Le Géant du Tourmalet

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Le Géant du Tourmalet: A giant statue, a band playing in the back of a pickup truck, a journey up Col du Tourmalet and cyclists with painted moustaches…add them all together and what do you get?

A fantastic cycling festival on one of the most iconic climbs of the Tour de France!

Anyone who’s climbed the Col du Tourmalet will know of the mighty statue of a cyclist that sits at the top of the climb, waiting for you as you wind your way up this legendary Tour de France pass. This statue is known as ‘Le Géant du Tourmalet’. After a long and arduous climb, the grimace on your face soon turns to a smile when you see the Géant waiting for you at the top…he’s been there and he knows your pain! Whether you’re on or off the bike everyone stops at the top for their obligatory photo with this monumental sculpture.

Géant du Tourmalet
Géant du Tourmalet

The Pyrenees were first introduced to the Tour de France in 1910 with a gruesome 326km stage from Luchon to Bayonne which included 7 brutal climbs on single track gravel roads. Octave Lapize, a French professional road and track cyclist, was the first rider over the Col du Tourmalet on that stage. As the race continued over Col du Soulor and Col d’Aubisque, when Octave reached the top of Aubisque, apparently he screamed ‘Vous êtes des Assassins! Oui des Assassins’ (You are murderers! Yes murderers) at the organisers for the brutality of the route.

To commemorate this epic achievement of being the first rider over the top of Col du Tourmalet on the premier Pyrenean stage, in 1999 a monumental statute created by the French Sculptor Jean-Bernard Métais was erected on the top of the col. Le Géant du Tourmalet is part of a series of monumental sculptures called ‘La Grande Boucle’ which pays tribute to the riders of the Tour de France.

Each winter the statue is brought down to the valley to protect it from the harsh conditions on Col du Tourmalet. The following June, on the first Saturday of the month, the statue packs his bags & bike and heads back up to his summer home at the top of the col.

To help him make this journey the valley organise a cycling festival called ‘La Montée du Géant du Tourmalet’ to guide Octave back up to his summer home at 2115m. Each year the festival alternates between climbing the east and west side of Col du Tourmalet…

Niamh Mooney
Owner of the Pyrénées Cycling Lodge
Saint Savin, Hautes Pyrenees 65400
Email: pyreneescyclinglodge@gmail.com
Website: www.pyreneescyclinglodge.com
Facebook: @pyreneescyclinglodge
Instagram: @pyreneescyclinglodge
Twitter: @CyclingLodge

Excerpt from BIKE Magazine, click here to continue reading the full article

June 2021
June 2021
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