Friday, 19 August 2016

This Year's Two for One Deal

The Col d'Aubisque and Col du Soulor form a natural pairing, just like the Telegraph and the Galibier. Riding from the east, the Soulor is climbed first, and actually is the more difficult of the two. From Saint-Savin, the route first heads on the D13 towards Bun. This is also the start of the ride to Lac d'Estaing, which we're hoping to do in a few days.

Out of the top of village the road rolls with some ramps up to around 10%. They are quite short, though. All in all its a good way to warm up and to prepare for the steep ramps of the Soulor. Once through Bun, the route finally joins the main D918 up from Argeles-Gazost. Once on the main road, the gradients start to kick up, eventually hitting more than 8% for the last 3 kilometres. This is the hardest part of the entire climb, and doesn't ease until the very top of the Soulor.

I met up with Angela at the top for the obligatory summit picture.
Bile and rider at the top of the Soulor
Then we went in search of a cold drink in the cafe, and were quickly engulfed by a group of Italian motorcyclists, who took quite a while to work out what they were going to order. Several rounds of  animated hand counting later, one of the ladies apologised to us for the voluble discussion, which we were actually rather enjoying. It turned out they were on a major tour, starting in Genoa, and riding through Italy, France, Spain and Portugal. Two of the men were very taken with my Ribble. They were very interested in the cost, and surprised how low it was.

While up there, Angela found out how French sheep keep cool in the height of summer.

Sheep finding shade the French way in the car park at the Soulor

Leaving the summit of the Soulor, the road to the Aubisque ramps down for a short distance, before flattening out for a number of kilometres. The views are stunning, as the road runs across a bowl in the mountains. To the north, it's possible to see the flat land beyond the mountains.

The road towards the Aubisque from the Soulor
There are two short tunnels on the road. This is the shorter of the two. It's reminiscent of Durdle Door!

The short tunnel on the road to the Aubisque
The weather was stunning, with lots of sunshine and temperatures in the high 29's celsius.

The scenery is sensational
The road eventually kicks up to around 8% again near the top. It's not as hard as the approach to the Soulor, and in any case, by now the top has been sighted.

Angela was on hand again to get the picture of bike and rider at the top of the Aubisque.

Bike and rider at the top of the Aubisque

The massive bike sculptures at the top of the Aubisque
The track up to the Col d'Aubisque is available on Garmin Connect.

Looking back to the Soulor from the road to the Aubisque
On the way back down, I stopped a few times to take photographs. The video of the descent is stunning, not for the technique, which is questionable, but for the scenery in the background.

Returning to the Soulor, this ride gives a rare opportunity to crest a climb, and to go straight into a descent. Although the scenery is less stunning on this side of the Soulor, the descent is fast, with good sight lines, but the surface leaves a little to be desired. No pot holes, but there are patches that need to be watched.

On the return, I decided to descend on the main road back to Argeles-Gazost, to see how nasty it really is. There is a long descent at around 9% into the town. It's narrow and busy, and best avoided.

The track down from the Col d'Aubisque is available on Garmin Connect.

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