As far as iconic cycling climbs go col du tourmalet is up there with the best of them. It’s a mountain that inspires cyclists from around the world to carve out time on their calendars to take this famous pass in all its glory. The scenery, the history and the sense of achievement make this a climb that shouldn’t be missed by any self-respecting cyclist.
It was first featured in the Tour de France back in 1910 and has featured 87 times since, more than any other mountain pass in the race’s history. Despite being little more than a rough track back then it is one of the most challenging hill climbs in the Pyrenees and many hopes and aspirations have been dashed on this steep pass. The climb has a huge amount of history attached to it and cycling fans flock here in large numbers each summer just to see the riders tackle this famous summit.
The soaring mountains and glaciers surrounding the pass are simply spectacular and provide a dramatic backdrop to an otherwise tough and challenging ride. The route starts in Sainte-Marie-de-Campan on the eastern side and then heads north to La Mongie, a ski station two-thirds of the way up. It’s the highest paved road pass in the Pyrenees and features a café, restaurants and a few parking spaces for those wanting to stop and admire the views.
As you continue to head up the mountain you will be greeted by kilometre marker signs indicating how far it is to the summit. The signs are useful as they give you not only the distance to the summit but also tell you how much of the climb is left with the average gradient listed for each kilometre. The west side of the climb is a steady 8% all the way to the top whereas the east side has a few easier kilometres with an average gradient of 6%.
Upon reaching the summit you will be surrounded by ghosts of the past; a memorial to Jacques Goddet, who organised the Tour de France between 1936 and 1987 stands proudly at the summit along with a statue of Octave Lapize gasping for air. The first cyclist to reach the summit each year is awarded the Souvenir Jacques Goddet prize which is a cash prize given in his honour.
The descent down the other side of the mountain is just as spectacular as the climb up and once you get a hit of speed you will know that all your hard work has paid off. Be mindful of the cows and sheep that dot the roads though!
This superb bike gift is a replica of the road markers that you see on the sides of the road in Europe on the famous climbing passes. They come in black or white with the pass name, altitude and road number displayed on both sides. It makes a great souvenir, gift or present for any cyclist who has conquered the Tourmalet and want to remember their experience on this iconic climb. col du tourmalet