The Route du Sud 2017

Lee Parish, 6th May 2017

The 41st edition will start at the Mediterranean basin and end in the west at Nogaro. Of course, the chunk in the middle with hopes to challenge and expose the race is the Pyrenees. This year, as often is the case for RDS, the high mountains promises an interesting route and one on unchartered territory for a professional race.

The 2017 Route du Sud

All Eyes and Ears on the Road

Interestingly, the third stage in the very heart of the Pyrenees, retained all the attention of Christian Prudhommme, the patron of the Tour who was present in Toulouse for the annoucements. The RDS is the first European Pro stage race of the season and often features a recconiasance misson of a stage to be included in the Tour de France. Could we possibly be looking at a future stage of the Tour?

Stage 3 of the 2017 RDS

Stage 3 in the High Mountains

Entering vintage years, the Route du Sud is relying on historic sites and big names. Departing Saint Gaudens (the 29th time for this faithfull city), passing Capvern and Bagneres before attacking the mythical Col du Tourmalet. After the Tourmalet the route climbs very close to Luz-Ardiden to descend back to Luz-Staint-Saveur and finish on an Hors category climb above the world famous Cirque de Gavarnie.

The route between Gavarnie and Col de Tentes

Unchartered Territory

Cirque de Gavarnie leading up and ever higher to Col de Tentes, is one of the finest cycling climbs in the Pyrenees. Well worth the trip from Velo Pyrenees for an epic day in the saddle. It climbs to the border between France and Spain, in the heart of the Pyrenees National Park. The protected National Park status has prevented the might of the Tour de France from coming here despite requests to showcase it as an iconic mountain stage for the whole Tour.

The RDS will end short of the Col de Tentes in the ski station of Les Espécières/ Gavarnie (1830m). Pierre Caubin, the race organiser says "Six very difficult kilometers will play the decisive role for the overall classification....."

Of lesser note, the penultimate climb of the stage 3 takes the lesser known approach through Viscos to reach just 1km from the summit of Luz Ardiden before descending back to Luz-St-Saveur. Never has a race taken cyclists down this famously difficult descent.

The Vintage Stuff

The route is said to be sacred by local journalists, with memory of the elders. Stage 4 ends in Nogaro, where Eddy Merkx won an Ace criterion ahead of Freddy Maetens in 1974. A passage in Caupenne d'Armagnac takes the route onto the land of Luis Ocaña. The Espagnol finally retired in 1977 but he did not participate in the Tour of the Tarn, but returned as sporting director. As local journalists have said, "The memory of the elders on The Route is sacred."