Legendary. No ordinary escape to the Pyrenees.
Featured more than any other climb, col du Tourmalet is a legendary part of the Tour de France's history – a 19km climb with a summit altitude at 2115m. The pass is regarded as the highest paved mountain pass in the French Pyrenees. Col du Tourmalet is considered a class act and a rare beast.
Approaching the summit from the eastern side, starting off at Luz-Saint-Sauveur,the early part of the climb is steady with an average 7.4% gradient. Riding along in the deep valley, the road has a series of open-sided tunnels and staggering views of steep sheer rock, waterfalls and trees.
After passing villages, a ski-resort and a few switchbacks – the road then opens up. Surrounded by views where the rock meets the sky, this area is visited by herds of cows, and a feeling of being in the belly of the valley.
At 10km from the pass, the treeline retreats and the road swings across – revealing the col and the valley below at a gradient of 8.5%.
The long switchbacks begin to get tighter with a max gradient of 13% near the summit.
Less than 1km from the col - it’s hard not to think about all the great cyclists who've been on this climb.
In local translation, the col du Tourmalet is the ‘distance mountain’, and not to be confused with another direct translation (despite how much grief this mountain has caused over the years):‘bad trip’.
Marking the finish of the final push, is the towering sculpture of the 'suffering' cyclist.
The Tourmalet paved top feels like a proper pass – the road is tight and narrow, built between rock, and is quite simply ‘up and over. Need more vertical meters? and like gravel? Read Pic du Midi article.
Col du Galibier
(Col du Télégraphe)
The most stringent (road bike) col on the French mainland – Col du Galibier is iconic. It is deemed to be a 'top 5' of world climbs, and is favoured by teams for pre Tour training.