By Ian Smitton
Luz Ardiden is, without doubt, one of the most spectacular climbs in the Pyrenees. It is a favourite of cyclists due to its picturesque scenery and excellent location towering above the village of Luz Saint Sauveur.
Somewhat surprisingly given its reputation, Luz Ardiden is a relative newcomer to the Tour de France, having first been ridden in 1985. Since then it has been ridden a further seven times, with the most recent being Samuel Sanchez's impressive stage win in 2011.
Unlike the famous cols in the area, notably Aubisque and Tourmlaet, Luz Ardiden is a dead end, so is always the finish to a stage. It is an 'hors categorie' climb, ranking it alongside the most difficult in the Tour; although, having ridden it several times, it certainly is not as punishing as neighbouring Tourmalet or Hautacam.
The climbThe ski station at Luz Ardiden is at 1720m, which is 1010m higher than the starting point in Luz Saint Sauveur. The climb is an average gradient of 6.9%, however, it is not consistent from top to bottom. There are helpful (or not, depending on what they say!) signs each kilometre which tell you the gradient for the next section.
The climb starts of with a couple of fairly easy kilometres until the village of Sazos. After that the road ramps up, with the five kilometres after the village of Grust averaging at nearly 8.6%. Just as your legs are really starting to struggle though, the road eases off to an average of 6% for the next kilometre. This basically feels flat and allows you to recover ahead of the final stretch.
The last kilometres, once you get above the trees, are actually quite easy. Averaging around 7% you will be going slowly enough to take in the amazing scenery, without burying yourself so hard that you are unable to enjoy it.
The road splits just over one kilometre from the finish; take the left hand fork to continue to Luz Ardiden (the chalk writing on the road will show you where to go in case you are not sure). Once you reach the top, make sure that you head to the big car park area behind the cafe (both of which will be empty in summer); from here you get the classic view of Luz Ardiden, looking down on the many switchbacks which make the climbs so beautiful.
If you are in the area, make sure you stop by and do this climb; it is definitely worth staying for an extra night in Luz Saint Sauveur either before or after you tackle the Tourmalet.
We cycle Luz Ardiden on our Pyrenees cycling holiday; this is a tour designed for people wanting to try cycling in high mountains for the first time, or after a long break.
We climb many of the famous mountains, including Luz Ardiden, Tourmalet, Aubisque, Soulor, Hautacam, Aspin and Peyresourde, at an easy pace, admiring the scenery and the achievement of conquering such climbs.
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