Reader Q&A: Cycling the Tourmalet in September

Published by Lyn on 6 December 2013

Jon emailed to ask about cycling the Tourmalet in September. He also wanted to know about accommodation for the Tourmalet, as well as route advice.

Tourmalet Photo by Tourisme Grand Tourmalet

On the road to the Tourmalet. Photo: Tourisme Grand Tourmalet

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Question:
 
Hi Lyn,
 
We're hoping to ride a few days in the Haute Pyrenees. We hope to include Tourmalet and Aubisque in our rides.
 
Because of other schedules, we can't arrive until around September 15. I realise every year the weather is different, but is this generally too late for the high cols, or even if they are open will it be very cold or snowy?
 
Would also appreciate any advice on locations to stay and best routes, such as which is better the west or east side of Tourmalet
 
Thanks much for any advice,
 
Jon
 
Answer:
 
Hi Jon

Thanks for your email.

Your trip sounds very exciting!
 
You should firstly checkout my High Pyrenees page here – it has lots of background info and some great links.
 

September is fine for cycling the Tourmalet etc, but for more details, I've contacted a local on your behalf to get some more detailed info.

Caroline from the ridiculously bicycle-friendly small hotel Les Dix Arches had this to say when I emailed her:

Hi Lyn,

Firstly September is a brilliant time to be here (with the usual caveats about no one can promise perfect weather), but rainfall is lower in September, the days are warm but not the temperatures of July and August, and the roads are much quieter as the schools have gone back.  
 
On the other hand, the cols are still all open (Tourmalet closes at the end of October), the cows and sheep are still grazing on the high mountains and it all looks beautiful (although they do provide the occasional road obstacle). The first snow on the high roads was third week of October this year. We would still recommend people bring wind cheaters etc as it can be cold if the clouds come down and the winds are northerly, but I'd say that for August too.

With regards to how one approaches Tourmalet, you generally hear that the approach from the west (via Bareges) is tougher, the final section more exposed etc, but in my opinion it's prettier.
 
From the east there's more tree cover but you go through La Mongie which isn't particularly attractive. That said, the formal data for the each approach puts the gradient as pretty much identical and the western approach only slightly longer.
 
Bagneres is great for Tourmalet, Aspin and Hourquette d'Ancizan and cycling through the Baronnies, a region with rolling hills which are stunning. Only slightly further, past Aspin, are the cols of Azet and Pla d'Adet (finishing point for stage 17 of 2014 Tour) and Peyresaude.
 
We have had guests stay here who have cycled to Aubisque from here, but it is a big day; we have had others who have driven the 25 minutes to the start of the climb. The story is the same for Hautacam.  
 
Your contacts in St Savin are closer to the start point for those climbs, but it all depends on how far your reader likes to go in a day. We have plenty of routes we could recommend, circuits etc –  I would be very happy to discuss them with your reader.
 
Hope this helps,
 
Caroline

**
Jon, Caroline's email is [email protected] and her website Les Dix Arches if you'd like to get in touch directly for more local advice. 

In the High Pyrenees article, I've got other accommodation links, too. Or you can browse our Where to stay section, which lists bike-friendly options across the region, or zoom in on the clickable icons below.
 

Any other questions, please shout and I can will help out in whatever way I can.

Many thanks
Lyn.

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