Stage 15 – Gateway to the Pyrenees

Stage 15 – 158.5km from Samatan to Pau (2012, Stage 15)

tour Tracker stage 15

Whoever designed todays stage  is a right git. I was hoping the stage would be more of a transition day getting me ready for the Pyrenean climbs to come. However, the parcours have been very similar to the roads I’ve ridden in my training around Dorset, with lots of short and steep climbs and very few flat sections meaning there was no chance to get into a rhythm. Generally if you were riding this in a group it would be far easier, because in a group you can more easily maintain the momentum over the climbs, but on my own the constant changes of gradient have slowed me down a bit. It’ also been a sweltering day, with the temperature reaching 35 degrees, so I’ve been drinking loads on my way around.

Marciac Lake

Marciac Lake

Early on in the ride I passed a town which shall remain unnamed as it reminded me very much of Royston Vasey (League of Gentlemen). Before I even got there dogs were barking at me and then I passed a very camp fellow who can take on the roll of Herr Lipp (if you don’t know who Herr Lipp is checkout this clip - you’ll crack up). The main street consisted of lots of people just staring at me – definitely a local town for local people and a very swift passing visit on my part.

Bassoues Church

Bassoues Church

Contrasting this, the town of Auch was the most northerly part of todays stage and is a stunningly beautiful place which sits on the Le Gers river.  Alongside the stunning Cathedrale Sainte-Marie, there is a statue of d’Artagnan (Dogtanion) who was based on the real life person, Charles de Batz, Comte d’Artagnan born nearby in the château de Castelmore, and written about by Alexandre Dumas in his book Dogtanion and the Muskehounds ;o) – as a consequence I’ve had that theme tune stuck in my head all day.


d’Artagnan / Dogtanion

The scenery throughout the day has been stunning with lots of hilly agricultural land and in the distance the ominous looming of  the Pyrenees, it has surprised me a little because I had visions that the landscape in the lead-up to the Pyrenees would be much steeper.

Looming Pyrenees - taken from near St Justin

Looming Pyrenees – taken from near St Justin

Behind Paris, the end town Pau (pronounced Po), must be the most visited place on the Tour, this is probably in part due to it being the principal administrative town in the department of Pyrenees-Atlantiques, but primarily due to it being the gateway to the Pyrenees.

Here’s todays stats:

  • Distance: 160km
  • Time: 6 hours 18 minutes
  • Average Moving Speed: 25.5 kmph
  • Total Ascent: 2,446 metres
Stage 15 Map

Stage 15 Map

Tomorrow was supposed to be the second (and final) rest day of the challenge.  although my legs feel good and the weather forecast is promising so I’m going to take on Stage 16. This is a 197km ride in the high mountains taking on the toughest climb in the Pyrenees – the Col du Tourmalet; not only that, I’ll also be taking on the high category climb of Col d’Aubsique and the category 1 climbs of the Col d’Aspin and Col De Peyresourde – in  my view, on paper, this is the second hardest day of the challenge!

Time to fuel up.



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