de Luchon

Luchon marked the end of my Pyrenees trip as from here it was a short drive back to

Toulouse and my return flight. I shall be back in the summer to see it in its full cycling glory.

For more information on any properties in the area, do take a look at our Col du Tourmalet pages or contact us on enquiries@bikelodging.com

Pyrenees Trip – Vallée de Campan

Bagnères de Bigorre
Bagnères de Bigorre

I spent the afternoon of the 21st March in Bagnères de Bigorre , which is a beautiful market town at the altitude of 550m and located in the foothills of the Pyrenees in the Campan Valley close to the start of the climb to the Col du Tourmalet. It has had a wealth of history since 28BC, when the Romans  first developed the regions natural thermal hot springs. Over the years plagues, earthquakes and fires have shaped the fortunes of this pretty town.

During the summer the town is famous for its floral displays and the bars and cafes are busy with happy cyclists and mountain bikers. Much of the town center is made up of beautiful historic buildings and classical architecture.

Tour de France passing the chalet
Tour de France passing the chalet

My evening was spent with Carolyn and Stephan who own a catered chalet just after the turning to the Col du Tourmalet at Saint Marie de Campan. This beautiful chalet with 4 very comfortable en-suite bedrooms, is surrounded by lush green fields and the sounds of grazing sheep. The Tour de France almost always passes within 100meters of their door on the way up or down the Col du Tourmalet and on the odd occasion the climb is not used, then they would likely be using the Col d’Aspin, which starts back in their local village. Carolyn and Stephan are fantastic

Chalet Tourmalet
Chalet Tourmalet

hosts, keen Tour de France fans and a wealth of knowledge of the local area.

When I met with them last weekend, they still have a room available for the week of this summers Tour de France. Stage 11 from Pau to Cauterets will once again pass right past their door.

Accommodation in the Col du Tourmalet area

Pyrenees trip day 2 – Bagneres de Bigorre

Cycling accommodation in the heart of the Pyrenees

This morning I had the pleasure to meet Tim and Di from Canada who settled in the area about 5 years ago to create their cycling accommodation business. Having spend time in the Alps they chose a location just a couple of kilometers from the popular tourist town of Lourdes at the entrance to the Valley des Gaves, and the route to the more popular side of the Col du Tourmalet. However this location also provides easy access to four other cycling valleys, offering numerous circular routes over famous Tour de France Col/mountain passes. It is also surrounded by hundreds of kilometers of Yorkshire Dales style rolling farmland and hills.

Beautiful gardens with swimming pool

The property itself is located in a very quiet hamlet facing south with views over the major peaks, but just a couple of kilometres from Lourdes and all the amenities of a popular major tourist town. The owners have a selection of city bikes, which they lend to clients who fancy popping into town for a drink or dinner, but don’t want to take their own precious road bikes.

Although you wouldn’t know it from their quiet position, Lourdes attracts millions of visitors every year,  meaning it has great communications, such as a duel carriageway all the way from the Autoroute/motorway and an international airport, with regular RyanAir flights from the UK. Clients catching the early morning flight from the UK can be at the property by 10am and on their bikes that morning. Tarbes Lourdes Pyrenees Airport

Secure bike storage with workshop

Tim and Di have created a little cycling paradise, with huge beautifully renovated and decorated rooms. Their bike storage and work shop is fully equipped with every tool you could need and plenty of inside space to work on your bikes, should the weather be unkind. Plus of course a fridge full of beers for your après ride drink. Parking is private and off road within their huge closed off courtyard. They also have lovely relaxed gardens behind the property with a good sized swimming pool.

To top it all off, Tim and Di are both keen cyclists with fantastic knowledge of the region.

Cycling accommodation near Lourdes and Col du Tourmalet

Pyrenees trip. Lourdes, and the Vallees des Gaves

The picturesque village of Saint Sevin
The picturesque village of Saint Sevin

Today was an early start with a flight from Lyon to Toulouse and then a drive down to the Pyrenees to continue my research and meetings in popular cycling destinations.

The first meeting of the day was with John Kirk, who has owned a hotel in the beautiful village of Saint Savin, just above Argeles Gazost. The hotel sits just up out the summer heat of the valley floor, with spectacular south facing up the Gaves Valley toward the Col du Tormalet.  The 15 bedroom, 30 bed hotel is popular with cyclists thanks to its location in the heart of some of the most famous cycling routes in the world. The local tourist office sells a cycling guide, available in various languages with 20 detailed road cycling routes in the area, including the Col du Tourmalet and the Col d’Aubisque, which starts right from the hotels front door. John is a keen chef and former road cycling racer. He is extremely enthusiastic about cycling in his region and always happy to offer a little route advice for the day.

Ardiden Velos
Ardiden Velos

Later in the afternoon I popped up to see the resort of Luz-Saint-Sauveur at the start of the climb to the Col du Tourmalet. Despite being the later end of the winter ski season, it is clear to see that this is a fun family friendly tourist location which will be bustling with cyclists and mountain bikers come the summer. The local bike shop Ardiden Velos, is run by English couple Matthew and Nicolette Collins and they offer some of the best bikes in the area.

Hotel Lourdes
Hotel Lourdes

My final stop today was at the Hotel in the town or Lourdes at the entrance to the valley. Located right in the heart of the town, this hotel has very comfortable bedrooms, all en-suite and provides a large breakfast buffet. The owner is a keen cycling fan and encourages the cyclists to stay at the hotel. They offer secure bike storage, free transfers from the local airport or train station. They are happy with groups passing through the region, even for just one night and should they wish to, will allow groups to make use of their kitchen to prepare their own meals.

Tomorrow I head to Bagneres de Bigorre on the other side of the Col du Tourmalet and the Valley de Campan.

Montée du Géant du Tourmalet

The Geant du Tourmalet being fixed into place for the summer on the Col du Tourmalet
The Geant du Tourmalet being fixed into place for the summer on the Col du Tourmalet

On every first saturday of June, the statue of Octave Lapize is transported from its winter resting place in Gerde, Bagneres de Bigorre, to its famous prominent summer position on the Col du Tourmalet. The statue, inaugurated in 1999, is a tribute to the 1910 Tour de France winner Octave Lapize. That year saw the Tour’s first use of the mountain passes of the Pyrenees. During that gruelling 325km stage, with seven climbs on unpaved roads, using single speed gears, Lapize was famously quoted as screaming ‘vous êtes des assassins’ to race officials.

Octave Lapize 1910 winner of the Tour de France and 1st stage in the Pyrenees
Octave Lapize 1910 winner of the Tour de France and 1st stage in the Pyrenees

These days the day is a celebration of cycling and the history of the Tour de France in the Pyrenees. The day starts in Bagneres de Bigorre where the statue is loaded onto the truck and taken to the start line. Hundreds of cyclists, many in traditional cycling clothes and some on vintage bikes, line up to follow the truck up the famous climb. The route is lined with local people playing live music and farmers offering a selection of regional wines, sausages and cheeses.

The procession culminates at the summit, where the statue is fixed into place in front of a back drop of stunning scenery and happy cyclists.

For bike friendly accommodation close to the Col du Tourmalet visit our Pyrenees location page.