The col du tourmalet is one of the most famous mountain passes in cycling. It first featured in the Tour de France in 1910 and has been used 87 times since, making it one of the most used summits in the history of the race. It is a special place, almost sacred to the world of cycling and its history, it is a climb that encapsulates the spirit of this sport. It is a climb that has been passed by great riders and where hopes and aspirations have been made and lost.
It is also one of the most beautiful climbs in the Pyrenees with a spectacular panorama over the mountains and villages that surround it. The road is paved all the way to the top, which is at an altitude of 2,115m. The climb is 17km long and has an average gradient of 7.4%. It can be ridden from the east and the town of Sainte-Marie-de-Campan or from the west from Luz Saint Sauveur. The route from Luz Saint Sauveur is a bit easier than the eastern approach, but it is still a tough climb and you will have to push yourself to get to the top.
At the top there is a large monument and you can see some of the biggest names in the history of the Tour de France. It is a beautiful spot to be and it is always busy with cyclists, motorbikes and day trippers. There is a bar at the top and you can buy some drinks and food to help you refuel. The summit is often the scene of a battle between the favourites for the stage win. If you are lucky enough to be at the top when it is a Tour de France summit finish you will have an amazing experience.
The climb is a challenge that demands everything you have and the best way to prepare for it is to take a few days in the area before the race starts. It is a very pretty climb and the weather can be unpredictable. In June there can sometimes be snow or ice on the road and in July you can have very hot temperatures.
You will need to decide which side of the climb you want to ride based on the conditions. The western approach is a slightly harder climb, but it is much more scenic and the first half is not as hard. The climb gets much steeper above La Mongie and you will have to push yourself to the finish. The final kilometres of the climb are a grueling 8% and there are no respites, but it is a very rewarding climb to do. The views are out of this world and you will feel the weight of cycling history behind you. It is a very special place to be and is a must-ride for any keen cyclist.