Col de Peyresourde


Though overshadowed by its more celebrated and feared neighbours, the Aubisque and the Tourmalet, Col de Peyresourde, 1,569 m, is not to be taken lightly. The gradient is irregular, wind gusts, particularly in the open sections after Garin on the eastern side, can be powerful and temperatures can soar under clear skies in high summer. All that said, Col de Peyresourde in the central Pyrenees is not to be missed: it is a beautiful climb following an ancient mountain road through majestic scenery.

The Climb in Detail


 


“My favourite of all Tour climbs, with it's moss carpet, it's a climb that doesn't inspire fear, it makes you want to lie down on the grass next to the sheep and cows” - Jean-Marie Leblanc, former rider and Tour director

 

The Ascents

The two ascents to the summit of Col de Peyresourde, from Avajan in the west and Bagnères-de-Luchon to the east, are very different in character. From the west, the gradient is steadier and the climb is shorter - just under 10-kilometres; from the east, it is an undulating, deceptively tough 15.3km ride with sections below 1% and a few serious stretches of around 10%. Approaching the summit, there are a number of great, sweeping hairpin bends.

 

 

Sabotage

In a 1937 Tour riddled with cheating, the race headed to the Pyrenees and the first mountain pass, Col de Peyresourde. French team leader, Roger Lapébie headed out of Luchon with his team-mates for a morning warm-up. At Cierp-Gaud, 15 kilometres out of town, Lapébie plunged inexplicably off the road. Or not so inexplicably: closer examination revealed that Lapébie’s handlebar stem had been sabotaged, presumably by the Belgians who had been squabbling with the French riders throughout the race. Lapébie survived the crash, but when the stage finally rolled out of Luchon, the Frenchman was dropped almost immediately climbing Peyresourde: he trailed his Belgian nemesis Sylvère Maes by over four minutes when they reached the Tourmalet. Lapébie recovered, however, and won that year’s edition of the Grand Boucle.

It’s place at the Tour de France

Col de Peyresourde has been a favourite at the Tour de France, featuring some sixty times since it was first included in 1910 (along with the Aubisque and the Tourmalet). The Peyresourde is normally used as a mere amuse-bouche, though, and often in stages heading to or from the spa town of Bagnères-de-Luchon . 


""I thought over the top, 'let me just give it a go and see what I can do on the descent – I'll see if I can catch someone out" - Chris Froome on that famous top-tube bike descent on the Peyresourde

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