Col d’Aspin cycling climb
The Col d’Aspin is a famous cycling climb located in the Haute Pyrenees at an elevation of 1,489m. As a cycling climb, it has a long history and was first used in the 1910 Tour de France and is rated at Category 1, the second hardest category. Since that time it has featured in 70 editions of the race. There are 2 approaches to the top of the Col d’Aspin. From Arreau, on the eastern side, the climb is 11.6km in length at an average gradient of 6.7%. On the western side, the climb starts from Sainte Marie de Campan and is 12.8km in length at an average gradient of 5%.
In this article, you will find lots of useful information about the Col d’Aspin as well as some suggested cycling routes that we have put together. We have climbed this mountain from both sides now and would be pressed to choose a favorite side. Both sides offer amazing views of the surrounding mountains and present their own challenges as you climb.
Climb profile – Col d’Aspin
Col d’ Aspin’s eastern approach
From the east, the climb to Col d’Aspin starts in the village of Arreau on the D918. It is 11.6km in length and has an average gradient of 6.7% before reaching the top. You gain 783m in elevation from the start to the finish of the climb. When the Tour de France uses this side in the race it is considered a Category 1 climb, making it the second hardest type of climb.
This is seen as the tougher side of Col d’Aspin to cycle. The gradients are relatively consistent over the length and get steeper towards the top. The views back down into the valley and over to the other mountains definitely take your mind off the climb.
Col d’Aspin’s western approach
The western side of the climb starts in Sainte Marie de Campan, also the start of the Col du Tourmalet. From the bottom, it is 12.8km in length at an average gradient of 5% and you will ascend about 639m. This side is also graded as a Category 1 climb when used by the Tour de France.
The gradients for the first 8km on this side are relatively gentle until you pass the holiday village of Payolle. Shortly after the road turns sharply to the right and heads up into the forest. These last 5km average over 8% gradient as it twists and turns through the forest. The gradient eases slightly with 1km to the top to give the legs a break.
Practical information about cycling Col d’Aspin
If you are considering a trip to the Pyrenees to ride the Col d’Aspin this section has lots of practical information to help you plan. We also include links to some of the cycling routes we have that incorporate this climb.
Where to stay
To cycle the Col d’Aspin, your choice of where to stay comes down to what side of the mountain you would like to be on and what other cols you would like to ride. On the eastern side, you could consider villages such as Arreau, Ancizan, or Saint Lary Soulan. Col d’Aspin is a short ride from all of these locations and you are also nearby to the likes of Hourquette d’Ancizan, Pla d’Adet, Col de Portet, Col d’Azet and Col de Peyresourde to name a few.
On the western side of the mountain, you can base yourself in Bagneres de Biggore, Campan, or Lourdes. This gives you easy access to Col d’Aspin plus Col du Tourmalet, Hourquette de Ancizan, Hautacam, and Luz Ardiden plus a host of others.
You can read our article The Best Base for cycling in the Pyrenees for lots more information about cycling holidays in the Pyrenees. It also includes a host of other information about visiting the Pyrenees.
The view looking back towards Arreau and a mix of cyclists and cows at the top of Col d’Aspin.
The Col d’Aspin is located in the Haute Pyrenees department in the southwest of France. It sits between the Vallée d’Aure on the east and the Ardour Valley in the west. The D918 road runs up and over the Col d’Aspin from Arreau to Sainte Marie de Campan before heading over the Col du Tourmalet.
Bike hire and bike shops
If you need to hire a bike or grab some spares or parts for your bike there are plenty of options on both sides of the valley. On the eastern side, Saint Lary Soulan has two bike shops to assist, while on the western side there is a bike shop in Bagneres de Biggore. A little further afield in Lourdes, you will find more bike shops and bike hire outlets if the others do not suit or if you are staying closer to Lourdes.
Food and drink
There are plenty of places on both sides of Col d’Aspin to grab some food or drink. The villages you pass through on route to the mountain have cafés, and boulangeries (bakeries) if you would like to fuel up or refuel. You will find supermarkets in Saint Lary Soulan and Bagneres de Biggore. Unlike other mountain passes, there are no facilities at the top of Col d’Aspin. The closest facilities on the eastern side are in the village of Arreau, while on the western side you will find some food and beverage options in Payolle which is 5km from the summit.
When is Col d’Aspin open?
Due to its relatively low altitude, the Col d’Aspin is open year-round and only closes for short periods after heavy snowfalls before the roads are cleared. It makes it an option in the shoulder seasons when the higher peaks start to close for the winter season. For anyone considering cycling this in the winter months you would need to be mindful of icy stretches, especially on the descent. The main season for cyclists on Col d’Aspin is May through to October.
How long does it take to climb?
There is no single easy answer to this as this question obviously depends on a range of factors including your level of fitness and how often you ride a bike. To give you some idea the male pro riders take around 30 minutes to the top from both sides while the fastest females take around 40 minutes. Regular cyclists with some training would expect to complete the climb in under an hour.
Suggested cycling routes
We have put together a few cycling routes that encompass Col d’Aspin which you can access by clicking the link. Each of the suggested routes includes a GPX file which you can download to your device for navigation purposes.
- Col d’Aspin and the Hourquette de Ancizan from Saint Lary Soulan – a 56km ride with 1,520m of elevation
- Col d’Aspin and the Hourquette de Ancizan from Lourdes – a 130km ride with 2,750m of elevation. This could be shortened to a 90km out and back, excluding the Hourquette d’Ancizan.
- Col d’Aspin and the Hourquette d’Ancizan from Bagneres de Bigorre – a 81km route with 1,995m of elevation. This could be shortened to 50km and 995m of elevation as an out and back to the top of Col d’Aspin.
Other facts about Col d’Aspin
The Col d’Aspin has never hosted a finish at its summit in the Tour de France. It is typically used to connect the riders on or off the Col du Tourmalet or Col de Peyresourde in the other valleys. Being close to the Spanish border, Col d Aspin is one of the few climbs in France that have also featured in the Vuelta a Espagne.
It was first used in the 1910 Tour de France which saw riders start in Bagneres du Luchon and finish in Bayonne, some 326km later. Over the distance, the riders summited Col de Peyresourde, Col d’Aspin, Col du Tourmalet and Col d’Aubisque. This was the first mountain stage ever in the Tour de France and the mountain passes in those days were no more than dirt roads.
The Tour de France will once again cross the Col d’Aspin on stage 17 of the 2022 edition. This stage starts in Saint Gaudens before heading over Col d’Aspin from Arreau, then back over the Hourquette d’Ancizan before tackling Col de Azet and finishing at the ski station of Peyragoudes on the Col de Peyresourde. It should be a fantastic, but tough stage.
More information about the Pyrenees
We have lots of other information about visiting the Pyrenees for a cycling holiday to help you plan and discover what is on offer.
- Destination guides – head over to our destination guide pages to research specific locations including accommodation options, how to get there and more.
- Cycling routes – we have over 40 different cycling routes in the Pyrenees for you to look at. There are plenty of options also for those who are not as keen on the famous cols
- Saint Girons to Foix voie verte – 40km of car-free cycling through the foothills of the Pyrenees
More information about visiting France
Be sure to check out other sections of our website to help you plan your cycling holiday to France. We have put together lots of information to help you plan your trip all on the one website. From practical information such as using your mobile phone, visa requirements, and getting money out to destination guides including the French Alps, Nice, Provence and Bordeaux.