Fly to Toulouse then transfer to the town of Pau, located at the foot of the Pyrenees with spectacular views over the distant mountain range. We will be staying near to the historic castle that was the birthplace to Henry IV. There are plenty of cafes, restaurants and shops within easy walking distance of the hotel. In the evening there will be a full welcome briefing and the opportunity to make any adjustments to your bike.
Today will be a great introduction to road riding in the Pyrenees and the first opportunity to test your climbing legs. A steady warm up takes us to Laruns and the start of the famous Col d'Aubisque climb (1709m). This is a fantastic 17km hors category ascent through stunning countryside. The first section to Eaux-Bonnes is around 5% in gradient but after here there is little respite with the steepest pitches (around 10%) as we pass the ski resort of Gourette. At the summit you are rewarded with fantastic scenery and a dramatic balcony road that clings to the mountainside until we cross the Col de Soulor (1474m). From here it?s a steady descent along nice roads all the way back to Pau. Ride approximately 120km with 1600m of ascent.
This morning there'll be a gentle two-hour ride to loosen up the legs, this will be relatively easy with no notable climbs. After the ride we will go to sign on at the Etape race registration, this in itself is a fun part of the trip as there is a large Expo area with plenty of bikes and cycling related merchandise. You will also pick up a free commemorative Etape du Tour T-shirt. The rest of the day will be spent resting, eating and drinking well and generally preparing for the big day tomorrow. Ride approximately 40km.
Ride the Etape du Tour 2014, which follows the exact route of stage 18 of the 2014 Tour de France, from Pau to Hautacam. After an early start you will ride to the start area and join over 10,000 other riders. Starting from Pau (195m), the first 70kms are relatively steady with a couple of short climbs to cross the Cote de Benejacq (470m) and the Cote de Loucrup (530m). From here the climbing really starts at we pass through Sainte-Marie-de-Campan, home to the forge where Eugene Christophe famously welded his own forks in the 1913 edition of the Tour. The mighty hors category Col du Tourmalet (2115m) is one of the toughest climbs in the Pyrenees with 17.1km at an average gradient of 7.3%. From the summit a superfast descent heads through the town of Luz-Saint-Sauveur and to the foot of the first category Hautacam, the final climb of the day at 1520m. You are now only 13.6km (at an average gradient of 7.8%) from glory! Make sure you save some energy for the top half of the climb where the gradient is often above 10%. After the finish and enjoying your fantastic achievement, we will get a bus transfer back to Pau to relax, recover and head out for a celebratory group meal. Ride 145km with approximately 3150m of ascent. NB: you will not be able to ride the event without an official race entry, please see 'Extra Expenses and Spending Money' below.
After breakfast we transfer to Toulouse for your flight back to London.