Octave Lapize was the first one reaching the top and apparently calling out “You are murderers. Yes, killers!’’ towards the organization. Not sure if this was only about the Col du Tourmalet, as this was just one of the seven climbs that day covering probably a distance over 300 kilometers, which was quite normal in those days. He has been honored with a statue which marks the end of the climb. It can be crowded around this statue, as cyclists are queuing to get their photos taken in front of it.
It’s quite steep and no turns to get the pressure off your legs. It’s for sure a slow killer with a final punch at the end.
Col du Tourmalet is for the Pyrenees, what the Alpe d’Huez is for the Alps and along with Mont Ventoux, one of the three great climbs in cycling. You can climb Col du Tourmalet from both sides having an average grade of 7.4%.
The most famous side to start your climb is from Luz Saint Sauveur. It’s quite steep and no turns to get the pressure off your legs. It’s for sure a slow killer with a final punch at the end. The last two kilometer you will be fighting against an average gradient of 10%. Quite tough, as you already covered close to 18 kilometers of climbing and mostly against a gradient of 8%.
You can also start you climb via La Mongie. Its hard work, as from kilometer four you will start a section with 8% average. From that point on, until the very last kilometer you probably will drop below this average once or twice, but never below 7%. Between the nine and fifteen kilometers you will be hitting double digits and never dropping below an average of 9%. Just like the other side, you don’t have many turns, so pressure will be on your legs most of the time. But to give you an idea, when starting the climb you got 5 turns that separate you from getting to the top.
Getting to the top will be worth the pain. A little cafe, which is great moment to get you recovery, is bedecked with cycling memorabilia. It includes original 1908 bicycles and posters, depicting famous race scenes played out on the Col du Tourmalet over the past century.
Col du Tourmalet is also the gateway to many other superb climbs. Col d’Aubisque is only a few kilometers to the west, and the ski stations of Luz Ardiden and Hautacam can be found very close to the town of Luz-Saint Saueveur. The east side of Col du Tourmalet will lead you towards Col d’Aspin.