83.2km / 1857m
The first day of the 2016 Slam eases the participants into the event with a delightful ride that touches a couple of small Pyrenean foothills before taking a coastal ride into the beautiful seaside resort of Biarritz. Famous for its great surfing beaches and rooftop hotel bars, Biarritz is the perfect Slam stop before the terrain gets too challenging.
148km / 2523m
We keep the worst of the hills to our right as the Slam heads inland away from the Atlantic and eventually towards the Med. Sticking in rugby country we head out through Bayonne and onto some really rural rolling roads. There are one or two slight drags to break up the day but a great flat run into Pau will give everyone a taste of the first part of tomorrow's ride.
162km / 4566m
Today sees the distance just nudge over 100 miles so it is sure to be a real achievement for all that swing a leg over their bikes in the morning. As we exit Pau, we follow the river that runs through it, the Gave de Pau, all the way down to the religious theme park that is Lourdes. In between the tacky souvenir shops and numerous zebra crossings, the Pyrenees are looming large on the horizon. A well placed cycle path takes us from Lourdes to the outskirts of Argeles-Gazost where we pick up the valley road to Luz St Sauveur where we will experience some of the first long descents of this year's Slam. We will take in the Col du Tourmalet, Col d’Aspin and Col du Perysourde before we finish in the lovely mountain town of Bagneres-du-Luchon.
104.5km / 2654m
With Luchon nestled at the bottom of so many hills, it is inevitable that today's ride starts with a climb. A short climb takes us back into Spain and onto the next hill to take us over 2000 meters in altitude. Once we have taken in the sights at the top, a 35km descent will whisk us to the beautiful Spanish mountain town of Sort where a refreshing beer will surely be waiting and it will be worth reflecting on the fact that today's stage was initially going to be 70km longer and take in two more climbs!
69.8km / 1689m
There’s more climbing on the menu for today and yet again a light brekkie will be in order as we are climbing straight out of the blocks, this time for just under 20km. a well deserved descent follows and then the slightly gentler climb up into the tax free greyness of Andorra which sees the end of stage 1.