Col du Tourmalet – 2,115m

Route: D918 Ste. Marie de Campan to Luz St. Saveur (22 miles)

Coordinates: 42.9082787,0.1451611

Ridden: 2007 & 2011

The Tourmalet lies on the D918 linking Ste. Marie de Campan in the east with Luz St. Saveur to the west. The western ramp, from Luz St. Sauveur, is 11.8 miles long, climbing 1,404m at an average of 7.4 % with a maximum of 10.2% near the summit. The eastern ramp from Ste. Marie de Campan, is 10.7 miles long, gaining 1,268m, an average 7.4% with a maximum of 10%. In terms of cycling the climb is graded HC or “Hors Categorie” – exceptionally hard. The grading system was based on which gear of the car was needed to get to the top. Thus a category 1 climb required the driver to get down to 1st gear and a category 2 climb could be climbed in 2nd gear and so on. An HC climb was so steep that cars of that era – pre WWII – couldn’t get up it at all. The Tourmalet has been climbed more times than any other col in the history of the Tour de France and has also featured in the Vuelta d’Espana. There is a statue at the top to Oscar Lapize who was the first rider over the pass in 1910 and a memorial to Jacques Goddet, the director of the Tour from 1936 to 1987. From a biker’s viewpoint it’s a great road to ride but care needs to be taken on the final stretch up from Luz St. Saveur – this is very tight with some bits of poor road surface. There are some good views from the top and a nice cafe with decent food. You can also make friends with the Vicunas that roam around near the cafe.