2007 Etape Reconnaissance


We ran a reconnaissance trip along the route of the 2007 Etape du Tour in June with the help of Marmot Tours. Here are the results!


It is a very interesting route, with plenty of climbing and interesting descents. This year riders will be tackling 5 substantial mountains, and riding a distance of 200km.


First Section

After leaving the start in Foix, the first 10km to Tarascon is mainly flat or down hill. There should be no problem beating the broom wagon here!



Foothills of Col de Port

After the westerly turn at Tarascon, the course becomes undulating, following the course of a mountain river. Gradients are in the range of 4% to 7% with some downhill sections – though the climb is not really even noticeable at this stage.


Ascent to Col de Port

After some 8 km the climb becomes a real ascent, climbing up through the woodland to the summit. The climb is not generally too hard, though there are some steep sections, the steepest km averaging 8%. And so to the summit!


Descent of Col de Port

This is possibly the nicest section of the etape, with a very comfortable gradient – it is easy to descend without any effort at around 24 mph!

Initially a bit narrow, the road broadens further down - you should be able to increase your lead on the broom wagon here without any effort! Do enjoy the 28 km (17.5 miles) of down hill – and save some energy for later!


Flat section to St Girons

The down hill section is followed by a long flat section, which runs alongside a beautiful swift flowing river.  As the river widens we ride down the Gorges de Ribaouto. After 69 km (43 miles) we reach the town of St Girons, with our first Refreshment Stop - and Elimination Point! A variety of food and drink will be available here.

To avoid elimination, you will need to be here by 10:50 – an average speed of 11.4mph (18.2 kph) if you start right at the front, or about 13.1 mph (21 kph) if you start near the back. This part of the route is very much in our favour this year, as we will have ridden about over 30 miles of flat or down hill road by this point, with only around 10 km of real climb!


Surprisingly, my speedometer registered a total of 65 miles before we really started climbing again! The initial slopes of 1% to 3% of Aspet are barely noticeable.


Ascent of Col d’Aspet (Col de Portet d’Aspet to give it its full name.)

Although this is a more demanding climb than Col de Port, nothing really happens until St Lary, where the climbing really starts. The climb then becomes more strenuous after the village of Portet d’Aspet, the gradients nearing 10%.  Our second col has been conquered!


The descent is steep with 17% stretches - so do take care! You will pass the Monument to Casartelli,

This steep section fortunately only lasts for 6 km, after which the route turns left to more moderate terrain.


Ascent of Col du Mente

The undulating foothills of Mente are quite easy with gradients of around 2%!


The ascent of Col de Mente is steep in places. Initially climbing through woodland, the gradient rising in places to over 10%.

The last section is a wonderful classic etape climb, an open Alpine style climb, with the road zig zagging up the side of the mountain.


At the col you will be greeted by the sight of a Husky breeding station, a café and the second Feeding Station. It is wise to take care how long you stop here!


The descent is steeper than Port, but nowhere near as bad as the descent of Aspet, with wide roads, mainly with a good road surface. There are rather a lot of bends near the top, but there are longer straight stretches near the bottom as we ride through villages. It is the sort of descent where you will probably need your brakes!


At the bottom, the road becomes relatively flat for around 5 km, followed by the second Elimination Point at the approach to Estanos. You need to reach here by 14:30, which means an overall average speed of 11mph if you started at the front or 11.82mph if you started at the back.


The Ascent of Col de Bales

This is a long steep climb – initially through woodland. It is a classic Etape climb, and is not easy with gradients of 7% to 10%. These gradients were averaged over a km, and it is actually steeper in places. Signs every km tell you your gain in height as you climb to 1755 meters – the highest point of this year’s Etape. As the road gets nearer the summit, the woodland gives way to open views as the road zig-zags upwards to the summit. The café at the top was a welcome relief on the reconnaissance! During the Etape the top of Port de bales will be Refreshment Stop No 3.


The descent of Port de Bales will be fast! Take care!

The Ascent of Peyresourde

The best description of the climb is “relentless” – the gradient is fairly constant, mainly ranging from 7% to 9%.


Descent exciting – near the top the road is cut into the side of the mountain with drops on one side, but it becomes more pleasant as the route descends.


At the bottom, after passing through a couple of villages you will pass a lake to the finish in Loudenvielle!

You need to be there at 19:00 to get your medal!

Well done – breathe a sigh of relief!


2007 Note on Marmot Tours

Marmot Tours really did do a remarkably good job of organising our reconnaisance trip for us

If the Etape was not enough for you, you will be interested to know that they are organising a "Pyrenees End to End" trip called the Raid Pyrenees this September!

If on the other hand the Etape was too much for you, you will be interested in their Tour de France trip on 19th to the 26th of July when you will get to ride the Etape stage and the stage before at a leisurely pace, and to watch the Tour de France from the Plateau de Beille climb or the stage start. You will also get to watch the tour live from the mountain top on satellite TV! Contact james@marmot-tours.co.uk if you are interested!