Tour of the Pyrenees 2017 – Thursday July 20th

Castejón de Sos — Coll de Fadas & Coll de L’Espina — (Puerto de) Castanesa — Vielh Tunèl de Vielha — Bagnères-de-Luchon (117.43 km, 1988m)

Coll de Fadas

It was a nice morning in Castejón de Sos (896m) and I guess I could have cycled really long and high this day if it was not for the bottom bracket problem (never going to buy Dura Ace bottom brackets and cassettes again as they are sadly of inferior quality these days). I went in an even speed not trying to put too much power at any times in my pedalling strokes to make the bottom bracket hold up a little longer, but there was now a constant bad sound on nearly every turn on the long and winding way up to Coll de Fadas/Fades (1471m). Same view but nicer today at the top down over where I came up (took a photo in the other direction the day before, but only the pass sign looks better in the eastern direction).

Coll de L’Espina

It is then a short downhill and then a little up and down through Laspaúles/Las Paüls (1390m) to Coll de L’Espina (1402m), which is a somewhat meaningless pass coming from this direction, but the real pass if coming from the east. Here looking back.

Coll de L’Espina

Here in the photo I am just at the start down the east side, which was one of the nicest downhill rides on this tour. Perfect asphalt and not much traffic even if being a major road. (Had a nice photo at the pass sign also, but here one sees more.)


It was starting to get warm again now, but not so bad as in the days before. At near the bottom of the descent is the entrance to the Val de Castanesa/Valle Castanesa and I was mostly interested here in the La Collada (1338m) which is one of those +1300m passes I wanted to collect and this was the last from the east to here that I had not been to before now (from all I knew). There is another seemingly nice short-cut road over Montanuy to the Vielha tunnel road here, but also for another time.

The road starts like a bad narrow road and that was how I guess it would continue, but soon a road goes up the mountainside and now the road is all of a sudden rather bizarrely wide and in close to perfect state. Here are also cycling signs for a supposed pass (just like on the Espés road) – Puerto de Castanesa! Have not seen anything on the Internet about this, but nice.


Up at the La Collada (a rather uninteresting one) the road continues up to Castanesa and from there it seemed like it was actually getting much nicer, so despite the bottom bracket problem I pushed on to at least check out the ending sign for the cycle route. The climb is also steeper later, but the road is not so long. The climb starts at 1001m and ends a bit after Castanesa and the sign (which says 1485m, where it is only like 1465m) at ca. 1483m on a very narrow and nice little road that goes Fonchanina/Fontjanina. I just continued around the corner as the road goes steeply down here to have a look up the higher nice Castanesa valley, in the photo above. Straight up here is Pico d’Aneto (2404m) (the highest Pyrenees mountain) and possibly one of the two very highest points in the photo could be the Aneto one, because in zooming in I see the tops are behind the ridge up there. Here is Castanesa on the way back.


I was happy that I explored the road further as it was one of the nicest in the area. Here I look back to where I came down from Coll de L’Espina across the valley.


Looking back on the road that goes steeper down further on before it turns around the corner to Fonchanina/Fontjanina. This is the highest point.


The pass sign by a hotel/restaurang in Castanesa that looks nice. There is no real pass here though.

La Collada

Here looking down the road to La Collada (1338m) at Ardanúy that brought me here. The bicycle had made some bad sounds on the way up, but that was really the last climb for the day I thought.

Pantà de Baserca

One may not think of it thusly, but the climb to the Vielha tunnel is not insignificant. Even though the tunnel is going low under the real pass, I think it merits being referred to as a pass because of the long climb on the south side in particular. The climb up the Vall de Barravés starts at the junction (934m) between the road from Castejón de Sos and the road from El Pont de Suert (where I had started from the day before). I started at 919m, while starting from El Pont de Suert means starting from at least 824m. I stopped for water at the gas station by the junction before the long climb.

Here I am above the big Pantà de Baserca (ca. 1450m). I was a bit sad or relieved that I could not think of climbing up to the Embalse/Ibón de Llauset (2200m) as planned. This is one of the very highest paved roads in the Pyrenees and likely the least known road above 2000m (it ends with a long tunnel before arriving at a dam). This should have been a quite nice climb. The climb starts before the Baserca dam at ca. 1300m.

Tunèl de Vielha

The noise from the bicycle was not so bad up to the Viehla tunnel, but I was happy to know that once I reached the tunnel, it would only be downhill to Vielha. Got a bit tired and thought the climb was longer than I had remembered it to be. I eventually reached the sight of the two tunnels in the photo here. The weather looks perfectly nice here still.

I saw the main modern tunnel and it looked rather busy, but I knew it would be allowed for bicycles as one would think all tunnels should be. Still I was curious about the old tunnel that also seemed to be open for some reason. That tunnel is also the highest of the two and the entrance for Boca sud deth Vielh Tunèl de Vielha is 1608m. When I arrived at the entrance there was a red stoplight and the bar was down over the road, but could just be cycled around. I looked around, but there were no people, no cars, no warning signs an the light was on inside the tunnel.

Boca sud deth Vielh Tunèl de Vielha

It was actually a bit scary as I did not hear a single sound inside the tunnel and as it is 3 km long slightly curved going down all way there was no way to figure out how it looked ahead and if I would get through. I decided to try my luck and go ahead, but was a bit worried something would happen as no one was there or that the tunnels should be closed at the other end. A little worried someone would stop me, but not so much. I might have been most worried the air would be bad as there were no fans running. It was cold and wet inside and I could easily go at ca. 30 km/h without pedalling at all, but it was not very fast, nor did I want to go too fast. I eventually reached the northern end (1387m) and it was open. No people on the side either and I was soon out on the normal road. It was now as cold outside the tunnel as inside it and the weather was not good at all on this side (cloudy and cold, but no rain).

Down in Vielha/Viella it was of course lunch time and here it meant the bicycle shops was closed 3-3.5 hours or so … . I came right between opening hours. After much searching on Internet (incredibly hard to find for some reason) I realised which bicycle shop would be the best option, but had to wait 1.5 hours before it opened. Visiting two cafés and getting a bit tired of not cycling I eventually was let into the shop at the eastern end of the city. They did have some parts, but unfortunately they could not help me as no shop in Vielha is very good on road bikes and told me to continue to Bagnères-de-Luchon in France.

If I only had known about that when I had arrived in Vielha, I would almost have been there by now, but since I had to wait so late I was now pressed on time to get there before they closed. Nothing much to do but to continue to Bagnères-de-Luchon. Now the horrible wind I had had when going to Vielha had turned around so I got hard headwind this way too – feeling it was not my day any longer at least. If that was not enough, I first missed the take-off for Pòrt d’eth Portilhon/Col du Portillon/Portillon de Burbe (1292m), but would likely not have wanted to climb over that “short-cut” anyway with the bike today.

Then just after getting into France the bicycle started to sound very much worse. I tried to stop and to only push on one side, but nothing much helped. Now it was starting to rain lightly too and the bicycle sounded as if I soon should not be able to get the pedals around any more – it felt like I had no bearings at all and only some loose small stones. I stopped to get a hike. Eventually I got a hike, but only to Marignac (after St-Béat) by two ladies, one of which also got a hike I later learned. I thanked them and tried the bicycle 100-200m in the direction of Bagnères-de-Luchon, but I sincerely doubted that it would be a good idea to destroy things even more by continuing. It was really not possible to bicycle any longer, so abysmally did the Shimano Dura Ace bracket disintegrate into dust in no time. I was lucky and soon got a hike by an older man to the village and we got there just in time to see the bicycle shop (he knew which one was best as he told me and apparently knew the people at the shop).

They had a look on the bicycle and said they would try and fix it (Sounding a bit like they would try and fix it with maybe not the right components, but as long as it work it was okay with me and did not want a Dura Ace part in its place anyway), but early when they opened the next day and I could leave it there and come back after breakfast or a little later. Then I walked around the village trying to find a good and cheap hotel. After a while I bounced into the same man I got a ride with and now he remembered a place nearby and it was a nice little place on a side road run by an old lady and with agreeable prices. Walked around long later also to find a restaurant and eventually had a pizza at a busy place. That was not quite enough apparently, so got some indian take-away medium pizza with me back to the room (that one was really good). So thanks to some nice people giving me a ride and advice, the day ended rather well in the circumstances.