Col du Tourmalet - Sainte Marie de Campan Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

10.5
FIETS
10.5 mi
DISTANCE
4,156 ft
GAINED
7.5 %
AVG. GRADE

FULL CLIMB STATS

Page Contributor(s): Lynn Sugden, Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada; Carl Hansen, Guernsey, UK

INTRO

Col du Tourmalet - one of the most famous climbs in the world!

Making its record 84th appearance in the Tour de France as one of to HC climbs on stage 18, July 15, 2021. See our 2021 Tour de France page for the most unique presentation of TdF climbs you have ever seen. 

See more details and tools regarding this climb's grade via our interactive Profile Tool.
Roadway: The roadway is in good shape on both sides of the col. For more of an adventure consider taking the Voie Laurent Fignon on the Luz St Sauveur side of the col. This follows the old road for about 4k and it is not open to cars. The turn off is after Bareges but before the large parking area for the ski lifts.

Traffic: This climb has more traffic than some of the others in the area (especially in the middle of the day) due to its iconic status and great views. Sometimes, it is possible to get stuck behind cars on the descent.

Parking: You can park in Ste Marie de Campan (just below the town) or in Luz St Sauveur. There is also parking available in La Mongie and at the top of the col.

Summer in the Pyrenees is normally warm and sunny, even at higher elevations. However, there are some periods of low clouds that can make the climbs quite damp. Bring warm clothes just in case. As the top of the Tourmalet is over 2,100 meters, you may need at least arm warmers for some of the descent. There are bike shops in Luz St Sauveur. Water is available in Ste Marie de Campan, La Mongie, and Luz St Sauveur.
Before heading out on any cycling adventure check out our Things to Bring on a Cycling Trip and use our interactive check list to ensure you don't forget anything.
For those looking to stay in the area we would recommend the Pyrenees Cycling Lodge. Located in the beautiful medieval village of Saint Savin and hosted by Mark & Niamh, the Lodge is run by cyclists for cyclists. It is a great location for any cycling adventure in the Pyrenees with several renowned climbs within 100km of the property and 6 Tour de France climbs within 15km. Visit their website or contact them directly at pyreneescyclinglodge@gmail.com .

There are also places to stay in Luz St Sauveur or in Bagneres de Bigorre depending on which side of the col you want to be on. Both also have shops and restaurants.

ROUTE MAP

MEMBER RATING

Difficulty: Strenuous
3
Road
5
Traffic
4
Scenery

CURRENT WEATHER

NEARBY CLIMBS (0) RADIAL PROXIMITY

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Oct 4, 2021
difficulty: Strenuous
scenery: 4
traffic: 5
road: 3
Oct 4, 2021
scenery: 4
traffic: 5
road: 3
First snow fall of the year meant the surrounding mountains were stunning. Climb was continuous with no let up.
ROUTE MAP
PROFILE TOOL

Climb Profile Not Found
CLIMB SUMMARY

Cycling Col du Tourmalet from Sainte Marie de Campan

Ride 17 kilometers gaining 1,260 meters at 7.4% average grade.

Climb summary by PJAMM’s John Johnson.

Making its record 84th appearance in the Tour de France as one of to HC climbs on stage 18, July 15, 2021.  See our 2021 Tour de France page for the best way to view and filter Tour de France stage routes and climbs that you have ever seen - guaranteed!

See more Tourmalet TdF history below.  

The ugly stepsister of Tourmalet West?  We think not.  Although admittedly less scenic and just a bit less challenging, this climb must be included, along with Tourmalet West, on any advernterous cyclist’s bucket list.  This route is predominantly used by auto to reach the La Mongie ski resort.  The route is predominantly used by cyclists to reach the col.  There is as much cycling traffic on this col as you will see on any other, save perhaps Alpe d’Huez, Ventoux and Stelvio. Although there is slightly less distance and elevation gain to this side of the mountain, we very much enjoyed our climb and highly recommend it.

Begin the climb in  Sainte Marie de Campan, Hautes - Pyrenees (pop. 1,388 2016)

Cycling Col du Tourmalet east from Campan - cyclist entering tunnel with mountains in background

 Bike ride Col du Tourmalet east from Campan French Pyrenees - cyclist riding with mountain in background

Taken near the top in good weather . . .

. . . just below the top in June, 2011 - yes, June!

Cycling Col du Tourmalet from west - Luz Saint Sauvuer - photo of col from below - ski runs

 Le Géant

Cycling Col du Tourmalet from west - Luz Saint Sauvuer - photo of col from below - ski runs

Nice cafe at the summit.

Cycling Col du Tourmalet from west - Luz Saint Sauvuer - photo of col from below - ski runs

TOUR DE FRANCE HISTORY

With Alpe d’Huez, Col du Tourmalet is a tour and world legend.  This is the highest pass in the Pyrenees and, as of 2018, has been included in the Tour de France a record 84 times between its first appearance in 1910 and 2021. From 1919 to 1939, Tourmalet was included in the TdF every year except 1922, and then only because the tour rerouted due to heavy snow.

PJAMM Cycling’s Profile Tool analysis of 2021 Stage 18.

55 km at 0-5% average grade, 23 km at 5-10% and 7.5 km at 10-15%

Steepest 500 meters is 12.1%, 1 km 11% and 2 km 9.8%

2019 featured comments on the official website for the Tour de France

“It’ll be the third time that a finish is set at the top of the Pyrenean mountain after 1974 (victory of Jean-Pierre Danguillaume) and 2010 (victory of Andy Schleck). The Tourmalet is also to date the mountain that has been climbed the most in the history of the Tour: 82 times.”  LeTour.fr 2019

Although no other climb has appeared more times in the Tour, Tourmalet has only been the finish twice (a third time will occur July 20, 2019, stage 14).

Jean-Pierre Danguillaume won the first stage to finish on Col du Tourmalet (1974).

Photo:  deskgram.net.

Tourmalet has a rich TdF history that began with its very first appearance in The Tour.  The legendary TdF organizer, Henri Desgrance had decided to include Tourmalet in the 1910 tour.  The first rider over Col du Tourmalet on July 21, 1910 was eventual 1910 tour winner frenchman Octave Lapize.  Lapize was overtaken on the next climb (Col d’Aubisque).  At this time Lapize unleashed on tour organizers as he reached the pass - this is not disputed -- what he said, however, is variously reported as either some or all of the following:  “murderers,” “assassins,” and/or “criminals.”  Sadly, Lapize was to die seven years later from injuries sustained when his fighter plane was shot down during WWI.  

Octave Lapize -- the first rider (hiker?) over Tourmalet, 1910.

Photo:  Cycling Passion, Octave Lapize walks over the Col du Tourmalet.

The tour was not held from 1940-46 due to WWII.  When The Grand Tour reappeared in 1947, so to did Tourmalet. From 1947 to 1955 Tourmalet was featured in the TdF.  It wasn’t until 1956 that Tourmalet was left off the Tour’s agenda without excuse; from 1919 to 1957 Tourmalet was included in the Tour every year that it occurred.

One of the most famous stories of Col du Tourmalet and the Tour de France is from 1913.  Descending Tourmalet towards Campan, French cyclist Eugène Christophe crashed and broke his front fork.  Showing the resilience and spirit of those times (and, lacking any support staff), Christophe walked down the east side of Tourmalet to Campan where he found a forge and amazingly repaired his bike sufficient to ride to the stage finish in Bagnères-de-Luchon.  To add insult to injury, on top of already having lost three hours due to the crash, the race organizers penalized him for the “assistance” he was given by a seven year old boy who had pumped the bellows for him while he repaired his bike a blacksmith’s shop in Campan.

Eugène Christophe repairing his bike in Campan, 1913 (Image from Jean Durry).

YouTube summary of Christophe’s 1913 bad luck.

In 1919, Eugène Christophe became the first man to wear the yellow jersey. 

In 2010 Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck battled up the Col du Tourmalet from Luz-Saint-Sauveur for a mountain top finish (the second straight day Tourmalet was featured in the tour and only its second mountain top finish ever).  With ten kilometers to go, Schleck and Contador broke from the group and were alone on a fog shrouded ascent to the Col du Tourmalet.  With two kilometers to go, the two raced up the mountain side by side in heavy fog and light rain, having tried to break each other multiple times over the past eight kilometers.  Schleck led the entire final kilometer and there was no sprint at the finish, Contador conceding the stage to Schleck, but keeping the yellow jersey, both riders finishing with the same 5:03:29.

Andy Schleck edged Alberto Contador TdF 2010 stage 17.

Photo by filip bossuyt.

YouTube segment of Schleck and Contador on Tourmalet.

WHAT’S ON TOP?

Col du Tourmalet summit and col - photo of Le Geant

 “Géant au Col du Tourmalet” -- Paying homage to the “Giants” of the road.  

Velopeloton.com writes of the Géant:

“Géant au Col du Tourmalet is an iron sculpture first erected in 2000. It was created by the artist Jean-Bernard Métais, as part of the Tour de France sculpture on the A64 autoroute between Tarbes and Pau. This sculpture features 8 cyclists, Le Géant is the 9th person of the work. Le Géant is installed at the summit on the first Saturday of June each summer. It is a great occasion known as “Montée du Géant” – “Rise of the Giant” and attracts approx 1000 cyclists, who ride up the mountain with Le Géant. Le Géant travels on the back of a truck, accompanied by a brass band. There is a celebrity cyclist each year, with Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain among those who have honoured the Giant with their effort. Le Geant is removed at the beginning of October each year for safekeeping from the harsh winter. It is mostly on display in Bagneres de Bigorre, but has spent a couple of winters in Tarbes.

Géant au Col du Tourmale

Photo:  Velopeloton.com


There is a misconception doing the rounds in the last few years that it is a statue to honour Octave Lapize, who was the first Tour de France rider to cross Col du Tourmalet in 1910. It’s not. This seems to have arisen after a plaque commemorating the first crossing by Le Tour and Lapize was erected on the wall under Le Géant in 2010. The real purpose is . . . “is the homage of Hautes Pyrenees to the Giants of the road”. Interpret that as you wish. The giants of the road could be the riders of Le Tour de France or it could be all the riders who cycle up Col du Tourmalet each year. I prefer the latter. An honour for every cyclist who makes it to the top.”
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Bike climb up Col du Tourmalet - col - bicycles and cyclists; Le Geant statue, col sign

One of the most famous cycling summits in the world.