You are on the summit of Tourmalet, the culmination of the great route of the Cols of the Pyrenees, and now you understand why the name “Tourmalet” resounds like the snap of a flag in a stormy wind for cyclists the world over! It is here that some heroic pages have been written, as well as tragic ones, about the most famous cycling event in the world: the Tour de France. The greatest epic, perhaps, involved Eugène Christophe, called “Le Vieux Gaulois” (the old Gaul) because of his luxuriant moustache. In 1913, when he had passed through the col in second position, he was knocked over by a vehicle in the caravan. His fork broken, he took to the route on foot, his bike over his shoulder, to the forge in Sainte-Marie-de-Campan where he repaired his bike himself, which took four hours. Fifty-six years later, Eddy Merckx was given his nickname “The Cannibal” when he won the stage that included Le Tourmalet with a lead of more than seven minutes.
You can discover the col du Tourmalet in the following itineraries:
At an altitude of 2115 metres it is the highest road pass in the Pyrenees, and of course it is the legendary Tour de France climb, the Pic du Midi towers over. From Bareges on the western side to Campan on the east it is where cyclists from the world over come to test themselves on its mythical slopes. In winter the two sides are the Grand Tourmalet ski area, the largest in the French Pyrenees.