Raid Pyrenees & Raid Alps – let’s compare ! (2/3)

Day 3 :

Raid Pyrenees : 80km, 2.200m elevation

Today you’ll battle against 2 legends which are the col du Tourmalet, the oldest pass of the Tour de France starting in 1910, and the frequently used col d’Aspin. First you’ll have an easy start for this ride followed by a long false flat getting you to the base of the Tourmalet.

The Tourmalet is impressive on paper, with a length of 18.5km, climbing more than 1400 metres at a 7.4% average gradient. The first part takes you on wide routes that are not too steep, but after the ski station at « Grand Baréges », you’ll get to the real « universe » of this « col » that you are all looking for. Pedalling through astonishing views and gradients over 8%, you better save some of your energy for the last 6km. It all pays off as you approach the summit of the Tourmalet, where you are welcomed by cheering hordes of cyclists and walkers by. On a clear sunny day, you are guaranteed some of the best shots in the Pyrenees.  A long, steady descent is getting you to the Aspin with no real flat section in-between. Straight away you’ll climb a false flat, with only the last 5 of the Aspin considered  a real climb. Then, enjoy the fantastic view at the top of the Aspin, from where you can have a direct sight down the valley to the village we’re spending the night in, « Arreau ». It is worth exploring this pleasant commune with period slate-roofed houses gathered around the mountain river.

Difficulty : 3,5/5

Scenery : 4,5/5

Quietness : 3,5/5

Raid Alps :120km with 2.800m elevation

After a little warm-up you will quickly start climbing the quiet and wild Col de la Madeleine. Although this is the longest climb in France (25km) it does not get too steep, with few sections at 8% towards the begining, but you’ll also find some proper flat kilomters to rest your legs. An easy descent on a great and wide route follows, quickly taking you to the Glandon climb. As quiet and traffic free as the Madeleine, this col is the more difficult of the two, with 19 kilometers of climbing with some tough kilometers averaging at 9%, especially towards the summit! The views up there are breathtaking, which can help you get over the pain. There are a couple of surprises waiting for you during the Glandon’s descent – two short but steep hills, just when you think you finished climbing for the day!

Then as a option you can climb the famous 21 bends of the Alpe d’Huez, one of the most known climbs in the world – it is not so difficult but after such a long day climbing it is a real deal.

Difficulty : 5/5

Scenery : 4/5

Quietness : 3,5/5

Summary of day 3 :

In terms of difficulty the 3rd day of the Raid Alps clearly gets the « KOM », especially if you decide to climb the Alpe d’Huez at the end of the day. But both days are legendary and every cyclist in the world must do these climbs one day (and compare their Strava times with the Tour de France champions).

Day 4 :

Raid Pyrenees : 108km, 1.800m elevation

During the first climb of the day, you’ll battle against another legend – the « Peyresourde » used pretty often in the Tour de France. Not so difficult, it offers great open views. You’ll then begin your descent to get to the next climb, col de Mente, which is only 9 kilometers but very steep as the slope never goes under 9%, with no real rest-section. Then you’ll start the beautiful and wild descent to reach the start of the « Portet D’Aspet », made famous by the unexpected death of Fabio Cassarteli  who crashed in the descent during the Tour de France 1995. A beautiful and surprising memorial has been made in his memory. Recently on the exact same descent, the former belgian rider Philippe Gilbert had crashed and broke his knee.

The climb itself is steep but short (10% for 4km) and shaded by the thick surrounding woods, which helps with your pace. Once you reach the top of the Portet d’Aspet, a 30 km descent combined with false flats is waiting for you. It is best to jump on the wheels of your mates and you’ll quickly get to your hotel where you have the chance to nap by the swimming pool.

Difficulty : 3,5/5

Scenery : 4/5

Quietness : 4,5/5

Raid Alps :165km with 3.500m elevation

This is probably the hardest day* of all the 2 Raids, with 3 long climbs and a riding distance of 165km. The first climb, the Lautaret, can be seen as a long false flat with some long kilometers averaging 3% and 4%. As it is the only route linking the Bourg d’Oisans to Briançon, it can be busy. Once at the top, if you take a left turn and continue 8 kilometers, you can reach the top of the Galibier.

The long descent to Briançon and the next climb are quite easy, with wide roads to give you the opportunity for a proper rest before the col de l’Izoard, another legendary and popular climb for  the Tour de France. On the second part of the climb expect stunning scenery and beautiful curves; at busy times, the view of the « casse déserte » can become a victim of its own success, but once at the summit the views are just breathtaking.

The descent from the Izoard summit is a wide road in perfect condition, when you can ease off the brakes and properly enjoy the ride.

Last (long) climb of the day is the col de Vars, the first kilometers can be tricky and the second part, after the ski station, offers a beautiful panorama as you pedal to reach the top. Once at the summit, all that is left is the long descent getting you to the beautiful little city of Barcelonette.

*We organise a Raid Alps in August which lasts 9 days instead of 8. Days 3 & 4 are spread over 3 days instead, to mitigate the long climbs amd make the challenge much more achievable.

Difficulty : 5/5

Scenery : 4/5

Quietness : 3,5/5

Summary of day 4 :

The 4th day of both Raids are clearly differents, the Pyrenees one is wilder and doesn’t include very long climbs (even if some can be steep). The 3rd day of the Alps is clearly more demanding with 3 very long climbs and lengthy overall riding distance – managing the entire ride on this day is clearly a big challenge and achievement.

Share your thoughts