The third stage of the 2018 Haute Route Pyrenees got underway this morning in Argelès-Gazost, with riders setting off for a three col stage that would see them finish atop the Col du Couraduque after climbing the Col de Lingous and the Col du Tourmalet.
Heading back towards the foot of the final climb of yesterday’s stage, riders then turned left and began contouring the mountain to head towards Sainte-Marie de Campan and the foot of the Tourmalet. This first part of the stage featured a small and undulating climb through a forest over the Col de Lingous, Haute Route veteran Chris Fisher was impressed by how hard everyone was riding at the start of this third stage: “The first climb was short but the guys rode it really hard, everyone was in the big ring,” he said, “that’s all part of the fun though!”
After cresting the first climb of the day riders continued to contour the mountain in the direction of the first feed station of the day at the foot of the Tourmalet. When asked if he was ready to take on the biggest challenge of the day, Jason Elswood from the UK responded with a big smile on his face: “we’re always ready for the Tourmalet!”, he said, before hopping back on his bike and heading towards the lower slopes of the climb.
At 17km in length the Tourmalet is one of the longest climbs of the week, and undoubtedly one of the toughest. The lower slopes are relatively rolling, with a few descents giving everyone’s legs some respite. Once you reach the ski resort and town of La Mongie the summit is almost in sight, the road snakes tantalisingly towards the summit and allows no respite all the way to the top.
Many of the riders were cycling up the Tourmalet for the first time today, and they shared their impressions after reaching the summit: “We took the climb one part at a time,” said Felix Hoddinott, “we worked as a group and honestly that made it easier than what I expected.”
“I think that was my best climbing so far this week,” said Arnold Jansen from the Netherlands, “I’m really enjoying it so far and will try to do the same on Couraduque to finish the stage.”
“This is my first time in the Pyrenees,” added Linda Farcadzi, “I seem to be getting better each day so far and that climb up the Tourmalet was just great”.
The descent off Tourmalet was neutralised, meaning riders were able to appreciate their time at the summit, snapping some pictures of the famous statue before refilling their bottles, taking some food from the feed-station and heading downhill towards the valley.
With timing resuming in the valley, most riders made the most of it to regroup into small pelotons in order to work together into the foot of the final climb up to the summit finish on Col du Couraduque. Turning right off the main road onto the final part of the ascent, there was a final feed station to refuel before taking on the last 6km of the climb. Rising out of the trees, the last couple kilometers were the toughest, but the views at the summit made it worth it.
“Wow! What a view!” said Jack Wills at the finish line, “that climb was tough but it was beautiful as well. That undulating bit at the start was tougher than I expected but the whole way it was stunning.”
“Awesome!” exclaimed Tom Ebbern and Darren Harrold as they congratulated each other at the summit.
At the front of the race today it was the leaders who took the stage win, Ruari Grant, Hannah Rhodes-Patterson and Team Minttuliina , extending their leads in the process.
Tomorrow’s fourth stage will take riders back up the Tourmalet and will finish at the summit of the newly paved, Col du Portet.