Tourmalet and Aspin
Now we’re getting to what we have all been waiting for, the Col du Tourmalet is undoubtedly the most iconic climb here in the Pyrénées. Having appeared more than 80 times in the tour, no climb summarises cycling in the Pyrénées more than the Tourmalet.
After a 30 minute minibus journey, approach from the western side by passing through Soulom and Luz-Saint-Sauveur. You might want to stop for a coffee in one of the many coffee shops you pass, as the menacing monster climb looms over. Almost immediately after leaving Luz-Saint-Sauveur, you start climbing the highest pass in the Pyrénées. It’s a gentle gradient at the start, but when you reach the village of Barèges you will notice the rather familiar 9% Pyrenean gradient. Upon leaving the village you are faced with a with 500m of stern steepness, and from there you will see the road begin to zigzag wildly upwards.
From here you are heading into the wild and stunning views that the Tourmalet offers. Eventually you will have counted down enough of the distance markers to reach the final kilometer. Hopefully you will have enough left in the tank to tackle the final killer blow, set on a 10% gradient (allegedly), before refueling at the Café. Make sure you take some obligatory photos with the statue of Octave Lapiza, the first rider to conquer this icon of the Tour, having famously labelled the organisers as ‘murderers’ for including it.
You now have some time to enjoy yourself on the descent into Saint-Marie de Campan. Once you’ve reached the town, turn right towards the Col d’Aspin. On any other day this climb would be a nice warm up for something bigger, but on tired legs, it can be a real challenge. Follow the weaving road through the pine trees, with some sections that open up to give you a fantastic outlook to boost your motivation. When approaching the top, keep an eye out for cows wandering around as they have been known to step out in front of traffic!
Now it’s time for one of our favourite descents in the Pyrénées. This technical, swooping road offers a real adrenalin rush for those that like to rocket down, as well as stunning scenery for those who prefer to take it a bit easier. When you reach the bottom, turn left onto the main road and then right when you reach the bridge to Chemin de la Neste which will take you back to Velo Le Closier for some very well deserved refreshments.
- Distance – 93km (58 miles)
- Total Ascent – 2,815m (9,238ft)
- Main climb – 1404m (4,606ft)
- Altitude – 2115m (6,938ft)
- Average – 7.4% (Allegedly)
- Tour debut – 1910
- Category – HC