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.
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.
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.
At about 730 meters, we pass through Eaux Bonnes (population 194) at the 4 kilometers.
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.
The first five kilometer markers after the start.
Kilometer markers 15-11.
Kilometer markers 10-6.
Kilometer markers 5-1.
The final kilometer to the Col sign at the top.
For perspective, it is 400 meters from the hairpin top left to the top.
On the Laruns side of the col we pass three giant bicycles on our way to the col sign and monuments.
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.
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
Photo: bikeraceinfo.com (an exceptional resource for all Grand Tours).
We rode this route in 2011 and 2018 . . . guess what . . . still the same. 👍
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.
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)
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.
 Note: The cliff and tunnel approach to Col d’Aubisque is from the Argeles Gazost/Arrens side, not Laruns.