Col d'Aubisque

In our opinion the Col d’Aubisque is the quintessential Pyrenean climb. Many of its big name alpine cousins look from a distance like what a child would draw if asked to draw a mountain – big pointy things covered in snow. But the Aubisque looks more like a hill scaled to mountain proportions. Don’t get us wrong, the Aubisque is tough, but it winds up through greenery with the constant sounds of cowbells and with beautiful scenery. Sat in the café at the summit you can look out across both the Pyrenees-Atlantiques and Hautes-Pyrenees.

If the views were not enough, at the top you will also find several monuments which illustrates the cycling history that has been made on the mountain. From the sculpture of the three bikes in yellow, green and red polka dot to the bust of Lucien Buysse winner of the 1926 Tour de France, the Col d’Aubisque was crossed that year and many historians claim that is was possibly the hardest stage ever ridden at the Tour.

The Climb in Detail

“Exposed uneven in slope and so quintessentially Pyrenean, the Aubisque is the jab preparing for more strategically placed climbs sucker punch.” - Mountain High


The Ascents

The summit of the Col d’Aubisque can be reached from Argelès-Gazost to the east or Laruns to the west. The Laruns side features an unrelenting gradient with a fantastic crescendo as you exit the ski station of Gourette and finish on the exposed and open hillside. The east to west ascent of the Aubisque is in fact only a paltry eight kilometres long, beginning as it does at 1,403 metres above sea level, two kilometres beyond the summit of the 1,473-metre Col du Soulor but counting the Soulor from Argelès-Gazost the total climb can total over 30-kilometre and 1250 metres elevation.


‘I fell 70 metres deep into a ravine'

In 1951, Wim Van Est, a total novice in the mountains but Tour leader, Van Est descended the Aubisque like a kamikaze, eventually overshooting a bend and plunging 70 metres into a ravine. By some miracle, he survived; more famously still, Van Est had to be winched back up to the road with a make shift rope. He went on to front an advertising campaign for the watch company Pontiac with the slogan ‘I fell 70 metres deep into a ravine. My heart stopped beating but my Pontiac was still working.’ 

Its place at the Tour de France

Surpassed only by the Tourmalet in number of Tour appearances, the Aubisque is one of the Tour’s mountain cornerstones. First used in 1910 as the race looked to add mountain passes in the Pyrenees it has also featured in the Tour de France as a summit finish on three occasions. The noted winners include Frenchman Bernard Labourdette in 1971, Ireland's Stephen Roche in 1985 (which would be his first stage win at the Grand Boucle) and the Dane Michael Rasmussen in 2007 which was to be his last act in that year’s Tour as he was unceremoniously thrown off the Tour in the yellow jersey after the stage.

"“You’re assassins! All of you!” – Octave Lapize to Tour officials whilst half way up the Col d’Aubisque in the 1910 race. 

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