Guide to cycling the Col d’Aspin and the Hourquette d’Ancizan
The Category 1 climb of the Col d’Aspin is located in the Haute Pyrenees at an elevation of 1,480m. As a cycling climb, it has a long history and was first used in the 1910 Tour de France. 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%.
The climb of the Hourquette d’Ancizan sits on the same range as the more famous Col d’Aspin at an elevation of 1,564. It was first featured in the 2011 Tour de France and has featured on 3 occasions as a Category 1 climb. From the eastern approach, the climb starts in the town of Ancizan and is 10.4km in length at an average gradient of 7.6%. On the western side, the climb starts at Sainte Marie de Campan and is 17km in length at an average gradient of 4.2%. The first 7.5km of the climb is the same as the Col d’Aspin before branching off to the right at Payolle.
Stage 17 of the 2022 Tour de France sees both of these cycling climbs featuring once again. After starting in Saint Gaudens, the riders will head up the eastern side of Col d’Aspin and then the western side of the Hourquette d’Ancizan. After the descent to Ancizan, the riders will head up the valley to the town of Saint Lary before heading over the Col de Val Lauron Azet and then tackling the Col du Peyresourde finishing at the ski station of Peyragudes. All in all, this should be a great stage to watch given it is in the final week of the 2022 Tour de France.
Our suggested cycling route for the Col d’Aspin and Hourquette d’Ancizan includes two beautiful climbs in the Pyrenees and we think some of the most picturesque scenery as well. While this route takes you over the Col d’Aspin from Arreau and the Hourquette d’Ancizan from Payolle, it can be ridden in the opposite direction if you prefer.
Suggested cycling route for the Col d’Aspin and Hourquette d’Ancizan.
From the start town of Saint Lary Soulan, you will enjoy a pleasant warm-up of 13 km/8mi along the valley road to Arreau – the starting point of the Col d’Aspin. Due to the lower elevation levels of both peaks, these are both climbs that can still be ridden in winter when the roads to the larger Cols are cut-off by snow.
Cycling the Col d’Aspin climb
The Col d’Aspin is synonymous with the Tour de France having featured in the race no less than 71 times. When riding the Col d’Aspin from this approach it is just over 11kms long and climbs at a fairly gentle pace for the first seven kilometers allowing you to get into a nice rhythm. The closer you get to the summit, the harder the gradient becomes with steady pitches between 7 and 9% for the remainder. The real beauty of the Col d’Aspin climb though is the changing scenery along the roadside. From the village of Arreau, you will cycle through tree-lined sections of road before you start to twist and turn through vast meadow expanses.
The clanging of cowbells is also a constant sound and more prevalent as you make your way to the summit. Large herds of cattle often gather at the top so be mindful of this as you make your way up to the summit- and especially on the descent down the other side! Before you descend though get off the bike and look around at where you have come from. The winding road all the way down to the valley is visible and you can feel a true sense of achievement at reaching the top.
Cycling the Hourquette d’Ancizan climb
The turn-off to the climb of Hourquette d’Ancizan is located at Payolle – approximately 6kms on the descent from the top of the Aspin. You will take a left turn here and begin the 10km climb. The lower slopes climb quite gently and whilst there are some steeper sections towards the top, in the main the gradient remains quite pleasant. As you climb you will find a mix of open both open meadows as well as sections of forest.
On a hot Summer’s day, you will be thankful for the shade that the alpine forest affords you. Like the Col d’Aspin, it is also very common to see grazing animals here – when we climbed we saw cows, horses, and donkeys all the way along. You are never on your own in this area of the Pyrenees with the animals for company. From the top, it is all downhill to the village of Ancizan and then back to your starting point of Saint Lary.
Suggested cycling route
Distance: 55.8km / 34.7mi
Start elevation: 816m / 2,677ft
Max elevation: 1,564m / 5,131ft
Metres climbed: 1,519m / 4,985ft
Metres descended: 1,519m / 4,985ft
Categorised climbs: 2
Food and water along the route
Options for food and water can be found in the town of Arreau which is located 12km/7.5mi from the Col d’Aspin Summit. You will also be able to top up supplies at Payolle before you begin the climb of Hourquette d’Ancizan.
- Cycling two categorized climbs made famous in the Tour de France.
- The summit views from Col d’Aspin are truly stunning with the valley road in the distance.
- The rustic charm of the Pyrenees is really on display on the Hourquette d’Ancizan.
Climb statistics and gradient profile
Length: 11.59km / 7.2mi
Average gradient: 6.7%
Start point: Arreau
Elevation at top: 1,480m / 4,856
Length: 10.1km / 6.28mi
Average gradient: 4.65%
Start point: Payolle
Elevation at top: 1,564m / 5,131ft
Discover our comprehensive guide to Cycling in the Pyrenees
Cycling the Col d’Aspin and Hourquette d’Ancizan climbs is just one example of the many great cycling routes in the Hautes Pyrenees which you can enjoy. This area of the Pyrenees is very popular with cyclists who are keen to ride some of the famous climbs of the Tour de France for themselves.
If you are not familiar with this region then, our comprehensive guide will help you plan everything you need for your cycling holiday. The guide includes information such as:
- a map of the French Pyrenees with climbs and towns marked
- where to base yourself whilst on your cycling holiday
- cycling hotels and lodges
- bike hire outlets
- getting to and from the Pyrenees
- non-cycling attractions and activities in the region
Click here to see a list of cycling routes available in the Pyrenees. We have mapped over 40 rides across five regions within the Pyrenees mountain range for you to explore.