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Col d'Aspin

Its cycling history, statistics, and map

Statistics | History | Map |

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TDF volume 1

The Col d'Aspin is a pass in the French Pyrenees on the road between Sainte Marie de Campan and Arreau in the French Hautes-Pyrénées department.

Since it's close to several other high Pyrenean passes such as the Peyresourde and Tourmalet, Tour de France route designers have found it convenient to include the Col d'Aspin in most editions of the Tour de France.

Col d'Aspin statistics:

Climbing from southeast, starting from Arreau:
Average gradient: 6.5%
Maximum gradient: 9.5%
Length of climb: 12 km
Elevation at start: 710 meters
Elevation at crest: 1,489 meters
Elevation gain: 779 meters

Climbing from the west, starting in Sainte Marie de Campan:
Average gradient: 5%
Maximum gradient: 9% (last five kilometers average 8%)
Length of climb: 12.8 km
Elevation at start: 847 meters
Elevation at crest: 1,489 meters
Elevation gain: 642 meters

Col d'Aspin history in the Tour de France:

Until 1910 the Tour de France had not gone into either the high Alps or Pyrenees. Tour father Henri Desgrange had reluctantly sent racers over several modest mountains in 1905. It was a grand success. But the man behind adding climbing in the Tour, Alphonse Steinès, had bigger ambitions for the Tour de France. He want to send racers into the high Pyrenees.

In 1910, Desgrange succumbed to Steinès badgering. Stage nine had the Port, Portet d'Aspet and the Ares. But stage ten was the big one: a stage so difficult it was labeled the "Circle of Death". Going from Luchon to Bayonne, stage ten was 326 kilometers long and included the Peyresourde, Aspin, Tourmalet, Aubisque and the smaller Osquich.

Octave Lapize won the "circle of death" stage and went on to win the 1910 Tour.

Perhaps the Aspin's most famous moment in Tour history came in 1950. Only one Frenchman had won the Tour in the previous five editions. As the race entered the Pyrenees in stage 11 with Italian Fiorenzo Magni in the lead, there was no sign that from the French point of view things would improve.

As the leaders ascended the Aspin angry spectators threw bottle caps and jeered at the riders. Then Gino Bartali and Jean Robic crashed. Bartali said a Frenchman came at him with a knife. In all likelihood it was a picnicking spectator with a butter knife still in his hand who rushed to help the fallen riders. But Bartali said the crowd was violent and insisted that both Italian teams, including the yellow-clad Magni withdraw.

Bartali got his way, forcing Ferdy Kübler, who had been riding quietly in second place, to come out from hiding. Kübler had scintillating form in 1950 and ran away with the race, leaving second-place Stan Ockers more than nine minutes behind by the time the race reached Paris.

The Aspin has been included in a majority of Tours de France. At last count Tour riders have ascended the Col d'Aspin more than 70 times.

The Col'Aspin has also been used in the Vuelta A España.


Map of the Col d'Aspin

The crest of the Col d'Aspin is at point "A" on French road D918. La Mongie ski resort (also on D918) on the Toumalet can be seen on the lower left.

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