One of the most famous cat 2 climbs in cycling, the Aspin is normally sandwiched between the Tourmalet & Peyresourde in the Queen Stage in the Pyrenees (also known as the circle of death). In 2016 it was close to being a stage finish with the riders summitting the Aspin and finishing in nearby Payolle. For us mortals, the Aspin is part of the famous Raid Pyreneen & part of the very difficult Marmotte Pyrenees.
When to Ride the Col d’Aspin
The summit of the Aspin is only 1400m and the road is normally open all year round unless there is severe weather in winter. It is possible to base yourself in St Lary and ride early in the season in May or even late April but the real cycling season is the start of June to end of September. The roads in the Pyrenees are much quieter than the Alps or the famous Italian climbs. As with anywhere in the high mountains, the weather can be very unpredictable and you can easily experience extreme heat and rain in the same week.
Riding the Col d’Aspin
Taking in the Aspin after the Tourmalet, the climb starts as you turn right off the descent close to the town of Campan. This is very much a climb in two parts with the first 8km feeling like a false flat before the steeper last 4km. The first part of the climb is quite forgettable with nothing to see but is a good time to get the legs back working after a long descent. As you get to the hamlet of Payolle, the views widen out with a stunning lake. There are a couple of cafes & shops here. If you turn right you are onto the stunning Hourquette d’Ancizan, a climb used in the Tour a number of times since it’s debut in 2011.
Just after passing through Payolle, the climb proper starts. The last 4km features 5 hairpins with a consistent gradient averaging 8%. This section starts with lovely views of the valley below before you get into a pine forest for a cracking 3km of riding on perfect tarmac. The best part of the climb is the final 200m as you get out of the forest and see sweeping views in all directions of the high mountains.
This is not a classic climb like the Aubisque or Tourmalet but it is relatively short and fun with varied landscape and a chance to spin easily before hitting the Peyresourde.