As customary after all my cycling trips into the high mountains, most of those shamelessly dubbed Tour de France like this one or Giro d’Italia, I give you a recap with some stats of my latest adventure.
Compared to other two-week (14 or 15 stages) “grand tours”, it wasn’t the hardest, but it came in close 3rd in distance.
This is also its rank in elevation (D+) but looking at the average D+ over the total distance, it lands on 6th spot (from 7, as neither the TDF 2022 nor the Giro 2020 were two weeks)…
For a total of 1,147 kms, the D+ was 31,971 m – applying the not totally correct, but fair enough 50/50 rule, that amounts to some 56 m of D+ per km of climbing.
Compare that to the Giro’s of 2011 and 2015 (both 82 m/km) or the “toughest” TDF, 2022 at 66 m/km, and this “Pyrenees” Tour seems relatively easy.
Now, I know I’m getting older and some of the (previous) numbers are “off” – be it taken from Garmin, Strava or RideWithGPS – but this Tour really didn’t feel any easier…
The Col du Tourmalet – 2,115 m – is maybe the most famous col of the (men’s) Tour de France, but it has definitely been climbed most often.
No less than 90 times it was included in a stage in the Tour de France (incl. Femmes) and also a number of times in a Vuelta a España stage.
Lastly in 2023 both the Tour (men and women) and the Vuelta included the Tourmalet, the Vuelta and Tour de France Femmes stage finishing on its summit.
With that, five times a stage finished on its summit and three more times the (Tour stage) finish was at la Mongie.
The history of the Col du Tourmalet and the Tour de France goes back to 1910, the first time the Pyrenees where visited.
The first rider to pass the summit was Octave Lapize, who went on to win the general classification in Paris.
The statue at the summit is in his honor – after being absent for three years, it was placed back in June 2023, but it moved from its previous location on the wall towards the edge on the Luz side, which gives your photos/selfies one hell of a backdrop.
If it’s not cloudy or foggy 😎
In 1913, Eugène Christophe broke his fork close to the summit of the Tourmalet, walked down to and and repaired it himself at a forge in Sainte-Marie-de-Campan, but he lost the Tour.
To commemorate this event, there’s a square in Sainte-Marie-de-Campan that’s named after Christophe and since 2014, there’s a statue of him holding a fork in the air in that square too.
In the 2010 edition of the Tour, the Col du Tourmalet was included in two consecutive stages, crossing westward on the 16th stage to Pau and eastward on the 17th stage with a finish at the summit.
Also both a men’s and a women’s Tour stage included the Tourmalet in the year of my Tour de France 2023: the men going from west to east, over the Tourmalet with a Cauterets-Cambasque finish and the women going from east to west, over the Aspin with a Tourmalet finish.
The list of “first to pass the summit” is too long, but the summit stage winners where Jean-Pierre Danguillaume (1974), Andy Schleck (2010 when Contador had his GC win stripped over the infamous “veal tenderloin” incident), Thibaut Pinot in 2015 and Vingegaard in the Vuelta of 2023, with Jumbo-Visma finishing 1-2-3.
Demi Vollering claimed the stage win in 2023, securing her Tour de France Femmes GC win.
Contrary to popular believe, the Col du Tourmalet is not the highest paved mountain road in the French Pyrenees, but it is the highest pass.
To put that into perspective: on my “Been There, Done That” list, the Tourmalet is in 45th spot taking the 4 of the 5 dead ends below that I travelled into account…
The highest paved road is the dead end Col de Portet, which is 100 m higher than the Col du Tourmalet 1 and one of the hardest climbs in all of France – only the Col de la Loze (stage 5 in the report) is considered tougher.
However, having done both myself, I admit the Portet is one hell of a climb, but the Loze is really a lot tougher.
And the paved dead end Col de Tentes is higher too, the small wooden sign at the summit reading 2,207 m.
There is also a higher paved dead end road leading to the lake Lac d’Aumar / Lac d’Aubert with an altitude listed at 2,162 m.
But that’s at the end of the descend between the lakes – the highest point at the first lake is just over 2,200 meters as well.