Day 30, 20 6 2013, Col du Tourmalet

At the age of fourteen I used to go to David Jones department store, buy .22 rifle ammunition, and with my rifle in my school bag ride off on my bicycle to shoot rabbits some 20Km from home.

When we were married we rode around Tasmania for our honeymoon.

We have commuted on bicycles all of our working lives, and bicycles became, if anything, more important when we retired from full-time work and started these extended bicycle tours in Europe.

All this is by way of introduction to today’s ride, to explain why it meant so much to us.

We rode to the Col du Tourmalet.

This is a peak in the Pyrenees, known to anyone with more than a passing interest in cycling.  It features often in the Tour de France.  It is a very significant challenge, as the profile below shows. 

The total climb from Bagneres de Biggore where we are staying is over 1500m vertical, over 30Km.  The climb starts fairly gently, increases steadily, and the last kilometer is at about a 10% gradient.  It is a hard ride.

This was one of the few real objectives of this trip, and we rode from Paris in a clockwise direction so that it would be towards the end of our trip when we are really fit.  You need to be to do this ride.

There was some doubt about whether this would even be possible.  The road on the western side has been cut by flood waters, and so much damage has been done that it may take weeks before it is reopened.

The floods in the Pyrenees are spoken of here as a 1 in 100 year event, and there has been great damage to a number of towns around here, including Lourdes, our original intended starting point.  So our only option was to do an out-and-back route starting from here.

The road passes through more astonishingly beautiful scenery, but this time with grandeur. 

There is a huge amount of water cascading down these hills, and it is somewhat surprising that there was not damage on this side of the col.  Many of the streams seem to be running very close to overflowing their banks.








Towards the top we were in misty cloud with two-meter snow banks, and it was cold and sleeting.

The return to Bagneres was fast, as the profile shows, but cold.  We stopped in the ski resort near the top for something to eat, Roz chose the fondue, and believes that she is well up on her cheese consumption on this trip.

So, today really fulfilled a long-held desire to do one of the world’s iconic rides, and we are thrilled.

58Km for the day, including some seriously hard ones.

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