TOP 10 MOST FREQUENT CLIMBS OF THE TOUR DE FRANCE
10 FAMOUS TOUR DE FRANCE CLIMBS
See bottom of this page for list of all climbs included on this Legendary TdF Page.
HISTORICAL TOUR DE FRANCE FACTS OF INTEREST
- Climb Most Often Featured in the Tour: Tourmalet - 84 times as of 2021
From Campan: 16.9 km gaining 1267m at 7.5% average grade.
From Luz Saint Sauveur: 18.7 km gaining 1319m at 7.1%.
- Highest Point Ever Reached in the Tour de France: Cime de la Bonette
Cime de la Bonette is 2,802 meters.
Stage 18 1962 (passed again in 1964, 1993 and 2008).
© Climb name
Times highest point of TdF (as of 2022)
Times Featured in Tour de France
Cime de la Bonette
Col de l'Iseran
Col du Galibier
Col du Granon
Top 5 high points of the Tour de France
Also see Top 10 Highest Points of the TdF
- Highest point of first TdF (1903): Col de la République (1,161m).
- First Mountain Stage and climbs in the Tour de France:
- Stage 10 July 21, 1910 - Luchon to Bayonne
- 326 kilometers
- Circle of Death: Col de Peyresourde, Col d’Aspin, Col du Tourmalet and Col d’Aubisque
- On arriving at the top of Col d’Aubisque Octave Lapize (TdF 1910 winner) yelled to tour organizers what is variously reported as “murderers,” “assasins,” or “criminals.” He also said he would quit the tour after descending to Laruns, but he rallied to complete the stage and go on to win the 1910 Tour de France.
Circle of Death
Tourmalet was the highest point the tour had ever reached as of 1910 (2115m)
Previous high point had been Col de Porte (1326m).
- First mountain-top stage finish: Alpe d’Huez (Dutch Mountain / The Alpe) was the first mountain-top finish in the history of the Tour de France in 1952, Stage 10.
- Merckx has the most Grand Tour wins of anyone (11 - 5 TdF, 5 Giro, 1 Vuelta)
- Has the second most Grand Tour wins (10 - 5 TdF, 3 Giro, 2 Vuelta)
- Most Days Wearing the Yellow Jersey:
- 111 (Eddy Merckx)
- 79 (Bernard Hinault)
- 60 (Miguel Indurain)
- Most Stage Wins in a Single Tour:
- Most Times Atop the Podium (top three TdF finish):
- Country Wearing the Yellow Jersey Most:
- France (709)
- Belgium (434)
Frenchmen have been in the maillot jaune far more than any other country.
- Winning TdF in First Appearance:
- Youngest Winner of the Tour:
- Henri Cornet (France, age 19) 1904
- Tadej Pogačar (Slovenia, age 21) 2020
- Firmin Lambot (Belgium, age 36) 1922
- King of the Mountains: Mountain Classification victories (first recognized in 1933; jersey introduced 1975)
“Symbol of the mountains, of a rider pushing beyond their limits and of courage, the red polka dot jersey, which is sponsored by Carrefour, is awarded to the Tour de France’s leader of the best climber classification. Although this classification was introduced in 1933, its symbol, the polka dot jersey, appeared in 1975, which was also the year the Tour first finished on the Champs-Élysées and was won by Bernard Thévenet. It owes its appearance to track racing specialist Henri Lemoine, who competed between the 1930s and 1950s, and that Félix Lévitan, co-director of the Tour with Jacques Goddetwhich, had particularly noticed. While Belgium’s Lucien Van Impe was its first winner and claimed the mountains classification six times, just like his illustrious predecessor, Spain’s Federico Bahamontes, the so-called “Eagle of Toledo”, Frenchman Richard Virenque holds the record for victories with seven titles” (Tour de France: Polka Dot Jersey).
King of the Mountains is designated by the red polka dot jersey.
- Most Green Jerseys (total points):
- Most White Jerseys (best young rider):
- Shortest Margin of Victory:
- 8 seconds - Greg Lemond over Laurent Fignon in 1989 (Lemond overcame 50 seconds in the final time trial using aero bars for the first time in the TdF).
- Greatest Margin of Victory:
- France (36)
- Belgium (18)
- Spain (12)
- Italy (10)
- Britain (6)
- Luxembourg (5)
- USA (3)
THE 5 MOST LEGENDARY CLIMBS OF THE TOUR DE FRANCE
#1: ALPE D’HUEZ
Alpe d’Huez Elevation Profile.
77.5% of the entire climb is at 5-10% average grade.
Steepest kilometer is 10.7%.
Alpe d’Huez is the most famous bike climb in the world and has been included in the Tour de France 30 times between 1952 and the 2022 TdF.
Ride 14 km gaining 1081m at 7.7% to 1801m
Photo clockwise from top left:
Start; Turn 21 (first turn); Turn 1 (last turn); finish; Turn 1 (center).
21 most famous hairpins in the world - 11.4 km at 8.4%.
Turn seven is the most famous of the Alpe d’Huez hairpins: Dutch Corner.
Dutch Corner is where cycling fans from the Netherlands congregate on the day the Tour de France comes to Alpe d’Huez for its inevitable exciting mountain top finish. On this day and at this hairpin, the air is filled with loud European music, the smell of barbeque, and sounds of some of the greatest cycling fans in the world. The tradition originates with Joop Zoetemeik who in 1976 became the first Dutchman to win the Alpe d’Huez stage. Thereafter, Dutch riders won the next seven of twelve Alpe d’Huez finishes, but have not done so since Gert-Jan Theunisse in 1989 (Joop Zoetemelk 1976, 1979; Hennie Kuiper 1977, 1978; Peter Winnen 1981, 1983; Steven Rooks 1988 and Gert-Jan Theunisse 1989).
Bernard Hinault sealed his 5th Tour victory on Alpe d’Huez 1985
Alpe d’Huez has become “the summit of the modern era,” and no other stage of the Tour de France has such presence. With its 21 bends, steep ramps, and massive crowds, it has become the “Hollywood climb,” according to the ride’s official historian, Jacques Augendre. Each year that this climb is included in the TdF, thousands of spectators flock to the area. The massive crowds create what some participants in the ride have described as a feeling of both fear and exhilaration, and as French journalist Philippe Brunel described the look of the road during Marco Pantani’s victorious ascent in the 1995 race, “that thin ribbon of burning asphalt, covered in graffiti, between two deafening walls of spectators, which threaded between his wheels.” Alpe d’Huez has been included in the Tour de France 29 times between its first appearance in 1952 (including two appearances in 1979 and 2013). Each of the 21 hairpins of this climb has been named after one or more of the winners of the 29 Tour de France stages to finish here. Of note, the first stage up this exceptional climb was fittingly won by the incomparable climber Fausto Coppi. Only three cyclists have won the Alpe d’Huez stage more than once: Marco Pantani (1995, 1997), Gianni Bugno (1990, 1991), and Hennie Kuiper (1977, 1978).
Fausto Coppi became the first stage winner of Alpe d’Huez - stage 10 1952 TdF.
YouTube video of Coppi win
Photo: dw.com - 10 most memorable moments on Alpe d’Huez
Likely the most famous and widely remembered and retold stories of Alpe d’Huez is from 1985 when, after two weeks battling each other, it appeared that Greg Lemond and Bernard Hinault had reached a truce and that Hinault would achieve the glory of his fifth TdF without further challenge by Lemond. As the two rode up Alpe d’Huez, the Frenchman led and Lemond followed directly on his wheel. The two passed through throngs of ecstatic French fans and the path grew more narrow as the two neared the climb finish. In the end, the two embraced and Hinault moved slightly ahead of Lemond for his 26th Stage win, at the time placing him second all-time behind Eddy Merckx (34). Hinault went on to win two more stages in his glorious career and is now third with 28 wins, behind Merckx and Mark Cavendish (30).
The exceptional Italian climber, Marco Pantani, holds three of the five fastest times up Alpe d’Huez, the fastest time is 37’35”.
Marco Pantani near the finish on Alpe d’Huez
photo: Hein Ciere
Alpe d’Huez was the stage for one of the most famous (infamous?) cycling moments of all time. Alpe d’Huez was the final climb of three on Stage 10 July 17, 2001 (Col dd Madeleine, Col du Glandon, Alpe d’Huez). Lance Armstrong had dropped from 5:56 back after stage 7 to 35:43 back after a disastrous stage 8 which saw a freak breakaway won by Erik Dekker (s.t. Alto Gonzalez and Servais Knaven). Armstrong was 20:07 back after Stage 9 and his main rival that year, Jan Ullrich, was at 22:41 going into Stage 10.
Armstrong appeared weak on Col de Madeleine which led Uhllrich and his Team Telekom begin an insane sprint up Col du Glandon, leaving Armstrong barely(?) hanging on to the rear of this lead group. However, just a couple kilometers up Alpe d’Huez and with 11 kilometers remaining, Armstrong surged to the front of the group, passed Uhlrich and then, in a moment of Tour lore, looked back (“The Look”) at Uhlrich, fixed his gaze on him momentarily, then put the hammer down and sprinted away (uphill) to victory and his 3rd Tour de France victory of 7.
The Look, Alpe d’Huez Stage 10: 2001 Tour de France
Photo from J Barber and F Ruggeri as published in Masculine Heart
#2: COL DU TOURMALET
From Luz Saint-Sauveur - 18.7 km gaining 1319m at 7.1% average grade.
From Campan: 16.9 km gaining 1267m at 7.5% average grade.
Col du Tourmalet from Luz Saint-Sauveur
PJAMM Gradient Profile
With Alpe d’Huez, Col du Tourmalet is a TdF and world legend. This is the highest pass in the Pyrenees and 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.
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” (Tour de France 2019).
Although no other climb has appeared more times in the Tour, Tourmalet has only been the finish three times.
Jean-Pierre Danguillaume won the first stage to finish on Col du Tourmalet (1974).
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 in what became known as the Circle of Death (Col de Peyresourde, Col d’Aspin, Col du Tourmalet and Col d’Aubisque). 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?
“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
#3: MONT VENTOUX
After Alpe d’Huez, Mont Ventoux is the second most famous of TdF legendary climbs.
Featured 17 times between 1951-2021 (10 summit finishes).
Mont Ventoux Elevation Profile
46% (9.8 km) of the climb is at 5-10% and 21% (4.5 km) at 10-15%.
From Bedoin, the traditional route, ride 21.2 km gaining 1593m to 1909m.
This is the third hardest bike climbs in France and a top world 150.
One of the features of cycling Mont Ventoux that separates it from many of the other exceptional climbs of Europe is that its unique radio tower at the top is visible throughout the climb. At times it seems this tower just refuses to grow any bigger no matter how fast we pedal! SportActive.net explains that this distinctive red and white building, resembling a lighthouse, was built in 1968 and is used as a meteorological station as well as to broadcast television signals.
MONT VENTOUX HAS TAKEN ITS TOLL ON TdF RIDERS LIKE NO OTHER
This climb first appeared in the Tour de France in 1951 when the race crossed, but did not finish, on its summit. The first serious blow the mountain inflicted on riders was in 1955 when Swiss rider Ferdi Küble (winner 1950 TdF) attacked 10 km from the summit and paid for it dearly. Ignoring the searing heat and steep grade, Kübler raced up the mountain only to seize up and have to dismount his bike well before the summit. He eventually made it over the top, but had lost his lead and was a demoralizing 20 minutes behind the leaders. On the descent, Kübler crashed three times but ultimately made it to Avignon where he was observed entering a bar close to the stage finish and pounding down beer after beer. After replenishing in the bar, Kübler mounted his bike and headed out in the opposite direction from the finish. That evening, Kübler called a press conference and retired on the spot - Ventoux had vanquished him (Fotheringham, William, put me back on my Bike, in Search of Tom Simpson, Yellow Jersey Press, 2007, p. 199).
Ferdi Kübler on Mont Ventoux 1955
Photo: Cycling Passion, Ferdi Kübler climbing Mont Ventoux, Tour de France 1955
Another great rider had been crushed by Venoux on on the 1955 stage - Frenchman Jean Malléjac (second in 1953 and ninth overall on this day) keeled over on Ventoux, semi comatose and turning one pedal as he lay on the ground - he was never to race again. Half a dozen other riders collapsed in the Ventoux furnace that day (Fotheringham, p. 199-200).
Jean Malléjac on Ventoux 1955;
Photo Rouleur, Tour de France 21 Stories: Vicious Venoux
And then there was 1967 and one of the greatest tragedies to occur during the Grand Tour. On July 13, 1967, during the tenth stage of the Tour de France, Tom Simpson, known as the charming “Mister Tom” and leader of the British team, had become ill (later his illness was traced to the substances of the day) but he pressed on, ultimately weaving desperately and collapsing on Ventoux. The team mechanic, Harry Hall, pressed Simpson to stop, but he insisted on continuing, famously stating, “Me straps, Harry, me straps!" and his manager Alec Taylor acquiesced (Fotheringham, 2007, pp. 34-35). He did not utter the more famous phrase, “put me back on my bike” - those were invented by an overzealous journalist. Sadly, Mister Tom’s final turns of the pedal were over the next 500 meters and he soon collapsed and could not be resuscitated by Tour doctor Pierre Dumas, the same physician who had tended to Jean Malléjac on Mont Ventoux 12 years earlier.
Tom Simpson, Mont Ventoux, July 13, 1967
Photo: Sport Vintage
There is a memorial honoring the great British rider Tom Simpson 0.7 miles from the summit of Mont Ventoux -- this is the location where he perished at age 29 during the thirteenth stage of the 1967 Tour de France.
Tom Simpson Memorial
First erected 1969 and re-erected 2014
The Tour de France included Mont Ventoux in 16 stages between 1951 and 2016, and it has been the finish on 10 of those, most recently in 2016 (as of 2020). “Mont Ventoux has become legendary as the scene of one of the most grueling climbs in the Tour de France bicycle race, which has ascended the mountain fifteen times since 1951. The followed trail mostly passes through Bédoin. Its fame as a scene of great Tour dramas has made it a magnet for cyclists around the world” (Wikipedia).
Charly Gaul Stage 18 1958
Photo: Cycling Passion - Charly Gaul on Mont Ventoux Tour de France 1958
The “Angel of the Mountains,” diminutive Charly Gaul raced up crushed the Stage 18 Mont Ventoux time trial in 1958, sealing his only Tour de France victory. His record time of 1:02:09 over poor roads and in the hot sun stood for 31 years until taken by American Jonathan Vaughters of the US Postal team. The current record is 55:51 set in 2004 by Spain's Iban Mayo
#4: COL DU GALIBIER
Col du Galibier
From Valloire: Ride 17.4 km gaining 1199m at 6.9% average grade.
From Col du Lautaret: 8.6 km gaining 569m at 6.7%.
PJAMM Cycling’s Col du Galibier from Valloire Gradient Profile
72% (12.5 km) of the climb is at 5-10%.
Col du Galibier was the highest point ever reached by the Tour when featured in 1911 (2556m)
The Tour did not go higher until Col de l'Iseran in 1939 (2770m).
Bartali handing Coppi a water bottle on the Galibier in the 1952 TdF,
Or Coppi sending it back to Bartali -- the debate rages . . .
Included in the Tour 63 times from 1911 through 2022 Galibier was passed as the highest point in the Tour each year from 1911-1914 (suspended 1915-1918 WWI) and 1919-1937. In all Col du Galibier has been the highest point in any individual TdF significantly more times than any other climb (50; Col de L’Iseran is second with 8).
Haute Route quotes Henri Desgrange in his praise of this climb:
The Galibier became a legend at the very first time it was used by the Tour de France, in 1911. This is how Henri Desgrange, creator of the Tour de France, introduced it to his readers: “Oh! Sappey! Oh! Laffrey! Oh! Col Bayard! Oh! Tourmalet! I will not fail in my duty in proclaiming that next to the Galibier you are as weak as dishwater: before this giant there’s nothing one can do but doff one’s hat and bow down low” (translation by Marvin Faure) (Hauteroute.org - Col du Galibier).
When first crossed in 1911 by the Tour de France, no tour rider had ever ridden higher. Although the Galibier route until 1976 tools the tunnel at 2,556 meters. From 1976, the Tour has gone over the pass at the top which is 2,642 meters.
Andy Schleck, Stage 18 of the 2011 Tour de France.
Col du Galibier -- highest mountain top finish ever.
As with many of the challenging and beautiful climbs of France, Galibier is fabulously famous because it has been justifiably blessed by the Tour de France on many occasions (35 times since its first post WWII appearance in 1947, which was the first TdF since 1940). Most recently (as of 2020) Galibier was featured in The Tour in 2019 (Nairo Quintana won the stage from Embrun to Valloire). In 2017 debutante Primoz Roglic became the first Slovenian to win a TdF stage when he came out on top in Stage 17 from La Mure to Serre-Chevalier.
Primoz Roglic, Stage 17 Tour de France.
First Slovenian to win a TdF stage.
Of Galibier and the Tour de France, Wikipedia writes:
The Col du Galibier was first used in the Tour de France in 1911; the first rider over the summit was Emile Georget, who, with Paul Duboc and Gustave Garrigou were the only riders not to walk.
Emile Georget, Col du Galibier, 1911
Photo: Emile Georget
The original summit was at 2556 m; while the tunnel was closed from 1976 until 2002, the tour route went only over the pass closer to the mountain peak at 2645 m. In 2011, the Tour de France went through the tunnel for the first time during the 19th stage from Modane Valfréjus to L'Alpe d'Huez.
At the south portal of the tunnel, at the edge of the road, there is a monument to Henri Desgrange, instigator and first director of the Tour de France. The memorial was inaugurated when the tour passed on 19 July 1949. Whenever the tour crosses the Col du Galibier, a wreath is laid on the memorial. The "Souvenir Henri Desgrange" is awarded to the first rider across the summit of the highest mountain in each year's tour. In 2006, the prize of 5,000 euros was claimed on the Col du Galibier by Michael Rasmussen.
Since 1947, the Col de Galibier has been crossed 31 times by the Tour de France. It was scheduled to be used in 1996, but was left out at the last minute due to bad weather. As a result of snow on both the Col de l'Iseran and the Col du Galibier, the scheduled 190 km stage from Val-d'Isère to Sestriere in Italy was reduced to a 46 km sprint from Le-Monetier-les-Bains which was claimed by Bjarne Riis, resulting in him taking the yellow jersey which he retained to the finish in Paris.
In the 2008 Tour, the Col du Galibier had been crossed on 23 July in the 210 km stage 17 from Embrun to Alpe d'Huez.
The 2011 Tour climbed the Col du Galibier twice to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first appearance of the pass in the Tour de France, including the first ever summit finish, won by Andy Schleck after a 60 km solo breakaway. This was the highest ever stage finish in the Tour de France. It was scheduled to be used again in stage 20 of the 2015 Tour, but was left out nine days before the race start due to landslides in the Chambon Tunnel, situated towards the bottom of the descent of the climb.”
The Telegraphe, and Galibier, are the scene of the greatest racing day in the life of Marco Pantani. It was here and in this Stage 15 of the 1998 TdF that Pantini attacked on the Galibier and ultimately turned a three minute deficit into an 11 minute lead against Jan Ullrich. Pantini went on to win the Tour de France that year.
Pantani attacks 4.2 km from Galibier summit.
#5: COL D'AUBISQUE
CLIMB 1 (CAT __) - COL D'AUBISQUE
PJAMM CYCLING INTERACTIVE PROFILE TOOL
16.7 km, 1193m at 7.1%
The incomparable Col d’Aubisque - included in the first ever mountain stage of the Tour de France in 1910 - Stage 10’s four mountain climbs over the 326 kilometer course (Col de Peyresourde, Col d’Aspin, Col du Tourmalet and, finally Col d’Aubisque) were coined The Circle of Death. It was also on the Aubisque that eventual 1910 TdF winner Octave Lapize uttered his famous comments to tour organizers - variously reported at “murderers,” “assassins,” or “criminals.”
Col d’Aubisque (and Col d’Aspin) has appeared in the Tour de France 73 times between 1910 and 2022, more than any other climb other than Col du Tourmalet with 88 appearances.
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)
CLIMBS MOST APPEARING IN TOUR DE FRANCE
AND SOME OTHERS OF INTEREST
List of the climbs included at least four times in the TdF, plus some other interesting-epic ones.
 We all know, but it is necessary to mention here, that Lance Armstrong’s seven tour victories were all stripped due to the use of PEDs.
 Note: The cliff and tunnel approach to Col d’Aubisque is from the Argeles Gazost/Arrens side, not Laruns.