Col d'Aubisque - Laruns Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

8.6
FIETS
10.5 mi
DISTANCE
3,800 ft
GAINED
6.9 %
AVG. GRADE

FULL CLIMB STATS

INTRO

The route of the great cycling climb Col d'Aubisque closest to the Spanish border. This is the route from Larens on the west side of the Col.

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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 .

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CLIMB SUMMARY

Cycling Col d’Aubisque from Laruns - panoramic view of two lane roadway, mountain tops in background, white clouds surrounding roadway

Cycling Col d’Aubisque from Laruns

Ride 16.9 kilometers gaining 1,177 meters at 6.9% average grade.

Visit our 2022 Tour de France Page for more information about this year’s Tour de France.  Col d’Aubisque TdF history is at the bottom of this page.

Col d’Aubisque is famous because of it’s long inclusion in the Tour de France, dating back to 1910 when tour organizer Henri Desgrange decided to include mountains in the race.  Thus, on Stage 10, July 21, 1910, the Circle of Death was coined as riders were confronted with four mountain climbs (Col du Peyresourde, Col d’Aspin, Col du Tourmalet and, finally, Col d’Aubisque) over the course of 326 kilometers between Luchon and Beyonne.  See more Aubisque Tour history below.

Cycling Col d’Aubisque from Laruns - road signs at climb start

Start the climb on D918 at the southern edge of Laruns.

The gradient of the climb varies throughout and includes a kilometer of descent spread out over four sections. 35% of the climb averages 5-10% grade, 22% is at 10-15%, and 4% averages 15-20%.  The steepest 500 kilometer section is 15.8% and steepest kilometer 13.5% (these sections are found around the 11 kilometer point. See Profile Tool for more detail.  

Cycling Col d’Aubisque from Laruns - photo collage; gradient road sign reads 13%; hairpin turns and lush green landscape

We have nice views back to the north of Laruns as we begin up D918 and travel through three sets of hairpins at the beginning of the climb.

views along beginning of climb; photo collage; old stone building; lush green landscape around two-lane roadway; large statue of white bike; signs for Eaux Bonnes

At about 730 meters, we pass through Eaux Bonnes (population 194) at the 4 kilometers.

photo collage; two-lane mountain roadway surrounded by lush green landscape, mountains in distance, fog rolling in

This is very scenic route, through forest most of the climb until we leave the woods and are above treeline for the last 1.5 kilometers to the top.

Cycling Col d’Aubisque from Laruns - photo collage of KM Markers throughout the climb

The first five kilometer markers after the start.

Kilometer markers 15-11.

Cycling Col d’Aubisque from Laruns - photo collage of KM Markers throughout the climb

Kilometer markers 10-6.

Cycling Col d’Aubisque from Laruns - photo collage of KM Markers throughout the climb

Kilometer markers 5-1.

photo collage of last KM of climb; white building with large black and white Tour de France images on side; huge hairpin turn approaching climb summit

Last kilometer.

aerial drone views of the final kilometer to the col sign at the top, roadway snaking through hairpin turns to the top of the climb

The final kilometer to the Col sign at the top.

For perspective, it is 400 meters from the hairpin top left to the top.  

photo collage of three giant bicycle statues at the top of the climb; people and a large horse pose for photos next to bikes

On the Laruns side of the col we pass three giant bicycles on our way to the col sign and monuments.

large stone monument at climb finish for the former president of Bearnais Cyclo Clumb 

Former president of Béarnais Cyclo Club.

Bach lost an arm in WWI, yet would climb Col d’Aubisque by bike until his death in 1945.

PJAMM cyclist John Johnson stands with bike next to monument at climb's summit

There is a monument and col sign marking the finish of this grand climb.

TOUR DE FRANCE HISTORY

The Col d’Aubisque bike climb is one of the most famous climbs in the French Pyrenees and France.  Aubisque first appeared in the Tour de France in 1910, and as of 2022, has been included 46 times between 1947 and 2022 (47 as of Stage 18 July 21, 2022).   The climb was included twelve years straight after its post-war inauguration in 1947, and has been a stage finish three times, which is fairly significant for a pass.  For the 24 years between 1947 and 1970, the Aubisque was included in the Tour all but three years.  The pass was also included once (2016) in the Vuelta a Espan֘a.  

 

Stage 10 TdF 1911[1]

Photo:  bikeraceinfo.com (an exceptional resource for all Grand Tours).

We rode this route in 2011 and 2018 . . . guess what . . . still the same. 👍

aerial drone view of tunnel carved into cliff side coming up to climb finish

Same cliff, same mountain, same tunnel (as pictured above) over 100 years later.

Aubisque is our choice for Top TdF Nostalgic Climb.

The descent from Eaux Bonnes (western approach) towards Col du Soulor was and is a dangerous route - it’s a narrow road with sheer cliffs. On Stage 13, July 17, 1951, this hazardous stretch of road was the scene of one of the most horrific and famous crashes in Tour history.  The unlikely leader on this day was the pleasant and good natured Dutchman Wim van Est.  This Tour included pure and true cycling legends Gino Bartali, Fausto Coppi, and Louison Bobet, and, while an accomplished pursuit racer, van Est was never expected to compete for the overall classification in the greatest of the Grand Tours.  Nonetheless,  on July 26, during Stage 12, van Est, who started the day over nine minutes behind leader Roger Levêque, broke away and won the stage, finding himself in the yellow jersey by :02:29.

Cycling Col d'Aubisque  from Argeles Gazost - aerial drone photo from ravine of roadway and tunnel

A deadly road.

However, winning the flat Stage 12 by using his specialty sprint to gain time on the peloton is one thing, but a sprinter holding a slim lead over the Aubisque would be quite another.  And so it was that Van Est had lost his lead as he summited the mighty Aubisque and set about to regain some of what he had lost.  However, the narrow and windy road descending from Col d’Aubisque towards Col du Soulor is a poor choice for downhill heroics.  And so it was that fell and tumbled 70 meters down and nearly sheer mountainside. It was not just the fall that remains in our memories from this day, but the way Van Est was extricated from his predicament and that he was still alive and able to climb up the mountain back to the road under his own power.

Photo:  Edwin Seldenthus as published in velopeloton.com.

Here is  amazing YouTube footage of the rescue of Wim van Est.  He was helped up the mountainside by a chain of tires strung together by spectators and his support team.  Still alive and unbelievably without major injury, Van Est insisted on continuing the race, but was convinced by wiser authority to go to the hospital.

Making lemonade out of lemons (or money out of near death?) -- when he flew off the Aubisque cliff, Van Est fortuitously (in hindsight anyway) was wearing a team issued Pontiac wrist watch which became the launching point for Van Est focused advertising campaign with this slogan: “Seventy meters deep I dropped, my heart stood still but my Pontiac never stopped.”

All the greats have raced on the Aubisque

Louison Bobet, Stage 11 1954 TdF (champion 1953-1955)

 Photo:  bikeraceinfo.com

The Aubisque has a rich TdF history that began with its very first appearance in The Tour.  For the 1910 Tour,  legendary TdF organizer, Henri Desgrance, decided to include Peyresourde, Aspin, Tourmalet and Aubisque climbs, as well as three smaller ones on Stage 10 (insane!) - this later became known as The Circle of Death.  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) and as he reached its summit he unleashed on tour organizers  - this is not disputed - what he said, however, is variously reported as either some or all of the following:  “murderers,” “assassins,” and/or “criminals.” The french version is most commonly reported asVous êtes des assassins!" which translates to “You are murderers.”   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.

Year

Stage

Category

Start

Finish

Leader at the summit

2018

19

HC

Lourdes

Laruns

 Rafal Majka (POL)

2012

16

HC

Pau

Bagnères-de-Luchon

 Thomas Voeckler (FRA)

2011

13

HC

Pau

Lourdes

 Jérémy Roy (FRA)

2010

16

HC

Bagnères-de-Luchon

Pau

 Christophe Moreau (FRA)

2005

16

HC

Mourenx

Pau

 Cadel Evans (AUS)

2002

11

HC

Pau

La Mongie

 Laurent Jalabert (FRA)

2000

10

2

Dax

Hautacam

 Javier Otxoa (ESP)

1999

16

1

Lannemezan

Pau

 Alberto Elli (ITA)

1998

10

HC

Pau

Bagnères-de-Luchon

 Cédric Vasseur (FRA)

1996

17

1

Argelès-Gazost

Pamplona

 Neil Stephens (AUS)

1995

16

2

Tarbes

Pau

Stage neutralised

1993

17

1

Tarbes

Pau

 Claudio Chiappucci (ITA)

1991

13

HC

Jaca

Val-Louron

 Guido Winterberg (SUI)

1990

17

HC

Lourdes

Pau

 Óscar Vargas (COL)

1989

9

HC

Pau

Cauterets

 Miguel Indurain (ESP)

1987

14

HC

Pau

Luz-Ardiden

 Thierry Claveyrolat (FRA)

1985

18b

HC

Laruns

Pau

 Reynel Montoya (COL)

1983

10

HC

Pau

Bagnères-de-Luchon

 Lucien Van Impe (BEL)

1982

12

1

Fleurance

Pau

 Beat Breu (SUI)

1980

13

HC

Pau

Bagnères-de-Luchon

 Maurice Le Guilloux (FRA)

1977

2

1

Auch

Pau

 Hennie Kuiper (NED)

1976

15

1

Saint-Lary-Soulan

Pau

 Wladimiro Panizza (ITA)

1972

7

1

Bayonne

Pau

 Wilfried David (BEL)

1971

16

1

Bagnères-de-Luchon

Gourette

 Bernard Labourdette (FRA)

1970

19

1

Bagnères-de-Bigorre

Mourenx

 Raymond Delisle (FRA)

1969

17

1

La Mongie

Mourenx

 Eddy Merckx (BEL)

1968

12

1

Pau

Saint-Gaudens

 Julio Jiménez (ESP)

1967

17

1

Bagnères-de-Luchon

Pau

 Jean-Claude Theilliere (FRA)

1966

10

1

Bayonne

Pau

 Tommaso De Pra (ITA)

1965

9

1

Dax

Bagnères-de-Bigorre

 Julio Jiménez (ESP)

1964

16

1

Bagnères-de-Luchon

Pau

 Federico Bahamontes (ESP)

1963

10

1

Pau

Bagnères-de-Bigorre

 Federico Bahamontes (ESP)

1961

17

1

Bagnères-de-Luchon

Pau

 Eddy Pauwels (BEL)

1960

10

1

Mont-de-Marsan

Pau

 Graziano Battistini (ITA)

1958

13

1

Dax

Pau

 Federico Bahamontes (ESP)

1957

18

1

Saint-Gaudens

Pau

 Jean Dotto (FRA)

1956

11

1

Bayonne

Pau

 Valentin Huot (FRA)

1955

18

1

Saint-Gaudens

Pau

 Charly Gaul (LUX)

1954

11

1

Bayonne

Pau

 Federico Bahamontes (ESP)

1953

10

1

Pau

Cauterets

 Jesus Lorono (ESP)

1952

18

1

Bagnères-de-Bigorre

Pau

 Fausto Coppi (ITA)

1951

13

1

Dax

Tarbes

 Raphaël Géminiani (FRA)

1950

11

1

Pau

Saint-Gaudens

 Jean Robic (FRA)

1949

11

1

Pau

Bagnères-de-Luchon

 Fausto Coppi (ITA)

1948

7

1

Biarritz

Lourdes

 Bernard Gauthier (FRA)

1947

15

1

Bagnères-de-Luchon

Pau

 Jean Robic (FRA)

(Wikipedia.)


[1] Note:  The cliff and tunnel approach to Col d’Aubisque is from the Argeles Gazost/Arrens side, not Laruns.

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