[ blog » 2023 » 09_South-West ]d08: Aquitaine ( by Philipp Gesang, location: Larrau campsite)

Holy hell

Leaving Luz-Saint-Sauveur I was tempted by that exuberance of legendary climbs – Luz Ardiden, Hautacam, Aubisque – which made it an exercise in discipline to focus and stay with the plan. Ultimately I managed to not get carried away, there’s always another time!, and rode on to the main bit of sightseeing I had on the menu for today: Lourdes.

Lourdes was teeming with South American tourists that blocked the roads in the center. No wonder the church sends its priesthood candidates there, living in that catholic Disneyland of a tourist trap should give them a realistic impression of what purgatory might look like. Catholics seem to consider cycling a blasphemous activity so their security staff wouldn’t let me roll in the park. Fair enough, it’s not like their priests are welcome in my home either.

Entering the Basque Country

Lourdes may be a letdown but its surroundings make up for it. I passed one picturesque village after another while rolling about in the foothills of the Pyrenees. I must have crossed some cultural border yesterday as in Aquitaine the common architecture is noticably different from Occitanie, houses have steeper roofs with small windows sticking out. The countryside is giving a much more relaxed impression as well. With the high mountains never out of sight the terrain remained flat and the few climbs tame compare to yesterday.

Turning point of the day, Oloron-Sainte-Marie is true gem of a town. From there I headed back south and into the Larrau valley where I was faced with the final obstacle of the day, a steep climb averaging at nine percent gradient up to the Larrau campsite at around 600 m of altitude. It was well worth the effort however as the proprietor assigned me what might be the most amazing pitch I got on a campsite ever, next to a burbling creek and with a view overlooking the canyon; too bad it got dark soon after I pitched.

Intended as a rest day, I still got some non-negligible climbing done today, 1360 meters to be precise, over 129 km distance. A solid recovery ride, or it would have been without that steep finale.

gps tracks

[view GPS data in mapbox]


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