The 2010 Etape du Tour course is a tough one!
Starting in Pau, the route heads southwards for 20 miles across the undulating rural landscape to the town of Oloron Sainte Marie.
Ten miles later, at the village of Escot the route turns eastwards for the first climb of the day – Marie Blanque.
A picturesque, wooded climb, its pleasant slopes become steeper as we progress, reaching 11% and maybe 13% in the last couple of km.
It is not a long climb by local standards, being 5 or 6 miles long, but the last section is quite a struggle! We will be climbing a total of 700m up to the summit at just over 1000m.
The pleasant wooded descent takes us to a large open plateau, a pleasant contrast from the wooded scenery.
The plateau is followed by a series of downward zigzag ramps – a bit steep for comfort with some very sharp bends!
After the excitement we are treated to a flatter 20 miles, taking us to Asson at the foot of the climb to Col du Soulour. For the next 10 miles, the road surface is good, and the scenery pleasant, but the land rises slowly, making it harder work than it looks. After Ferriers, it becomes a real mountain climb, with typical Pyrenean bends – a real Etape du Tour climb! After 8 miles of hairpin bends, we (hopefully) reach the top, having climbed over 1000 metres! I’m also hoping the café is still there!
The 1000 metre descent will be exciting, with its long succession of hairpin bends down to Arrens Marsous, followed by a fast, straight enjoyable section down to Argeles-Gazost.
The road then climbs steadily for about 10 miles up the beautiful Gorge de Luz, to Luz-St-Sauveur The route then turns east for the final climb up the west side of Tourmalet up to the Col de Tourmalet.
After that, you will deserve a rest at La Mongie!