Tackling the Col du Tourmalet – 2115m

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Thursday 23 October 2014

Tackling the Col du Tourmalet – 2115m

The Col du Tourmalet, one of the Tour de France's most well known and feared climbs, was our destination when we left Gavarnie late on Thursday morning. First included in the Tour de France in 1910, in just the 8th edition of the now world famous event, the col has been crested by almost all of the legends of cycling ...... and today it was our turn.

We would be tackling the climb from the western slopes, starting off in Luz St Saveur from where we would ride the 19km and climb over 1400m to reach the top at 2115m at an average of 7.4%. We were definitely excited about this one and set off shortly after lunch into a bright, sunny autumn afternoon. In fact, it was almost a little too sunny given the hard work ahead, but fortunately the time of year meant the sun stayed just behind the surrounding hills providing a narrow sliver of shade that tracked the climb for the first 8km before we emerged onto the more exposed, rocky slopes above 1400m.

With the location, the weather and the fantastic views (especially those behind us over the distant peaks as we climbed) we felt strong and were powering our way through the kilometres. Passing mostly markers for 8% or 9% interspersed with the occasional 5% (just to keep the average down) we seemed to be the only cyclists on the road, but as we cycled over the names painted on the tarmac and with many of the passing motorists calling out 'Bon Courage' as they passed it was easy to picture the carnival of the Tour on this very same road.

As the road kicked up once more in the final few kilometres Esther road away from me to power solo to the top as I continued my natural grinding rhythm to arrive a few minutes later feeling very pleased with our efforts and enjoying the congratulations of the many auto-tourists who had stopped at the col. The view was breathtaking, looking out for miles over the Haute Pyrenees to the east and west and much closer vertical rock walls bounding the north and south. With the weather so fine and having worked so hard to be here we decided not to dash straight down but locked up our bikes and took a short amble along a dirt track just to enjoy the view.

Unlike some of the cycles we had done in high summer, it was so warm despite the time of year that we were able to stay for a good hour or so revelling in the scenery and our achievement at having been able to ride up this monster climb. Sadly, as 5pm rolled around we knew it was time to head back to our motorhome and even though the descent was predictably chilly ( particularly as we entered the shaded road that had been such a blessing when going the other way) it's much easier to bear the cold when you know it's downhill all the way to your back door.

Cycle Information: 
Motorhome Base: Luz St Saveur
Start/ End Point: Luz St Saveur
Distance: 19km
Ascent: 1406m
Average Gradient: 7.4%

Other Related Posts:
Road Cycling in the Hautes-Pyrénées - The Most Famous & Difficult Climbs of the Tour de France

7 Spectacular Cycling Climbs From Vallée d'Aure, Hautes-Pyrénées - Arreau & Saint-Lary-Soulan

Tackling 4 Amazing Cycling Climbs in the Ariege-Pyrénées, France - and 4 for the Future!

See All Our Cycling Climbs in the Pyrenees

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