13 July 2015

TDF Rest Day 1: Rest Day reads and the Pyrenees

And on the 10th day they rested

It is a rest day and we have arrived at the base of the big mountains. Big. Mountains. Fourteen men are no longer competing in the 2015 Tour de France. Sadly Ivan Basso has left the tour today. Read more Get well soon Ivan Basso!.

2015 TDF - 3 solid climbing stages in the Pyrenees
The best thing about the Pyrenees is you can base yourself in one location and typically see two to three stages of the Tour every year. Every year the race comes through the Pyrenees, every other year is switches directions, but it always goes one way or another over the major climbs.

Riders who have ridden the Tour many times (Sylvain Chavanel is on his 14th Tour), know these climbs very well. I have ridden in the Pyrenees six different years and have climbed most of the big Cols, some a few times over; but not eight times like some of the riders in the peloton. Think of Phil and Paul talking about bike racing in the Pyrenees for 29 years!

The Pyrenees is the perfect place to see the Tour de France. I think seeing three stages of the Tour is more than plenty during one vacation. If you are an outdoor enthusiast who loves nature and beautiful views, you will find plenty to do in this area in one weeks time.

Why go to the Pyrenees?
  1. Dramatic mountain scenery and fertile farm and wine country
  2. Fantastic cycling (long climbs) to the stage (with good options for drive and hike)
  3. Stage layouts sometimes afford two or three approaches to a climb which means less chance of major traffic jams.
  4. Great crowds along the climbs
  5. Lots of cyclists on the climbs
  6. Variety of accommodations from big cities to small towns
  7. Easy to build a vacation around seeing a stage of the Tour
  8. Several good airports and trains to get you there
  9. Other adventures like hiking, rafting and wine-tasting
  10. Fantastic patio recovery time on rest days, with restaurants on the Cols!
The surrounding area happens to be some of the best do-it-yourself bike riding in France. Be sure to leave time to also ride the climbs not in this year's TDF (Cycling Challenge offers a map of Climbs in the Pyrenees, or my personal map of my favorite climbs is below. Velopeloton also offers a page of climb descriptions in the Pyrenees).

Map of my favorite climbs in France https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=zF3Mdi_RS4EA.khPsCpthHhgk

The Stages in the Pyrenees in 2015

10MountainTuesday, July 14thTarbes / La Pierre-Saint-Martin167 km
11MountainWednesday, July 15thPau / Cauterets - Vallée de Saint-Savin188 km
12MountainThursday, July 16thLannemezan / Plateau de Beille195 km

Pau as part of the Tour de France

Pau has hosted the Tour de France 66 times since 1930. Only Paris and Bordeaux have hosted more stages. The city is commonly used because of easy transportation to get there (planes, trains and autoroutes) and because of the abundance of hotels, as well as nearby routes for rest day recovery rides for the athletes.

Riding on the rest day in Pau is a highlight for fans. You will be able to easily spot riders on the road to the nearby towns of Gan or Nay. This is the day when Team managers and coaches might get kitted up and go out for a ride with sponsors or VIPs. Last time I was there, I saw Manuel Quinziato (BMC) settling in at an outdoor cafe in Nay. I so wanted to join him.

BMC team manager Jim Ochowicz suits up to ride with the team.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer®

Rest Day Reads - recommendations to catch up and follow along on the Tour de France:


Global Cycling Network is mostly fun, but they also educate (a bit). I simply like to see where and what they are riding and remember how fun cycling can be. GCN YouTube Page


Like a conversation at dinner after the race (with Brits), the Cycling News podcast gets to the point and is not too long. You may hear Basso's announcement on the most recent podcast. If you like the Aussie accent and wish to expand your vocab, try the SBS's Tour de France Cycling Podcast Ep. 3. Bicycling.com does an every so often Pro Cycling Podcast. There are other podcasts (if you have lots, and lots, of time): More Podcasts from the TDF.

Cycling Perspective with Kim and Greg Hull

Greg and Kim continue the conquest of photographing the Tour de France. They spent their rest day in Pauillac, 269km north of Pau. I guess it's true that the Tour books up all the hotel rooms for miles around. Read: A day covering the Tour de France, By Kim Hull


Another photographer chasing the Tour this year creates O-nev. I actually met Veeral Patel in Belfast last year at the Giro d'Italia. He was shocked when I recognized him, but I have been a fan of his for years and follow the pro photographer as I do the pro racers. I enjoy his unique photo of fans and riders along the route.  Follow along O-nev - The Chase.

Manual for Speed

For great photography, a feel of the locals and a look at the World Tour and Continental Teams we don't always see in the top headlines, follow Manual for Speed if you are looking for a completely different approach to le Tour in a creative presentation by 2 Americans. Manual For Speed: 2015 Tour de France.

Paddy Sweeney and Velopeloton

If you have ridden in the Pyrenees, chances are good that you have come across the incredible resource of cycling in the Pyrenees created by Paddy Sweeney. He lives there (with his wife and young son) and knows the land very very well. For information on all things Pyrenees, read VeloPeloton. He cycles, he photographs, he leads tours, he operates a cycling lodge. To stay at the center of the best climbing, learn more Cycling Lodge. For €65 a night, which includes breakfast and evening meal, you can have the Col du Tourmalet out your back door. I say book early, book often.


I created a list to follow on Twitter: TDF 2015 best of le tour - List of Tour de France cyclists, journalists and photographers to follow. You may subscribe.

Pedal Dancer®

Did I mention my blog post about My Top Twenty Climbs in France. How about my France Cycling Guide Page, or my France Travel Guide Page, or my Tour de France Guide Page.

Stage 10 tomorrow features the Col de la Pierre St Martin. I climbed it once in 2010, and only once. It is really steep.

The incredible views from the climb of Col de la Pierre St Martin in the Pyrenees.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer®

The Pyrenees in three easy lessons: Regions, Valleys, Foothills & Cols

1.  It's all about the regions (west to east):
  • Pyrenees-Atlantiques 
  • Haute-Pyrenees (the biggies are located here!!!)
  • Haute-Garone
  • Ariege
  • Pyrenees-Orientales
2.  It's all about the valleys (Vallee).

If the peloton is traveling south or north, they are heading up or down valley. It the peloton is going east or west, they are climbing over the very large mountains in between valleys. Read more The Valleys of the Pyrenees in Pictures by Pedal Dancer®

The valleys of the Pyrenees

3. It's all about the foothills AND the high mountain cols.

Great bike riding can be found in the foothills as well as the high mountain cols. If you visit the Pyreness, try to stay in one of the smaller towns among the hills and not the larger cities along the A64 or A61. You will only understand the Pyrenees by venturing on the small roads and trails. Hiking is also fantastic in this area. My favorite roads are the D918 and the D916!

D918 road highlighted in green in the center of one of my old maps. If you can, cycle this entire road, plus the D618.

The D918 will take you over the Tourmalet and through its landmark avalanche tunnels.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer®

Rest up, we have three big days of climbing ahead!

Other posts by Pedal Dancer on the 2015 Tour de France: