Luz Ardiden Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling






Luz Ardiden

France

Our favorite of the famous Pyrenees ski area finishes.

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Climb Summary


Cycling  Luz Ardiden - mountains with clouds

Cycling Luz Ardiden

Ride 13.3 km from 1,112m gaining 1,714m at 7.6% average grade.

The Luz Ardiden bike climb is at the crossroads of greatness -- the starting point for this magnificent ride can also be used to climb Tourmalet and/or Col de Tentes (Cirque de Gavarnie).  The Argeles-Gazost/Luz-Saint Sauveur area is one of the greatest climbing zones in the world, home to Tourmalet, Hautacam, Soulor, Aubisque and several more.

This climb is in the Pyrenees mountain range of southwest Europe which forms the natural border between France and Spain.  Along with the French Alps, the Pyrenees are annually host to the mountain stages of the Tour de France.  The climb begins in Luz-Saint-Sauveur which is a commune in the French Hautes-Pyrenees department.  The town has a population of 1,098 (1999) and is known by locals as “Luz” and its inhabitants are Luzeans.  The incomparable Napoleon Bridge, completed in 1861 as a compliment to Napoleon Bonaparte who cherished the Pyrenees, is located at the southern edge of Luz-Saint-Sauveur over the Gave de Gavarnie Ou de Pau.

Cycling Luz Ardiden - Pont Napoléon Saut à l'élastique

Napoléon Bridge -- Pont Napoléon Saut à l'élastique.

Biking Luz Ardiden - start - km marker 

KM markers along the route

(see our KM slideshow for all markers).

Bike climb Luz Ardiden - memorial with Luz-Saint-Sauveur in background

Luz-Saint-Sauveur below

The roadway is young by Pyrenees standards, constructed only in 1975 to accommodate skiers driving to Station de Ski de Luz Ardiden.  This climb is famous for its spectacular hairpins and the way the clouds and mist form around the surrounding mountains.

Climbing Luz Ardiden by bike - aerial drone photo of hairpins 

Laces (hairpins) at the top of the climb.

Bike climb of Luz Ardiden - hydroelectric water pipe with bike leaning against it.

Hydroelectric presence on this and Col de Tentes.

Bicycle ride of Luz Ardiden - John Johnson PJAMM with bike at final km marker

An exceptional bike climb

We cannot say enough about this one and strongly recommend it.

Luz Ardiden is a ski resort in the French Pyrenees located only thirteen kilometers from the Spanish border, “situated in the Hautes-Pyrénées department, in the Midi-Pyrénées. The ski resort lies at a height of 1720 meters and was opened on January 16, 1975. In recent years the road to Luz Ardiden has served as an occasional stage finish for the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España”  (Wikipedia).

Cycling Luz Ardiden - aerial drone photo of hairpins at top of climb

TOUR DE FRANCE HISTORY

Luz Ardiden has been included in the TdF eight times between 1985 and 2011.  Included in The Grand Tour five times in ten years between 1984 and 1994, but only three times in the 23 years following.  Always a mountain top finish as the road ends at the ski resort, Luz Ardiden has been the finish-line for Tour de France and Vuelta a España stages several times.

Being so close to the Spanish border, the climb was also included in the Vuelta a España in 1992 and 1995.

Luz Ardiden was introduced to the Tour de France on stage 17, July 16, 1985.

It was on the climb up Luz Ardiden that Bernard Hinault’s place at the pantheon of cycling lore was secured -- not by Hinault himself, but by a decision made by Hinault’s team (La Vie Claiere) manager, Paul Koechli.  Hinault had previously won the 1978, 1979, 1981, and 1982 Tours and was on pace to win a record tying #5 (Jacques Anquetil won five from 1957 to 1964, as did Eddy Merckx from 1969 to 1974) when he crashed near the end of stage 14, breaking his nose and losing by one minute 51seconds to Gred Lemond who remained in second place.  Hinault struggled over the next two stages, but maintained his nearly two minute lead over Lemond going into stage 17, July 16, 1985 -- the first post-crash mountain stage (Col d’Aspin, Col du Tourmalet and a summit finish at the ski resort Luz Ardiden).

Roche and Lemond on Ardiden, stage 17 1985 TdF.

On the climb up Col du Tourmalet from Campan, Hinault fell back, losing contact with Pedro Delgado, Stephen Roche and his teammate Greg Lemond (winner 1986, 1989, 1990) who was riding extremely strong in second place (three minutes 38 seconds back).  Delgado led up Ardiden with Roche a bit further down the mountain, followed closely by Lemond who felt strong enough to attack and win the stage, which would have propelled him into first place and likely make him the 1985 Tour de France champion.  However, it was not to be as the team manager pulled alongside Lemond as he rode powerfully up Ardiden and ordered him to stay with Roche and wait for Hinault who would ultimately finish only one minute behind Lemond, who was livid at the end of the stage, feeling betrayed by Koechli.

Lemond sat second after stage 17 and at the end of the 1985 TdF

There will always be the question: had Greg Lemond been atop that podium on July 16, 1985 . . .

. . . Would he have been on atop it July 22 in Paris?

This is an excellent, although grainy, YouTube summary of the stage 17 battle that decided the 1985 TdF.

It was at this time that Hinault made his infamous, but inaccurate, promise that the following year he would support Lemond winning the Tour.  1986 of course was one of the greatest Tour de France races of all time and the focus of Richard Moore’s cycling history masterpiece, Slaying the Badger, Greg Lemond, Bernard Hinault, and the Greatest Tour de France.

Bridesmaid through treachery on the Ardiden(?) in 1985 . . .

. . . Champion in 1986!

Luz Ardiden is also famous for its part in the 2003 Tour de France.  Stage 15 started with three riders within 18 seconds of each other: Lance Armstrong leading Jan Ullrich and Alex Vinokourov.  With 10 kilometers to go, Armstrong had just accelerated lead rider Iban Mayo when he drifted to the right, catching his handlebars of a fan’s musette, causing him to topple to the ground.  Armstrong recovered, caught up with Ullrich who as a great sportsman had slowed so not to take advantage of the crash.  Armstrong went on to crush all other riders on Luz Ardiden and widen his tour lead over Ullrich from 18 seconds to 1:07. Here is amazing footage of this segment of one of the great tours: “Lance Armstrong crashes and attacks at the Tour de France 2003”.

Cycling Luz Ardiden - aerial drone photo of hairpins at top of climb

Lance Armstrong crashes during the 2003 Tour de France, Stage 15

Photo: AP Photo/Bernard Papon/Pool; ESPN

Tour de France stage finishes - Wikipedia - Luz Ardiden

Year

Stage

Category

Start of stage

Distance (km)

Stage winner

Yellow jersey

2011

12

HC

Cugnaux

211

Samuel Sánchez

Thomas Voeckler

2003

15

HC

Bagnères de Bigorre

159.5

Lance Armstrong (Disqualified)

Lance Armstrong (Disqualified)

2001

14

HC

Tarbes

144

Roberto Laiseka

Lance Armstrong (Disqualified)

1994

12

HC

Lourdes

204.5

Richard Virenque

Miguel Indurain

1990

16

HC

Blagnac

215

Miguel Indurain

Claudio Chiappucci

1988

15

HC

Saint-Girons

187.5

Laudelino Cubino Gonzalez

Pedro Delgado

1987

14

HC

Pau

166

Dag Otto Lauritzen

Charly Mottet

1985

17

HC

Toulouse

209.5

Pedro Delgado

Bernard Hinault 

Two other exceptional bicycle climbs begin near the start of Luz Ardiden.  Read more about them by clicking the links below.

Cycling Luz Ardiden - aerial drone photo of hairpins at top of climb

Col du Tourmalet

Cycling Luz Ardiden - aerial drone photo of hairpins at top of climb

Col de Tentes