Cycling route for the Col d’Aspin and Hourquette d’Ancizan
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This is a route that I rode a few years ago while based at Saint Lary Soulan for a few days. It gives you the opportunity to cycle two Tour de France cols in the one day. While you could ride it doing either climb first I would recommend riding the Col d’Aspin first followed by Hourquette d’Ancizan as I think it showcases the best side of both climbs.
This ride could also be ridden from the other side of the mountain to Saint Lary in Bagneres de Bigorre, Lourdes or Argeles Gazost. It will be a much bigger day out than this suggest cycling route though. If you are really feeling keen you could add in the Col du Tourmalet which starts at the bottom of the Col d’Aspin. You are truly surrounded by some of the most iconic mountains in cycling history which is something I love about the area.
The Seek Travel Ride website has 40 cycling routes in the Pyrenees if you are looking for some other ideas and suggestions. We have created these routes based on our own experience and knowledge of visiting and cycling in the Pyrenees over the past 10 years. There is also a wealth of information about visiting and cycling in the Pyrenees on the website. I would suggest starting with the Best Base for Cycling in the Pyrenees to get your bearings on everything.
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 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 11.6 km in length at an average gradient of 6.7%. On the western side, the climb starts from Sainte Marie de Campan and is 12.8 km in length at an average gradient of 5%.
When riding the Col d’Aspin from Arreau, it 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 last few kilometres. One of the things I loved about this side of the Col d’Aspin climb was the changing scenery along the way. 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. As you gain altitude the views over the mountains get better and better.
I also loved the clanging of cowbells which is a constant sound and gets more prevalent as get closer 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! I highly recommend that before you descend, getting off your bike and looking around at where you have come from. The winding road all the way down to the valley is visible and I always feel a true sense of achievement at reaching the top.
There are no cafés or food available at the top of the Col d’Aubisque and the closest are at the small village of Payolle about 6 km from the summit. This is also the start of the next climb on this route.
Cycling the Hourquette d’Ancizan climb
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 is a newcomer to the Tour de France and was first featured in 2011 and has since 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 officially 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.
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 to the summit. If you were feeling like some additonal climbing you could always descend to the bottom of the Col d’Aspin and ride Hourquette d’Ancizan all the way up from the official start. The choice is yours.
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. I love this climb for its beautiful green fields and surrounding mountains. I was fortunate to watch the stage of the 2022 Tour de France about 6 km from the summit.
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 I climbed I 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 12 km/7.5 mi 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