Col d'Aubisque

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Col d'Aubisque
Col Aubisque.jpg
The Col d'Aubisque, on the road towards Gourette and the Ossau Valley
Elevation 1,709 m (5,607 ft)
Traversed by D918
Location Pyrénées-Atlantiques,  France
Range Pyrenees
Coordinates 42°58′36″N 0°20′23″W / 42.97667°N 0.33972°W / 42.97667; -0.33972Coordinates: 42°58′36″N 0°20′23″W / 42.97667°N 0.33972°W / 42.97667; -0.33972
Col d'Aubisque is located in Pyrenees
Col d'Aubisque
Location of Col d'Aubisque

The Col d'Aubisque (1,709 m.; Occitan: Còth d'Aubisca) is a mountain pass in the Pyrenees 30 km south of Tarbes and Pau in the department of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, in the Aquitaine region of France.[1]

The pass is on the northern slopes of the Pic de Ger (2,613m.) and connects Laruns, in the valley of the Gave d'Ossau, via Eaux-Bonnes (west) to Argelès-Gazost, in the valley of the Gave de Pau, via the Col du Soulor (east). The road crosses the Cirque du Litor, in the upper part of the Ouzom valley. It is generally closed from December to June.

The pass is starting point of excursions and a centre for winter sports. In summer, it is popular with cyclists. It is regularly part of the Tour de France, generally rated an hors catégorie climb.

The col[edit]

The summit of the col is marked by a commemorative plaque to André Bach, 1888–1945, member of Legion of Honour and President of the Cyclo Club of Béarn (C.C.B.). André Bachavait was mutilated during World War 1 when he lost his left arm in 1916. In 1943 he was deported to the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany, and he died in May 1945 at Boulay-Moselle while returning home. The stele was inaugurated on 26 September 1948, and every year is the focus of a memorial ride.[2]

The inscription reads:
André Bach 1888-1945
Officier de la Légion d'honneur
Grand mutilé - Président du C.C.B. - Mort en Déportation
Pour perpétuer son souvenir en ce lieu qu'il aimait tant
Ses amis Les Cyclotouristes du C.C.B. 1948

Details of the climb[edit]

The road from Col d'Aubisque to Soulor

From the west, the climb to the Aubisque starts in Laruns. From there, the Aubisque is 16.6 km. and rises 1,190m, an average of 7.2%. The first kilometres, to the spa resort of Eaux-Bonnes, are fairly easy. After the Cascade de Valentin comes a section at 13%. From there to the top, the climb is 8 km. at 8% average, passing the ski resort of Gourette at 1,400m.[3]

The east side is climbed after the Col du Soulor (1,474 m). Starting from Argelès-Gazost, the Soulor is 19.48 km. It rises 1,019m, an average 5.2%. It gets tough after Arrens-Marsous with 10% and more. From the Soulor, the climb is 10.6 km., gaining a further 235m. The road from the Soulor runs along cliffs in the Cirque du Litor, where there are two short, narrow tunnels. From the Cirque du Litor, the climb is 7.5 km. at 4.6%, a height gain of 350m.[4]

Writing in Vélo, Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle said:

The Aubisque is one of those hors catégorie cols that make the legend of the Tour. The climb is in three parts. The first is fairly easy. The road is good and the specialists use 39 × 19 or 53 × 21. Then, at Eaux-Bonnes, you turn left and get to the real climb. This part, as far as Gourette, is a lot more difficult. The hardest part swings between eight and ten per cent from the seventh kilometre until Pont-du-Goua at the ninth kilometre and you need 39 × 21. Then, after 300m of flat in Gourette, a hairpin goes up to the Hôtel des Crêtes Blanches. Riders use 39 × 17 over four kilometres before going into 39 × 16 in the last two kilometres.[5]

Tour de France[edit]

The Aubisque in 1910.

The Col d'Aubisque appeared in the Tour de France in 1910, crossed by François Lafourcade. It has appeared frequently since then, more than once every two years. It was included at the insistence of Alphone Steinès, a colleague of Henri Desgrange at the Tour de France. Steinès visited the man responsible for local roads, the ingénieur des ponts-et-chaussées, who said: "Take the riders up the Aubisque? You're completely crazy in Paris." [1] Steinès agreed that the Tour would pay 5,000 francs to clear the pass. Desgrange knocked the price down to 2,000.[1]

In 1951, Wim van Est was in the yellow jersey – the first Dutchman to wear it[6] and chasing the leaders towards the Soulor when he slipped on gravel and fell into a ravine. He said:

That first bend was wet, slippery from the snow. And there were sharp stones on the road that the cars had kicked up, and my front wheel hit them and I went over. Well, there was a drop of 20m.[7] They've built a barrier there now but then there was nothing to stop you going over. I fell 20 metres, rolling and rolling and rolling. My feet had come out of the straps, my bike had disappeared, and there was a little flat area, the only one that's there, no bigger than the seat of a chair, and I landed on my backside. A metre left or right and I'd have dropped onto solid stone, six or seven hundred metres down. My ankles were all hurt, my elbows were kaput. I was all bruised and shaken up and I didn't know where I was, but nothing was broken.

The team's manager, Kees Pellenaars, took a tow rope from the Dutch team's car. It was too short to reach van Est and so to it he tied 40 racing tyres. It was like that that he was pulled out. Van Est said: "It was all the tyres that Pellenaars had for the team. By the time they'd tugged me up, they were all stretched and they wouldn't stay on the wheels any more! Forty tyres! I wanted to get back on my bike and start racing again. But I couldn't. Pellenaars stopped the whole team."

Van Est told journalists: "I had the feeling that I was taking that bend badly but I so much wanted to keep the yellow jersey, so I went flat out and off I flew.[6] A monument spot 50 years later, on July 17, 2001, says: "Here on 17 July 1951 the cyclist Wim van Est fell 70 metres. He survived but lost the yellow jersey."[6] A newspaper advertisement in the Netherlands showed van Est displaying the watch that he'd worn, with the legend: "My heart stopped, but not my Pontiac."

Tour de France stage finishes[edit]

Stage 16 of the 2007 Tour de France finished at the summit of the Aubisque. There has been one previous finish at the summit (in 1985). In 1971, stage 16a finished at Gourette on the western approaches to Aubisque.[8]

Year Stage Start of stage Distance (km) Category
of climb
Stage winner Yellow jersey
2007 16 Orthez 218.5 HC  Michael Rasmussen (DEN)  Michael Rasmussen (DEN)
1985 18a Luz-Saint-Sauveur 52.5 1  Stephen Roche (IRL)  Bernard Hinault (FRA)
1971 16a Bagnères-de-Luchon 145 1  Bernard Labourdette (FRA)  Eddy Merckx (BEL)

Rasmussen won stage 16 in 2007, confirming himself as favourite for victory in Paris, but that evening was sacked by his team and thrown off the race.

Passages in the Tour de France (since 1947)[edit]

There have been 45 passages over the summit since 1947, making it the second most visited mountain in the race's history.[8]

Year Stage Category Start Finish Leader at the summit
2012 16 HC Pau Bagnères-de-Luchon  Thomas Voeckler (FRA)
2011 13 HC Pau Lourdes  Jérémy Roy (FRA)
2010 16 HC Bagnères-de-Luchon Pau  Christophe Moreau (FRA)
2005 16 HC Mourenx Pau  Cadel Evans (AUS)
2002 11 HC Pau La Mongie  Laurent Jalabert (FRA)
2000 10 2 Dax Hautacam  Javier Otxoa (ESP)
1999 16 1 Lannemezan Pau  Alberto Elli (ITA)
1998 10 HC Pau Bagnères-de-Luchon  Cédric Vasseur (FRA)
1996 17 1 Argelès-Gazost Pamplona  Neil Stephens (AUS)
1995 16 2 Tarbes Pau Stage neutralised
1993 17 1 Tarbes Pau  Claudio Chiappucci (ITA)
1991 13 HC Jaca Val-Louron  Guido Winterberg (SUI)
1990 17 HC Lourdes Pau  Óscar Vargas (COL)
1989 9 HC Pau Cauterets  Miguel Indurain (ESP)
1987 14 HC Pau Luz-Ardiden  Thierry Claveyrolat (FRA)
1985 18b HC Laruns Pau  Reynel Montoya (COL)
1983 10 HC Pau Bagnères-de-Luchon  Lucien Van Impe (BEL)
1982 12 1 Fleurance Pau  Beat Breu (SUI)
1980 13 HC Pau Bagnères-de-Luchon  Maurice Le Guilloux (FRA)
1977 2 1 Auch Pau  Hennie Kuiper (NED)
1976 15 1 Saint-Lary-Soulan Pau  Wladimiro Panizza (ITA)
1972 7 1 Bayonne Pau  Wilfried David (BEL)
1971 16 1 Bagnères-de-Luchon Gourette  Bernard Labourdette (FRA)
1970 19 1 Bagnères-de-Bigorre Mourenx  Raymond Delisle (FRA)
1969 17 1 La Mongie Mourenx  Eddy Merckx (BEL)
1968 12 1 Pau Saint-Gaudens  Julio Jiménez (ESP)
1967 17 1 Bagnères-de-Luchon Pau  Jean-Claude Theilliere (FRA)
1966 10 1 Bayonne Pau  Tommaso De Pra (ITA)
1965 9 1 Dax Bagnères-de-Bigorre  Julio Jiménez (ESP)
1964 16 1 Bagnères-de-Luchon Pau  Federico Bahamontes (ESP)
1963 10 1 Pau Bagnères-de-Bigorre  Federico Bahamontes (ESP)
1961 17 1 Bagnères-de-Luchon Pau  Eddy Pauwels (BEL)
1960 10 1 Mont-de-Marsan Pau  Graziano Battistini (ITA)
1958 13 1 Dax Pau  Federico Bahamontes (ESP)
1957 18 1 Saint-Gaudens Pau  Jean Dotto (FRA)
1956 11 1 Bayonne Pau  Valentin Huot (FRA)
1955 18 1 Saint-Gaudens Pau  Charly Gaul (LUX)
1954 11 1 Bayonne Pau  Federico Bahamontes (ESP)
1953 10 1 Pau Cauterets  Jesus Lorono (ESP)
1952 18 1 Bagnères-de-Bigorre Pau  Fausto Coppi (ITA)
1951 13 1 Dax Tarbes  Raphaël Géminiani (FRA)
1950 11 1 Pau Saint-Gaudens  Jean Robic (FRA)
1949 11 1 Pau Bagnères-de-Luchon  Fausto Coppi (ITA)
1948 7 1 Biarritz Lourdes  Bernard Gauthier (FRA)
1947 15 1 Bagnères-de-Luchon Pau  Jean Robic (FRA)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Chany, Pierre (1988), La Fabuleuse Histoire du Tour de France, La Martinière, France, p112
  2. ^ Sud Ouest, Le pèlerinage des cyclos du CCB à l'Aubisque (The pilgrimage of cyclists at the CWB Aubisque).
  3. ^ "Col de l'Aubisque: Laruns". www.climbbybike.com. Retrieved 21 July 2012. 
  4. ^ "Col de l'Aubisque: Soulor". www.climbbybike.com. Retrieved 21 July 2012. 
  5. ^ Vélo, France, March 2005
  6. ^ a b c Vélo, France, April 2005
  7. ^ Other reports put the fall at 70m
  8. ^ a b "Le col d'Aubisque dans le Tour de France de 1947 à 2012" (in French). le dico du tour. Retrieved 19 November 2011. 

External links[edit]