It’s always a difficult decision when researching and deciding on a trip to the Tour de France. Do you choose to go to the Pyrenees or to the Alps? Here at Thomson Bike Tours, we always say.. Well it depends.
There are years where the riders cross the Pyrenees before the Alps and years where the Pyrenees are the final mountain week. Logic dictates that the final mountain stages will be the most exciting, but often the race has been decided in the second week and the top riders have reached a stalemate, so it’s hard to pick where to go. Either way, there’s tons to love about the Pyrenees, so don’t just base your decision on how the race route is organized.
Why we love the Pyrenees
If you ask our guides whether they prefer the Alps or the Pyrenees on the Tour de France, they will invariably favor the latter, even when the race hits the Pyrenees before the Alps.
Apart from the Pyrenees being logistically easier to move around when the Tour’s in town, having just the one 4-star hotel for the whole week, makes the trip that much more enjoyable and it’s easier to rest up after each ride.
The riding, too, is some of the best there is, with 9 major climbs, including the newly famous Col de Portet from last year’s Tour, the classics such as the Peyresourde, Col d’Aspin, Port de Bales, and of course the most famous climb of all, the Tourmalet.
There is less traffic on the roads and the locals are amazingly friendly.
Race Viewing the Pyrenees on the 2019 Tour de France
We have an excellent schedule of race-viewing lined up for this year’s Pyrenees trip, with 3 opportunities to get up close with the Tour de France.
Starting on Day 4 of the trip, you’ll be riding across the actual finish line in Bagneres de Bigorre. Here you can have your picture taken on the winner’s podium. Later in the afternoon we’ll access the VIP area at the finish and enjoy the food and drink laid on by the Tour de France. Watch the last couple of hours of the stage in air-conditioned comfort before rushing out to see the stage win! Live!
Day 5 sees us at the stage start in Pau with VIP access to the Race Village and team area. As this is the individual time trial, it’s going to be a unique experience watching the riders warm-up during the morning before hitting the time trial course.
Day 6 is the Queen stage in the Pyrenees, with the summit finish on the Col du Tourmalet. Here, we go one better than the Tour de France organisation, with our own luxury private marquee near the top of the climb where the riders are most likely to attack. Thomson race marquees are famous for getting you close to the race action and in among the real fans. There’s the added benefit of live TV coverage in English from Eurosport and an abundance of food and drink.
How can I be sure I will be able to ride the distances and climb the climbs?
This is a question we often get asked. We actually make it pretty easy for you, as we provide 3 ride levels for you to choose from – Sport, Performance, and Extreme.
Typically a Sport ride will be anywhere from 12 to 28 miles with the most climbing in one day being around 5,800 feet or 1,700m. Performance rides tend to be around the 50 mile mark with the most climbing in one day at 8,400ft or 2,500m. Finally, there’s the Extreme ride level, with rides around 80 miles and close to 54,000ft or 16,400m of climbing for the week. You don’t have to stick with the same ride level throughout the week either, as you can switch groups whenever you like, depending on your personal fitness.
Take a look through the photo gallery below from the last couple of years and think about joining us in the Pyrenees for what promises to be an excellent first act for this year’s Tour de France.
“It doesn’t matter how many times you have imagined yourself riding on the legendary roads of the TdF, being there with Thomson will exceed anything. It is worth every penny, and it will leave you with everlasting memories. So many, you feel your head and your heart will explode.”
Christian Faesi rode the Tour de France Pyrenees in 2018
“I thoroughly enjoyed my week with Thomson. Having watched the tour since c1981, to get to experience the riders coming towards you on the Col de Val Louron having just climbed it a few hours previously will live long in the memory. As will the visits to the depart village and the VIP stage end in Laruns. The organisation and hospitality from all the Thomson staff is amazing.”
Geoff Meall rode the Tour de France Pyrenees in 2018
“The trip really was amazing and overall surpassed my expectations I had based on information I had from the website. The food, the rides, the VIP treatment and the support were excellent and the vibe was one of thorough enjoyment. Much to my delight, Peter was out riding with us every day and it was obvious his love of cycling which he most definitely passed along into the business. I loved the fact that I really had minimal thinking to do, only to enjoy the journey and ride these amazing epic mountains.”
Kevin Harrison rode the Tour de France Pyrenees in 2017
“Thomson Tours owns the ride for the cycling enthusiast. Each and every day was like a Four Seasons Resort on the road. The Pyrenees set the stage for the experience of a lifetime and Mt Ventoux was the pinnacle of the tour. Loved every minute of it!”
Wade Pannell rode the Tour de France Pyrenees in 2017