Cycling Through the French Pyrenees: Luz-Ardiden

The town of Luz-Saint-Sauveur.

Departure: Luz-Saint-Sauveur

Length: 15.3km
Altitude: 1,720m
Height Gain: 1,050m
Average Gradient: 6.9%
Maximum gradient: 10.0%
Category: Hors Category

The small town of Luz-Saint-Sauveur is best known for being one of the two starting points up the Col du Tourmalet, the other being its eastern approach from Sainte-Marie-de-Campan. But lying quietly on the other side of town is the ski-station of Luz-Ardiden

Accessible via the D921 and in turn the D12, the climb up the Luz has served as an occasional stage finish to the Tour de France since 1985. Its last appearance was in 2011, when Spanish cyclist Sammy Sanchez won the stage 12 race ahead of Belgian rider Jelle Vanendert and Frank Schleck. The 211 kilometre stage from Cugnaux, included three massive climbs, the Hourquette d'Ancizan, Tourmalet and Luz-Ardiden.

Roz at the summit of Luz-Ardiden.

Unlike the Tourmalet, along with the Col d'Aubisque, which are by far the most popular climbs in the Pyrenees, Luz-Ardiden is the perfect setting for cyclists who prefer their own company. A Hors Category climb in its own right, it quickly shrugs off its gentle beginning before hovering between 7 and 9% over the final 12 of its 15 kilometres.

The one and only time I climbed the Luz was back in 2012. A beautiful sunny morning in July, my only company was a young couple from England, and Roz, who as per usual, walked the last three kilometres up to the summit. A magnificent approach, via its zigzagging road, it was exactly what I expected when I reached the top; empty, a far cry from its snow-covered winter tarmac and for that matter, the Tour's carnival-type atmosphere of four years ago. While an open kiosk selling cold beer at the summit would have quenched our parched throats, the thrill of the climb and the view and stillness that it provided made it well worth the effort.

Books by Mark Krieger:

‘High Spain Drifter’ is available on Amazon , Barnes and Noble, Booktopia  and other online bookstores. 

‘Lycra, Lattes and the Long Way Round’ is available on Amazon, Book Depository, Barnes and Noble, Kobo Books

Both books are also available at local bookshops on the Mornington Peninsula: @ Rosebud Bookbarn and @ La Brocante

“The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.”

                                  English author Iris Murdoch

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