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Photograph courtesy of Discover France
France
Tour des Pyrenees

If the gods were cyclists, you can rest assured that there would be more mountains like the Pyrenees. The 11,000-foot peaks separating France from Spain are laced with hundreds of miles of paved roads winding past medieval villages and stretches of high-alpine wilderness. For the past half century, cycling fanatics have been completing the Raid Pyrénéen, a hundred-hour cyclathon across the range on a fixed course. But other than Raid crews (and, of course, the annual swarm of Tour de France riders) the Pyrenees are mostly crowd free. “One of the big advantages to this area is that there are very few cars,” says Loren Siekman, owner of Discover France. Now, DF has developed an outfitted version of the Pyrenees crossing, using a different route and a saner, weeklong pace. The traverse begins near chilly Atlantic waters in Biarritz. Thick forests on the range’s western side give way to granite peaks as you pedal through towns like Arette (smack on the Spanish border), Oust (mountain views), and Ax-les-Thermes (hot springs) down the arid, eastern flanks. The biking is no joke: Each day you’ll cover 45 to 75 miles and gain up to 11,000 feet. Shellfish and sweet white Basque wines sustain you during the early stages; later, it’s cassoulet and Mediterranean reds—reminders that a balmy, blue-green sea lies ahead.

Outfitter: Discover France; cyclingclassics.com
Price: $3,450 guided ($$$) or $2,535 self-guided ($$)
Length: 10 days
Departs: May–September

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