Europe's Best Cycling Tours: Guides & Services - Jean-Philippe Soule

"The Pyrenees offer the most diverse network of spectacular mountain roads making it The world's best cycling destination!" ~VéloTopo

"The Pyrenees offer the most diverse network of spectacular mountain roads!" ~VéloTopo

Pyrenees Cycling Itineraries: Aspin & Hourquette-d'Ancizan Cycling Route

Aspin & Hourquette-d'Ancizan Cycling Route

Aspin & Hourquette-d'Ancizan Mountain Climb Profile
Aspin & Hourquette-d'Ancizan Mountain Climb Profile

This route begins and ends in the ski town of Saint-Lary. It starts with the famous climb of Col d'Aspin, a classic favorite mountain pass of the Tour de France and takes you through the magical and remote valley that leads up to Hourquette-d'Ancizan.

You'll begin with a gentle descent into the town of Arreau, an excellent opportunity to spin your legs before the D918 climb to Col d'Aspin. Aspin isn't overwhelmingly difficult on its own: in the Tour it often comes as a first or second climb before cyclists head to Tourmalet, SuperBagnères or Pla d'Adet. On this route, too, it is the first of two climbs, opening up at the top to reveal impressive views over the entire valley of Campan.

D918 continues with a fun descent on a perfectly smooth road taking you down to the lake and cross-country ski area at Payolle. I recommend riding this one slightly off-season and/or early in the morning to avoid the summer-vacation and sunny-weekend crowds.

From Payolle, you'll head south on a narrow road that winds through a gorgeous alpine forest. When the switchbacks begin, the road opens onto enchanting verdant hills where cattle, sheep, horses, and even wild deer or mountain goats graze.

Riding remote D113 outside of the main tourist season of July and August feels like you're discovering a hidden and forgotten valley that takes you back centuries. The scenery is so captivating that you may reach the top of Hourquette d'Ancizan without even noticing the climb.

You'll complete your descent to the village of Guchen on the same road, though here it is much narrower than the road from Aspin and may not be quite as smooth everywhere. Beware of possible patches of gravel. From Guchen, the main road that will take you the last 6 kilometers (3.7 mi) to Saint-Lary with a mere 50 meters (164 ft) of elevation gain.

A rise of 1,472 meters (4,830 ft) over 56 kilometers (34.8 mi) makes this a minimally challenging route for strong climbers and experienced cyclists, but it will be difficult for novices. The scenery along this route is unique and quite different from the wide-open, higher mountain passes.

I highly recommend this route if you don't feel strong enough to try the high passes, but still want to get a true feel for the Pyrénées. It also makes an ideal first day warm-up before undertaking longer routes or an easier day between two challenging ones. Regardless of your accomplishment level, this is a route that will remain etched in your memory.


Major Climbs: Aspin & Hourquette-d'Ancizan

Distance: 50 km | 31 mi

Elevation Gain: 1390 m | 4,561 ft

Starting Location: St-Lary

Period of the Year: May to October

Riding Time: 3h01'

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