Col du Tourmalet and both sides of Col d’AspinBy Will • Jun 2nd, 2009 • Category: Climbs, Cycling, Favorites, pyrénées, Touring
For an overview map and details on every route I have cycled in the Pyrenées see here.
Col du Tourmalet is one of the most famous climbs in cycling and the highest cycling Col in the French Pyrénées. Today was just a dream day on the bike.
Eddie Merckx: “It’s the most legendary Col in the Pyrénées. I always succeeded here because it was long enough to make my adversaries suffer”
Col du Tourmalet – east side
Start: Campan Distance: 23.5 kms Ascent: 1505 metres
It has appeared in the Tour de France more than any other climb – only being omitted a dozen or so times. Stage 9 of the 2009 Tour de France will feature the east side after first climbing Col d’Aspin.
Starting from Campan, the first few kilometres are leisurely easy. But don’t be fooled, once you reach Gripp the fun starts: the last 12 kms average about 9% – this is a tough climb.
For details of the west side of Tourmalet from Luz Saint-Sauveur see here.
The other side was still closed, so it meant no through traffic. The weather was perfect, and despite the steepness, I was in cycling nirvana.
The ski station of La Mongie is about 4.5 kilometres from the top, and from here the rest of the ride hairpins up the ski slopes.
The views are beyond spectacular (although I think the west side is even better). As I reached the top, I was searching desperately for the giant cycling statue. But apparently it wasn’t arriving until Saturday, as part of a big cycling day, it will be brought up and re-erected. I guess I’ll just have to come back.
West Side: Start: Ste-Marie-de-Campan Distance: 12.5 kms Ascent: 650 metres
East Side: Start: Arreau Distance: 12.6 kms Ascent: 785 metres
I descended back to Ste-Marie-de-Campan to climb the west side of Col d’Aspin. I was a little tired, but convinced myself to descend the other side so I could also climb the side that the Tour de France will follow. It was a great decision.
Because while the west side of Aspin is pleasant – the views are generally behind (thus it’s a better descent). Whereas, the east side is a much more interesting (and challenging) climb. You can see the Col from the very bottom and the road winds up the side of a hill with fantastic views throughout. I took it slowly and just enjoyed the surroundings.
A pretty huge, tiring day, but just an unbelievable ride.