Bagneres de Bigorre - Col d'Aspin & Col du Tourmalet (again)

Col d'Aspin & Col du Tourmalet. 62km, ascent 2035m


The Aspin, from the western side at least, is an easy climb.  To make a good day out, it really should be combined with another Col at least.

So what are the options?

There's the Col de Peyrousade, if you can sort out transport or fancy a really long ride.

Less well known than the Aspin, but higher and more remote, is the Hourquette d'Ancizan which allows you make a loop around the town of Arreau - tat would be a leg tester.

My choice was to tackle the Aspin first, and then climb the Tourmalet again, this time from the south side. That sounded like a suitable challenge.

These and other routes are contained in a brochure called 20 Circuits Velo available at Tourist Offices in the area for 3 Euros.

Leaving our campsite at Bagneres de Bigorre we drove to Saint Marie de Campan, the junction where the Aspin / Tourmalet roads split, and found an Aire a few metres up the road.  It's in the Aires book but it feels more like a car park by the side of the road.

Pic du Midi in distance
The ride up the Col d'Aspin from here took less than an hour and I never needed my granny ring. It was a genuinely lovely ride.  

We hit cow rush-hour on the way up, but a few slaps on their backsides got us through. 

The cattle here seem to have an itinerary for each hour of the day, moving at set times from lower to upper pastures without intervention from their owners.  Or, for that matter, any particular consideration for road users.

The ride down was very chilly, with a cold wind now blowing from the north. We'd had rain with thunder yesterday and there was a sense it might return.

The Tourmalet from the east starts gently and lulls you into thinking it might be like this all the way up. 

Llama slalom
But somewhere along the way, the road gradually steepens and you realise you're panting for breath in the red zone. 

No cows on this road, but there was a herd of llamas. 

'Slaloming llamas on the Tourmalet' would make a good title for something. 

Through the rockfall tunnels we've seen so many times on the TdF coverage and through the un-lovely ski station of La Mongie from where the cable car whisks tourists to the summit of Pic du Midi. 

This last section is... you know, I can't remember much about whether it was steep or not, but it felt good... all the way to the summit.

Where there was an 'enthusiastic' crowd conforming to their national stereotype.


A large posse of German cyclists, all in perfectly matching yellow strips, were drinking beer outside the summit cafe, dragging chairs into the middle of the road to block traffic and generally making complete arses of themselves.  

I'd ridden much of the way chatting with a lad from Frankfurt (that's him with the llamas) who, on seeing his countrymen's antics, did a pretty good job of appearing to be French.  

So having ridden it from both sides, which way up the Tourmalet is harder?  

The one where you ride another col first.

Tomorrow we're off the bike and tackling a spectacular two-day backpacking trip across the border into Spain.



What's this about? We took our campervan down the Pyrenees this summer, riding classic cols and hiking great walks. Now I'm sharing the info about best campsites for the best rides.

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