The « Tour de France » has been driving through the Pyrenees for over a hundred years and its famous passes have made this race become a real legend.
At the time, in 1910, when organizers of the Tour de France launched the first route in the Pyrenees, (although most of them were rather reluctant), roads were almost non-existent in the mountains and wild animals and pastures represented significant risks; locals hardly spoke French and expressed themselves mainly in the local dialect, Occitan, and the Pyrenean passes were far too hard to climb!
This 1910 edition and its famous « Pyrenean Giants » started writing the history of worldwide cycling. Year after year, the Tour witnessed a suite of successes and tragedies, but meanwhile, the beautiful Pyrenees remained stolid. Over the years, it has aroused a real popular enthusiasm, and made the crowds rise when the caravan drives by, even in the most remote mountain villages.
This event has even become a passion for some of us. Many spectators and fervent supporters come back every year. Fans maybe either be cyclists but also adepts of camper van journeys, or motorcyclists, but the event attracts also a large number of foreign visitors.
In the department of the Hautes-Pyrénées, the Tour de France involves not less than 18 towns and passes that each year become a stage of the Tour and its mythical ascents where the runners surpass themselves:
Let us only quote: « La Hourquette d’Ancizan », « Le col d’Aspin », « Le Port de Balès », « Le col des Bordères », the gorges of Cauterets, « La Mongie », « Lourdes-Hautacam », the Peak of Ardiden , Peyragudes, the « Col de Peyresourde », « Piau-Engaly » and last but not least, the « Col du Tourmalet« .
Thus, one cannot fail to realize that the Pyrenees are a major spot and reference in the world of cyclism a kingdom where it possible to cycle up and down every centimeter of roads; so why not you?
How about a sporting adventure? Alone or in a team, try to ride in the wake of the greatest cyclists. And for sure, you will have the right to change gears… unlike the racers of the 1930’s, who were not allowed to do so and whose bikes still weighed 13kg!
If one goes for such an adventure, then you should know the existence of a useful and extensive dictionnary of the « Routes du Tour de France ». Once on- the-spot, you will see that the towns of the department have set a signage before each climb, to welcome the riders and to enable them to understand the different levels for each the itinerary. The information mentioned concerns the altitude, the percentage of slope, and the distance remaining to reach the summit.