Sherston Velo Pyrenees Tour de France 2017
In July, nine members of Sherston Velo headed down to the beautiful Ariege département in the heart of the French Pyrenees. The group stayed at the delightful Pyrenees Haven, near Ax les Thermes, where we were brilliantly looked after by owners Gary and Debbie.
On Bastille Day, Friday 14th July, we headed out for a steady 80km ride to meet the TDF route near Massat on the Mur de Péguère - the final climb of the day's race. Our ride out started with the beautiful rolling route de corniche along the valley to Tarascon. After a coffee stop and a supermarket sweep for picnic supplies and a little red wine, we headed up to the Col de Port. From there a short closed-road ride down the other side of the col took us to the race route on the Mur de Péguère.
Picture credits: Jason Haigh, Greg Hughes, Tony Dannatt, Helen Berry, Jim Power, Peter Cattermole, Eurosport.
We found a great viewpoint above the road on the Mur and settled in for a picnic lunch; refreshment; banter with the local Norwegians, Spanish, French and gendarmes; the publicity Caravan-of-tat; and finally the race itself. Landa and Contador first, followed by groups distanced by the stage's aggressive racing. After a pit-stop at the cafe on the Col de Port, we had a fast descent back to Tarascon and the end of a magnificent day of cycling.
Saturday's ride took in the Col de Pailhères, Le Bousquet and the Col du Pradel on a beautiful hot day. For those who took on the full route it was 130km with 3,500m of long climbs, fast descents, wonderful scenery and great teamwork. Major and minor shortcut options meant that everyone managed a challenging ride and earned their cold beer and paddle in the thermal waters back at Ax.
Sunday was all about the Plateau de Beille - a ski station at the end of a hard 16km, 1300m climb and an equally fast (for some) descent back after coffees and Perriers at the cafe on top. Lunch was followed by a steady ride home along the valley for most, and an extra ride up to the ski station at Ax 3 Domaines for a brave two.