The col du tourmalet is one of the most famous climbs in cycling. It first appeared in the Tour de France in 1910 and Octave Lapize rode over it on his way to winning the race. Since then it has featured in 87 Tour stages and is one of the most used mountain passes in the Pyrenees. It is also a favourite of mountain bikers and offers stunning views over the French and Spanish Pyrenees.
The Tourmalet is a summit that is renowned for the epic battles between competitors. For example, in 2010 it was the site of a legendary duel between Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck. This was the first time that a climb in the Pyrenees was used to decide the overall winner of the Tour and it became the centrepiece of a classic stage as they struggled up the steep slopes.
This year the col was used twice on stage 18 and 20 with Tadej Pogacar taking the win on both occasions to secure a polka-dot jersey. The climbing is not easy and it is a real test of fitness for the riders but it is an unforgettable experience for those who are lucky enough to ride it.
There are two ways to approach the col – either via the east from Luz-Saint-Sauveur or the west from Sainte-Marie de Campan. Both offer a challenge but the eastern route is slightly more difficult. It is a climb of two halves with the first half being relatively dull and the second part more aesthetically pleasing and demanding.
The climb itself is not long and the road surface is in excellent condition but be prepared to see a lot of traffic. There are many hairpin bends on the way up and it is quite narrow in places. The descent is just as enjoyable with the road being in good condition and plenty of opportunities to get a hit of speed. Just be mindful of the local cows, sheep and donkeys as you enjoy your ride down!
This is an amazing opportunity to enjoy the beauty of France’s iconic cols. You can add on our fantastic Aubisque loop ride to make this a full day of cycling that you will never forget. If you do this you will be able to experience the Tourmalet as well as the Col d’Aspin and La Mongie. Adding on these additional climbs will add between 40km and 90km in distance and 720m and 2,500m in elevation gain depending on which routes you choose to take. The Tourmalet is a truly memorable climb and is an essential part of any cycling trip to the Pyrenees.