We were super stoked when we started working with 3T in the early part of 2023, and when the discussion came about for a 3T travel week, we knew just the group that would be itching to try out what 3T has to offer.
A group from Canada was set for early September and was thrilled to get the opportunity to ride 3T bikes in the stunning Occitanie region, more precisely the Aude and Ariege.
The beauty of where we are situated here at Le Bezy Pyrenees (lebezy.com) is that we have access to 4 different departments from the door. These are Aude, Ariege, Haute Garonne, and the Tarn, each offering something different for the cyclists we have coming through the doors, from the high peaks of the Pyrenees in the Ariege, the gorges and vineyards of the Aude, to the Black mountains in the Tarn, and the rolling valleys and city vibes of the Haute Garonne.
We had 5 awesome days planned to give a little insight into what’s on offer…
Scenic To Foix
112km 1120m in elevation
After setting everyone up on their bikes, we rolled out of Le Bezy down the valley and traversed the little flat we have on offer locally to the village of Belpech… complete with its shuttered windows and classic French charm, we turned down the suggestion of an early croissant stop and cracked on through. We tackled some of the local steep and short climbs as we crisscrossed the valleys with the skyline of the Pyrenees in all its splendor as the backdrop. The temperature was rising as we reached the Pyrenean Gateway town of Foix with its spectacular chateau looking down on the city… time for lunch…
Bellies full, we rolled out and headed east from Foix, taking some steadier shallower climbs (it was the first day after all), passing the small village of Roquefort de Cascade, where from October through to May you can stop to watch the water tumbling down the rockface and, if you’re brave enough, take a dip.
More climbs came and went, with the last notable one being the Col de Calzan, which is only short from the south side and with the col sign holey from the chasse (hunters), it’s a real reminder you are in rural France.
We pass back through Belpech, but this time we cut across the valley, which means the last bit of climbing is under the blazing afternoon sun… some of the group press on to get back to the farmhouse and a well-earned dinner as the sunsets on an awesome first day.
Local Lumps to Mirepoix
109km 1240m in elevation
No trip to this region is complete without a trip to Mirepoix. The quickest route there is around 28km, but as we had lunch planned, we took in more of what the locality has to offer. That means repeated ups and downs from valley to valley. A lot of visitors say the area is reminiscent of Tuscany, just minus the traffic and impatient drivers. Again, another hot day meant as we arrived in Mirepoix, the shade from the Medieval buildings and cold drinks went down a treat. Mirepoix dates back to the 10th century, and its market square and cathedral are real relics and are an awesome spot to grab a coffee and watch the world go by.
The return leg was eastbound, and briefly, we dipped into the vineyards. Lush valleys filled with neat vines and the unmistakable smell of sulfur. The grapes were plump and presumably only days away from being picked.
A generous tailwind pushed us across valley ridges at quite a pace, and the aero abilities of the Racemax came into their own.
The Mountain Loop
75km 1730m in elevation
An early start as we began from the mountain town of Tarascon Sur Ariege meant only one thing… Climbs. On the schedule was Port de Lers at… and the Col de Port. A few of the group had never ridden in the high mountains before, and this is a loop that is testing enough with some steep ramps on the first climb, but with relatively good fitness, it’s doable by most.
We rolled through the Auzat valley for 14km, which served as the perfect warm-up. Steep high walls of rock loomed on either side of us, and a tributary of the River Ariege flowed quickly with the clearest of waters. A right turn in Vicdessos takes us to the climb, and the gearing on the 3T bikes is working hard to keep the legs spinning. Port de Lers is 11.3km, and the top is 1517m… a tough first 4km give way to a welcomed reprieve for a kilometer or so before it ramps up again with awesome views back down the valley and waterfalls cascading down the rock face are a welcome distraction from the gradient in the last few kilometers.
We stop briefly at the top for the obligatory picture with the col sign, and the reward comes with the fast and wide descent down to Massat, where we pause for lunch in the hippy hangout of a town. Our next climb comes in the shape of Col de Port… from Massat, it’s a super steady climb with gradients dipping between 5 and 7% for just over 12km. The heat plays a part again, and a mountain water trough near the top is visited for a refresh by the majority of the group. Another col appreciation pic is taken, and a windy but fast descent back into Tarascon is enjoyed by all. What a day!
Big Wine Country
134km 1470m in elevation
With an easterly wind blowing, we rode straight into it for the first half of the ride, big skies and views to the south could be seen if we peeled our eyes away from our stems. I reminded the group to take in the views and prepare for a “cheeky” climb into the hilltop village of Fanjeaux. Gradients high into the teens for just over 2km were enough to get the lactic pumping, and most were aware of the previous day’s exploits. As we passed through the village and only 25 km into the ride, the topography changes completely. We leave behind fields of sunflowers and harvested wheat, and we hit vineyards. The rolling hills and short steep climbs are a feature in this area, but the downs are just as much fun as the ups. Chateaus in little forgotten villages remind you of the history of the region, and we find ourselves slogging up yet another climb before descending into our lunch spot for the day. The pretty town of Limoux is at the heart of the local wine region and is most noticeably famous for its version of sparkling wine called Blanquette de Limoux, which actually predates Champagne. After lunch, a 7km climb awaited through the quietest of valleys, narrow roads with high rock formation, and not a car in sight meant we were able to press on, and finally, the easterly that we’d been battling with all day was on our backs. We stormed back towards Mirepoix for a quick supermarket dash for cokes and water before the last 30km back to Le Bezy.
Gorge de Galamus
92km 1570m in elevation
A new route for us, although we’ve ridden the roads before we hadn’t taken guests, but now we’re questioning why. We start from an abandoned railway station in Montazels and head towards the hippy town of Esperaza. Once through that, we take a barely used cut through to Quillan, and we head through the center of town, which is home and host of one of the oldest post-Tour de France crit races. This year Peter Sagan was the victor! We climb out of Quillan, and this far east the soil is a rich red color, and the Pyrenean rock is whiter and wilder. Pine forests adorn the slopes as we climb to the top of Col de Saint Louis. This time we have done it from the easy side, which means the 10% ramps are to be taken with care on the descent. We love this climb, and with a corkscrew near the top, it makes for an Instagrammable photo opportunity. This is nothing, though, compared with what’s coming later in the ride. We pause for lunch in a sheltered corner amongst vines with the high cliff faces as the backdrop. Some more climbing in this rocky region leads us to the smoothest tarmac, and we pass through the town of Saint Paul de Fenouillet and climb towards the Gorge de Galamus. We couldn’t help but stop every few minutes to check out the views and admire the turquoise water of the Agly River that splits the rocks into giant cliffs. Vertigo is guaranteed when looking down; it’s simply epic! With the gorge the talk of the group, we climb up and out and start to head back west… forested climbs make way for breathtaking views over the surrounding mountains with Bugarach our closest. The ‘upside’ mountain can be seen for miles, and many a myth and legend hails from it. It’s not far back from here, with just a few more climbs past Rennes Le Chateau, which is internationally known for conspiracy theories over buried treasure. We find no treasure apart from a snake-like descent back towards our starting location, and with that, the final ride of what was an epic week.
For the week, we were using the 3T Racemax clad with Challenge tires in 30mm. Great fast aero gravel bikes (but equally, as we proved this week) at home on the road.