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Pau – Oloron – Escot
Roll out of Pau along the Avenue Gaston Lacoste, just below the Boulevard des Pyrenees, which has a perfect vista of the mountains you will be riding toward. The start of the ride is a time to remain steady and relaxed, there may be chaos as groups from the back gallop past shouting “hep! hep!” in an attempt to claw to the front.
Take a left to head south along the N134 towards Jurançon. Then, rather than many have suggested, you move off this main road and go right along the D2 for a northwestern detour along smaller roads and a short climb, a nice surprise.
A left and a right curve into the valley along the D217, takes you south towards the Pyrenees. At this point the congestion of the starting pens will have dispersed and you can set a tempo, hopefully riding in a group that suits your legs. Watch out for gravel as you get a glimpse of the Pyrenean giants.
Rustic scenery all around, you ride past a field of plane trees reminiscent of a Matisse canvas. A vineyard or two, you wind past ramshackle farmhouses and sleepy heifers. Get used to seeing les vaches along this rural route, they’re in abundance.
Right, onto the D24, to meet the aforementioned short climb and first real gradient of the day, the Côte de Gaye. It kicks up for about a 1km or so and a pleasant view to the right reveals itself. You pass a crucifix as you reach the top and a lovely winding and undulating 25km ensues. Steady is the watchword here, if you try and go too hard these lumpy bits will drain vital energy before you reach the first col, the Marie Blanque. Enjoy the route and lush countryside.
Oloron – Escot
Reaching the town of Oloron Ste. Marie, you continue south along D238 for more winding, rural, narrow roads. Watch a sharp right hand at one point that descends before another quick left as you continue through more voluptuous country roads and shady woodland. A memorial honouring those who fell fighting for the Resistance sits on a corner before the village of Lurbe St. Christau. There may be some horse manure to avoid on the narrow descent through this very rustic enclave.
This first 55km of the ride from Pau to Escot has plenty of ‘lumps’. It’s important to ride with a group at a tempo that suits you – otherwise if you go too hard you’ll be knocked back before the Marie Blanque.