Tour de France MTB Special :: Itinerary
Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 December 2011 15:51
The itinerary remains flexible to accommodate for the weather conditions and the desires of the group. The rides described below are to give you an idea of what we could encounter during the week. There is a good months worth of world class rides to select from - Alan's biggest problem is trying to work out which rides to miss out!! Whatever ride we do, the aim is to be in a bar with a TV by about 4pm so that we can keep up to date with the progress of the approaching peleton.
Monday 9th July: Travel day
Today is about getting to Ax-Les-Thermes in time for dinner at the L'Alpage. Airport transfers are provided to tie in with the afternoon flights listed below. There will be time to assemble you bike before dinner.
Tuesday 10th July: Domaine de Chioula
This is one of the largest x-country skiing areas in the Pyrenees and consequently it has a vast network of tracks which cross the plateau; perfect for us bikers. We could spend all week here, however today we enjoy the highlights. Naturally, the day ends with a wicked single track descent into Ax
Wednesday 11th July: Valley of Ax
The ultimate valley ride! The many villages on the southern flanks of the Ax valley are overlooked by the picturesque "Route Des Corniches". From most of the villages there is an ancient trail heading into the valley 500m below. Today we wind our way down, then back up the valley enjoying endless world class descents and lung busting climbs.
Thursday 12th July: Prades and the Cathar Trail
A short climb onto a limestone plateau is rewarded with a roller coaster descent into the gorge of Frau. From here we climb again onto the most northerly ridge in the Pyrenean range. The views over the plain of the Cathar homeland are totally breathtaking. Some fast forest tracks bring us back to the edge of the Ax valley for another epic descent.
Friday 13th July: Rest day
However much we love Mountain Biking it is exhausting to do it for a full week. With this in mind we have included a 'day off' so that you can enjoy some of the other great activities that the area has to offer - or just rest! The kind of things on offer are white water rafting, canoeing, walking and mountain climbing.
Saturday 14th July: Scaramus
A short climb up to a limestone plateau is rewarded with a roller coaster descent called the 'light fandango' into the village of Prades for a coffee. Next up we get to play in a natural 'BMX' park before climbing up to Chioula and the start of the aptly named 'Serpent' - 800m of mountain bike heaven.
Sunday 15th July: Watching the Tour de France on the Port de Lers.
Stage 14 of this years TDF is bound to stir things up a bit in the peliton, not because it is particularly tough, but it is followed by a flat stage and a day off. Consequently we can be sure that anyone hoping for TDF victory will try to grasp a few extra seconds today. It is bound to be an exciting stage and it will certainly be a day to remember for us!
While the tour riders are warming up in Limoux, getting ready for their brutal ride, we have a slightly more pleasant start to the day by transferring (20 mins) down the valley to Tarascon. From here we join the TDF route and take on the west side of the Col de Lers (1503m) just a few hours before the riders. The road will be lines with capervans, tents, cheering people - it is a real buzz. Our aim is the Marmot Tours 'Hospitality Suite'. Here you will be greeted with a hearty barbecue lunch, drinks and live satellite TV coverage (with English commentary) of the approaching riders. It is bound to be an exceptionally exciting stage and we will be in the best place to see it - it really doesn't get better than this!
Watching a TDF mountain stage is an amazing, but slightly surreal experience. Firstly there is the publicity caravan, a convoy of 50 or so elaborately kitted out vehicles, adorned with ladies throwing out an ecclectic mix of TDF merobila, hats, washing powder and even the good old French saucisson. This is followed by a moment of serenity as everyone waits in anticipation of the sound of the television helicopters - the first sign that the riders are approaching. From our vantage point we will be able to see the riders in the distance and then close up as they pass by at incredible speeds, given the gradients. At this stage in the day we will expect there to be a good 10 mins different between the front and back riders, so it will not all be over in a flash. After all the riders have passed by we return to the TV to watch them take on the 'wall' and speed their way to the finish in Foix. We can then just roll down the hill to Tarascon and transfer back to L'Alpage for a hearty meal after a fantastic day out.