Tom Butler rides Plateau de Beille

While holidaying in Narbonne with his family in late August, Tom Butler climbed the iconic Tour de France haute category climb, the Plateau de Beille, known as the Alpe d’Huez of the Pyrenees.

Tom took his summer road bike to France and managed to incorporate his ride seemlessly into the holiday so that all the family had a ” lovely day out which included a visit to spa town Ax Les Thermes just down the valley.
Until this year when Belgian Jello Vanendart was first on Stage 14, the cyclist winning at Plateau de Beille has gone on to win the Tour; Marco Pantani in 1998, Lance Armstrong in 2002 and 2004 and Alberto Contador in 2007. 

Pantani  holds the record time for the climb with 44 mins which remains unchallenged after Tom’s 1hr 40 but, as he said, “I was on holiday and wanted to make sure I got there.” 

Plateau de Beille is 2km longer at 16km and climbs a further 100 metres than Alpe D’Huez. The gradient averages 7.9% although it is a lot steeper for the first few miles. It’s also described widely as in the top 30 most beautiful climbs in France.
Tom on top

Tom described the incline as unlike Winnats Pass or parts of the Strines but it was its sheer relentlessness that took its toll on Tom.

Mile after mile with no respite. After about 4 miles Tom went through a difficult patch and thought of packing, but he ‘stuck in there’ and carried on. It was when he got up to the about 7.5 miles that he knew he had the climb beaten.

The steeper lower slopes caused big problems early on. Tom found it difficult to release a hand from the bars to have a drink. It was also very hot with no wind or shade on his side of the road.
View from the road summit

Tom was inspired seeing all those names painted on the road, especially lots of  ‘Thomas’ and one surrounded by a huge heart! Maybe they were painted on the climb to lift our Tom’s spirit, or possibly they had that French guy, Thomas Voeckler, in mind.

Photo’s Alison Butler.

Tom cools of with son Matthew at Ax les Thermes
The road to the climb

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