With three symbolic Pyrenees passes on the program, including Soulor, Aubisque and Marie-Blanque, the penultimate stage of the Haute Route Pyrenees 2019 between Argelès-Gazost and Pau promised to be unforgettable.
Riders were eager to start Stage 6 this morning, including Terry Rodrigue from Boulder, Colorado: “The weather is good, we will be hot by the time we get to the top of the climbs but there is a nice long descent from the Aubisque to cool us down and let us recover. Then there is a long stretch to Pau with some rolling hills. This will be a really beautiful stage.”
After heading out of Argelès-Gazost in convoy, the peloton tackled the first challenge of the day: the Col du Soulor. After 3 kilometres with gradients of more than 7%, the riders were thankful for the upcoming rolling portions, giving them chance to warm the legs up under the beautiful morning sun and enjoy the beautiful landscapes surrounding them. After crossing the small village of Arrens, located 7km from the summit, the climb then kicked up a gear again, with the gradient rising to 7-8%.
At the summit, the leaders pressed on, straight into the descent. The rest of the pack took the time to refuel at the feed station before the descent and upcoming climb, the well-known Col d’Aubisque. The balcony road wound its way round the side of the mountain in the heart of the Cirque du Litor with riders passing donkeys and wild horses, part of the unique and special atmosphere of which the Pyrenees mountains are famous for.
Returning to the Department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques, riders then faced a 7km climb to reach the summit of Aubisque. At 1,709 metres of altitude, the participants took advantage of the pause in the timing to commemorate the moment, taking a picture in front of the sign or in front of the giant bikes marking the summit of Aubisque.
Looking towards the Soulor and the route they had just taken, the riders were also able to admire a breathtaking view of the surrounding peaks emerging from the morning mist.
Australian Scott Bales is well accustomed to the Haute Route but still finds himself taken aback by the beauty of the landscape: “Arriving at the top of the Aubisque after the balcony road between the two peaks is just amazing. This is my sixth Haute Route and every event has something special. It is also great to have the time to enjoy each city in the Pyrenees and not to change hotels every day. The time off the bike at the end of a stage is all the more appreciated!”
The competitors took their time coming down the upcoming descent, thanks to the neutralized section. With this road featuring as a climb in tomorrow’s stage, riders took particular notice of the course so they knew what to expect.
After resuming the timing at Laruns, the participants tackled the Marie-Blanque climb, 11km’s on a winding road through the forest, with the steepest portion at the start of the climb. Once at the top, the riders headed down to the valley and gathered at the foot of Marie-Blanque to travel together in packs for the remaining 53km to Pau via hilly terrain.
After crossing the finish line in Pau, Irish cyclist Austin Hennessy said: “The passage between the Soulor and the Aubisque is one of my favourite landscapes but we are often focusing on the road in front of us when we go downhill so only get the chance to look up every now and again. It really was a spectacular day! Towards the end of the stage we formed a big peloton, each taking turns at the front and changing places. We were focused on the wheel in front of us and it was very exciting to be part of that.”
At the front of the race, Pierre Carlet in the men’s category and Alisha Myers in the women’s category both earned their first stage win of the Haute Route Pyrenees today. Carlo Fino and Georgia Perry both keep hold of their leaders jersey however, thanks to their solid results through the week and are almost sure to be crowned winners of the Haute Route Pyrenees tomorrow in Pau. On the Duo side, the Teams Koalas and BWCC Venom won the stage respectively in the Duo Men and Duo Mixed categories.
The last stage tomorrow will loop around Pau. The 127km course with 2,300 metres of ascent will once again include the double ascent of Aubisque and Soulor.