A lot of cyclists are always looking for that next challenge. Either the next 1 day cycle sportif, or a multi day tour in the mountains. You may have ridden in the Pyrenees and then through the Alps, maybe around Corsica or across the Dolomites. These are all fantastic places to tour and challenge yourself normally in a 1 week timeframe. But what is next, what would you like to see on the list that is off the beaten track and is just beyond what you “think” you are capable of.
The Cent Cols (100 Climbs) is a challenge that has been around since 1970 but very little is known about it. The challenge itself is to ride at least 100 different climbs in either the Pyrenees or the Alps. No time limit, no set amount of climbs per day, just you and your bike, a camera and the Cent Cols official carnet (Stamp Book). This is then ratified by the Club Cent Cols and you are then a certified member of the Cent Cols Club. That is all well and good if you live very near to these mountains and can potter around each weekend “bagging” the climbs. But not everyone has all the time in the world to do this. So why not a 10 Stage ride that incorporates the whole challenge in a 12 day tour.
Pyrenees Multisport put together a 12 day tour in 2014 which includes 10 rides day and a rest day in between (all heart). This tour follows the official route as advised by the Club Cent Cols. The route is also ratified by the Club Cent Cols and each person that completes the challenge is issued with a very sort after numbered certificate, we are looking numbers less than 100.
So this is starting to look interesting now, something bigger than the Raid Pyrenees, Raid Alpine or the Tour de Corse. 10 days riding your bike in the mountains what could be better. So you now start looking at the statistics as 100 climbs must mean quite a few metres of elevation and quite a few kilometres travelled. You would be right, it is 10 stages covering 1,583 Km and climbing 31, 918 metres in total. But it is not all about the numbers….. trust me.
To get this amount of climbs in this short a distance there is a lot of twists and turns through the Pyrenees and this means that you a regularly leaving the more common cycling routes and delving into the quiet, rural roads that without knowing they exist you would never get to see. Some of the roads on this tour are unbelievably spectacular. Scary if you were riding alone as you do not see another sole for hours on end, but with full support throughout you have that added confidence that if you ride down this rural back road you will most certainly come out at the other end, with a couple more climbs under your belt.
But can everyone hope to achieve these distances and this amount of climbs in the 10 days. From our experience it is very achievable having 100% of riders complete the challenge. It takes a lot of effort physically and even more so mentally but with the close support along the way, each rider fulfils their ambition to complete one stage at a time. And as you can see below the stage distance become shorter at the tour progresses.
Is this tour achievable on a budget? – Pyrenees Multisport is based in the Pyrenees all year round, with dedicated experienced staff this tour costs only a third of what other tour companies can provide as our experience and working with local hotels keeps overheads low. So you can ride fully supported and fully inclusive for only €1,795. Compared to other Cent Cols experiences at £5,000 plus.
The official route is basically a figure of 8 with Pyrenees Multisport being in the centre. Here is a brief synopsis of the route we take;
We start this epic tour with a ride up the valley to Bagnéres du Luchon (famous for stage starts and finishes of the Tour de France) before we heading over to Spain via the Col de Portilon, the first of the 100 climbs to come. Then up the valley to the Spanish town of Vielha and the first of the 2000m plus climbs, the Puerto de la Bonagua. Then it is up to the Collado del Canto and our hotel stop in the Spanish town of Seu d’urgell.
(186 Km 3,000m)
It is a three-country tour day today, starting gently out of Spain. We head over the border into the Principality of Andorra where we start the climbing to the highest paved pass in the Pyrenees, the Port D’Envalira via another climb of course. Descending you are quickly over the border into France before rising again over the Col de Puymorens. Criss crossing the valley taking in many smaller climbs always on a downward spiral to our destination, the town of Prades.
(201 Km 4,000m)
This is the longest day of the tour. Plenty of kilometers to get through as well as climbs with 21 cols on the list. The first big climb of the day is the Col de Palomere. The descent knocks a bunch of cols out before we head back inland and onto another 2000m plus climb, the Col de Paileres. The hotel is at the base of the descent in the thermal town of Ax-Les- Therme.
(217 Km 4,500m)
A slightly shorter day today and a little less climbing, but still 12 of the 100 to do.
Firstly the Col de Chioula before heading down to the Marmare and the Route de Corniche. Up to Foix for a break before heading into the hills and up to the highest point of the day, the Col de Portel. Dropping down to Massat before heading up and down finally summiting the Col de Latrape and then the descent into the tiny village of Seix
(156 Km 3, 000m)
Another nice short day and straight up the Col de la Core and over into the next valley before the long road to the Portet d’Aspet. The Col de la Clin is a gift on the way up to the Menté and a welcome café stop. Over the Col des Ares and the Buret before looping around, entering Luscan from the north and welcome rest day to come at Pyrenees Multisport.
(127 Km 3,000m)
A decent day in the saddle today with plenty of smaller climbs to warm you up across the Barronies region, over the Col des Palomieres to Bagnère-de-Bigorre before heading to bustling town of Argelés-Gazost but via the dreaded Cote de Germs. We then climb a very quiet passage up and over the Col de Spandelles and descend the very picturesque Asson valley winding our way to the finish of the day in Lurbe.
(172 Km 3,500m)
A day of scenery changes as we depart, briefly, from the high Pyrenees and into the very unique feel of the Basque Country. Over the Col d’Osquich provides stunning views of the open countryside ahead to St Jean-Pied-de-Port and the start of the journey back towards the Spanish border. The route to Larrau is a little tougher than the morning opener over a series of climbs up and over the Col Bagargiak. But downhill to the hotel is always a winner.
(120 Km 3,000m)
We have to climb over the border into Spain and the rural roads to Isaba. Then it is the Col de la Pierre St Martin with the ski station on the summit beckoning us all the way and welcoming us back into France. The Col de Soudet is a pure bonus as we are already at the same altitude and the decent is well worth all the effort but not all the way as we head east through the forested route of the Pyrenees National Park. There is a lot of climbing today with the Col de Marie Blanque and the Col d’Aubisque are to come before a night time stop on the top of the Col de Soulor.
(160 Km 4,500m)
Today has the giant of them all, the Tourmalet. From the heights of the Soulor we drop down quickly before tackling the morning warmer of the Col des Borderes and down through twisty lanes to the valley floor and the long lead into Luz St Sauveur. The Col du Tourmalet is a challenge in itself but the final climb of the day is a small out and back from the top of the Tourmalet and the final 2000m pass, the Col des Iris.
(76 Km 2,400m)
The final stage of the tour takes in many past Tour de France climbs and worthy of Epic status to finish this ultimate tour. Heading towards the Col d’Aspin, we divert right and tackle the Hourquette d’Ancizan and then descend carefully to the valley floor heading to St Lary Soulan before another upwards gradient of the Col d’Azet. There is some benefit here as this cuts into the Col de Peyresourde 3 km into the climb. We descend 10 km and taking a sharp left to start the Hors Category climb of the Port de Balés. Not a bad scalp to take as the final climb. Then it is all downhill, quite literally, to the end point of Luscan and the base of Pyrenees Multisport.