Col d'Aubisque - Eaux-Bonnes Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling






Col d'Aubisque - Eaux-Bonnes

France

One of the most famous and difficult climbs in the Pyrenees

Explore this Climb

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wind:
5.9 mph N with gusts up to 5.9 mph

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53° 35°

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58° 35°

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60° 37°

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61° 40°

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63° 43°

Climb Summary


Cycling Col d'Aubisque - cyclist at col sign with bike - John Johnson, PJAMM cycling

Summit monument - Col d’Aubisque

TOUR DE FRANCE HISTORY

The Col d’Aubisque bike climb is one of the most famous of climbs in the French Pyrenees and France.  Aubisque first appeared in the Tour de France in 1910 and has been included 92 times in all (as of 2019) and 48 times between  1947 and 2012 (it has been ignored for the past 7 years as the publication of this page February, 2019; see bottom of page for list of all years Aubisque was featured in the TdF since 1947).  The climb was included 12 years straight after its post-war inauguration in 1947 and has been a stage finish 3 times which is fairly significant for a pass.  For the 24 years between 1947-1970, the Aubisque was included in the Tour all but 3 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 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 - narrow road and 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, was never expected to compete for the overall classificaion in the greatest of the Grand Tours.  Nonetheless,  on July 26 during stage 12, Van Est, who started the day over 9 minutes behind leader Roger  Levêque, broke away, won the stage and found 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.  Van Est was helped up the mountainside by a chain of tires strung together by spectators and his support team.  Although 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 $ 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

Eastern Approach (Argelès-Gazost)

Cycling Col d'Aubisque from Argeles Gazost - roadway and col open sign

4th longest climb in France at 29.5 km

The Col d’Aubisque cycling climb eastern approach can begin from Argelès-Gazost (29.3 km/1,553 m / 4.3%; map) or from Arrens (Arrens is on the route from Argeles-Gazost - 12 km at 3.4% from Argeles-Gazost to Arrens).

Bike climb Col d'Aubisque  from Argeles Gazost - leaving Arrens road sign

Crux of the climb begins as we leave Arrens at 12.3 km (17 km to go).

Bicycle climb Col d'Aubisque  from Argeles Gazost - roadway and Tour de France paining and signs on road

The Tour de France is not stranger to the Aubisque.

Cycling Col d'Aubisque  from Argeles Gazost - Col du Soulor sign with bike next to it

Col du Soulor is 9.5 km before Col d’Aubisque.

Bicycle ride Col d'Aubisque  from Argeles Gazost - rock tunnel and roadway

700 meters with sheer cliffs and tunnels beginning at km

cycling Col d'Aubisque  from Argeles Gazost - photo of sheer cliff, ravine and tunnel

4 km stretch after Col du Soulor that is a bit chilling for those with fear of heights.

Bike ride to Col d'Aubisque  from Argeles Gazost aerial drone photo of tunnel and cliff

Biking to Col d'Aubisque  from Argeles Gazost - cows in the road - cars going around cows

We know who’s boss on these roads!

Steepest kilometer begins at km 17.6 (9.4%)

Western Approach (Eaux-Bonnes)

The western approach of the 3 to Col d’Aubisque is the most difficult at 16.8 km and 7.1% average grade.  We place this route lower on the “must do” scale because it does not include the epic 4 kilometers along sheer cliffs and through tunnels between Col du Solour and Col d’Aubisque as the other 2 routes do.  However, if you are in the area and have the time, this is most definitely a climb worth doing.  If you only have 2 routes to choose from, we recommend doing Aubisque from the west (either from Argeles Gazost for the whole enchillada or from Arrens if just looking for the eqic climb and also from Eaux-Bonnes and eliminate the Frières leg).

Cycling Col d'Aubisque  from Argeles Gazost - sign at start of bike climb

Sign at the start in Eaux-Bonnes.

bike climb up Col d'Aubisque  from Argeles Gazost - road and km markers along roadway

Pick up the first km marker at km 1.6 from the start sign (15 km to top).

Bike climb Col d'Aubisque  from Argeles Gazost - Hotel Pyrenees and roadway

The iconic Hotel Des Pyrenees 4 km into the climb.

Bicycle ride up Col d'Aubisque  from Argeles Gazost - building with Tour de France photos on it

TdF lore 1 km from the top.

Road bike to Col on Col d'Aubisque  from Argeles Gazost - top of climb - bikes and giant bikes and cyclists

That’s a wrap from Eaux-Bonnes

Steepest kilometer begins at km 7 (10.9%)

Northern Approach (        Ferrières)

Col d’Aubisque can be accessed from the north, beginning the climb in Ferrières.  This climb is a lengthy 21.9 km and goes by way of Col du Soulor which we pass at km 12.2.

cycling Col d'Aubisque from Ferrières - Col du Soulor sign

Climb begins in Ferrières 12.2 km from Col du Soulur and 22 from Aubisque.

Bike climb Col d'Aubisque from Ferrières - Col du Soulor km sign

First Col signs for Aubisque don’t begin until 7.5 km from the Col at km 15.

Cycling Col d'Aubisque from Ferrières - roadway, tunnel and cliff between Col du Soulor and Col d' Aubisque

This route includes the same harrowing 4 km as from Argeles Gazost.

Bike ride Col d'Aubisque from Ferrières - giant bikes, horses and cyclists at top of col

At the top.

Steepest kilometer begins at km 10.8 (10.6%)

We rode the Col d’Aubisque bicycle climb from Eaux-Bonnes (western approach) in summer, 2013, before we were documenting climbs for this website.  We are returning to appropriately photographic and document Col d’Aubisque in the summer, 2018 and will have great photos and video for you soon thereafter.  Until then Wikipedia provides, in part:

“From the west, the climb to the Aubisque starts in Laruns. From there, the Aubisque is 16.6 km (10.3 mi) and rises 1,190 m (3,900 ft), an average gradient of 7.2%. The first few kilometres, to the spa resort of Eaux-Bonnes, are fairly easy. After the Cascade de Valentin comes a section at 13%. From there to the top, the climb is 8.0 km (5.0 mi) at 8% average, passing the ski resort of Gourette at 1,400 m (4,600 ft).

The east side is climbed after the Col du Soulor (1,474 m (4,836 ft)). Starting from Argelès-Gazost, the Soulor is 19.5 km (12.1 mi). It rises 1,019 m (3,343 ft), an average gradient of 5.2%. It gets tougher after Arrens-Marsous with 10% and more. From the Soulor, the climb is 10.6 km (6.6 mi), gaining a further 235 m (771 ft). The road from the Soulor runs along cliffs in the Cirque du Litor, where there are two short, narrow tunnels. From the Cirque du Litor, the climb is 7.5 km (4.7 mi) at 4.6%, a height gain of 350 m (1,150 ft).

Writing in Vélo, Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle said:

“The Aubisque is one of those hors catégorie cols that make the legend of the Tour. The climb is in three parts. The first is fairly easy. The road is good and the specialists use 39 × 19 or 53 × 21. Then, at Eaux-Bonnes, you turn left and get to the real climb. This part, as far as Gourette, is a lot more difficult. The hardest part swings between eight and ten per cent from the seventh kilometre until Pont-du-Goua at the ninth kilometre and you need 39 × 21. Then, after 300m of flat in Gourette, a hairpin goes up to the Hôtel des Crêtes Blanches. Riders use 39 × 17 over four kilometres before going into 39 × 16 in the last two kilometres.”  Vélo, France, March 2005

Wikipedia

Year

Stage

Category

Start

Finish

Leader at the summit

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