Luz St Sauveur - Luz Ardiden. Video.

Luz Ardiden. 32km, 1052m

For the first six kilometres of this climb I thought there wasn't much to say about it.

You ride up a road with quite a few zig-zags, occasional villages perched on bends, then you'd freewheel back down again into Luz.

What more could there be to it?

Then at the half-way point, everything changed.

The thick mist I'd been riding in since Luz (for which lights were a reassuring addition) melted away.  The tree line ended.

There were no cars - not one.  And abruptly the climb took on a life of its own.

These weren't just hairpins, these were roller coaster switchbacks, dipping into re-entrants, curving around spurs, flipping back on themselves and always trending upwards.

It felt easy to ride, but that's possibly because I had lots of rests when I kept stopping to take photos. 

With the sea of white cloud still clogging the valley, the peaks rising like islands, and the sinuous road weaving towards the sunlit uplands, it felt close to heaven.  Watch the video and you'll hopefully see what I mean.  (Story continues below).

Except when you get there, it's a dump. The ski station is a monstrosity and it's owners have scattered the usual detritus of metal on the mountain, as out of place as a fish in a bike race. 

The descent wasn't as fast as others, there are far too many bends, but it was oh so much fun. 

Hitting the fog, the temperature dropped 15 degrees, and the rain jacket came on, over my wind-proof gillet and arm-warmers. 

After another 6:40 start I was back in Luz just after 9am, having ridden in the cool of the day and experienced a superb temperature inversion.

On the way down, a marmot watched me from its sunny spot on a low wall, only jumping off as I ventured a little too close for a photo. 

Realising he'd jumped down the wrong side of the wall, two wee claws immediately appeared, scrabbling for purchase on top of the concrete before sliding off.  

I checked to see the little fella was OK, as he grumpily made his way to a lower gap in the wall.

I had thought this would be a tick-list ride, little more than a chance to see the place where Lance Armstrong rode that incredible comeback after clipping a spectator's musette, and where Jan Ulrich had waited rather than attack. 

I was completely wrong. Luz Ardiden is an utter classic.

While I was enjoying myself, Liz had packed the van for our next move. 

She announced she was tired of rides which just went up then down. She wanted a day-tour, more like we'd done a the start of this trip. A quick look at the map and I found what I hoped would be the ideal spot, Bagneres de Bigorre.  So that's where we head next.

Which just happens to also be a great place from which to ride the best side of the Col d'Aspin...

What's this about? We took our campervan down the Pyrenees this summer, riding classic cols and hiking great walks. Now I'm sharing the info about best campsites for the best rides.

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