Hautacam is a Cat HC climb in the Vallée du Lavedan in Hautes Pyrénées. The climb up Hautacam starts from Argelès-Gazost by the Gave de Pau river near the rugby club, on road D100. The start altitude is 431m. It is 14.5km to the ski station at Hautacam. The road continues for 1.3km to the dead-end at Col de Tramassel, at 1620m altitude. 16 km long, over this distance, the climb is 1190 m, an average of 7.5%. The name comes from the Gascon language and means highland.
Hautacam is a very difficult climb (even Contador said so), it undulates frequently making it hard to maintain a rhythm, there are ramps up to 16% and some long sections up to 15%. The hardest part is the 6km after the village of Artalens. The climb eases off for the last 2 km before Hautacam. At Hautacam there is a large flat car-park for the ski station. This is where Le Tour de France has it’s stage finish, Stage 18 of the 2014 Tour de France was the 5th arrival.
Hautacam Photo Gallery
Tour de France
The climb to Hautacam has been used 5 times by Le Tour de France. It is 13.5km averaging 7.9%, categorized HC.
|1994||Luc Leblanc||35:19||22.94 km/h|
|1996||Bjarne Riis||34:38||23.39 km/h|
|2008||Juan José Cobo||37:30||21.60 km/h|
|2014||Vincenzo Nibali||37:23||21.67 km/h|
Vincenzo Nibali won in 2014 with a very dominant display which seem him extend his lead in yellow to over 7 minutes. This also seen the emergence of French riders Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet as top stage racer.
While Juan José Cobo is credited with the win in 2008, his team mate Leonardo Pippoli was first to cross the line. He was later disqualified for doping. Cobo rode the climb from Argeles-Gazost in under 39 minutes. Hautacam was where Miguel Indurain finally cracked in 1996, after 5 years of dominance.
The stage in 2000 was a real tour classic. When Javier Otxoa broke away with Nico Mattan with 155 km to go in savage cold and rain, he was not given much chance of success. He would drop Mattan for the first time on the Col de Marie Blanque, but Mattan rejoin him on the descent. Otxoa shook him off for good on the climb of Col d’Aubisque and rode over the col du Soulor on his own to arrive at the foot of Hautacam with a lead of 10 minutes and 35 seconds on the chasing group. He paid for his earlier efforts by suffering all the way up Hautacam to the cheers of manic Basque fans. He crossed the line 42 seconds ahead of second placed Lance Armstrong. It had looked like Armstrong would catch him. However Armstrong seemed to slowdown on the easier last kilometre allowing Otxoa to win. Armstrong had devastated his main rivals for Tour victory and as it turned out had some help. The story goes that team manager Johan Bruyneel told Armstrong to slow down as he was so far ahead of his rivals it looked suspicious. Indeed!
In 1996 Barn Riss launched an attack at St Andre which left his rivals, including Indurain and Pantani trailing behind him. It turned out he had some help on the day.
The first climb to Hautacam by Le Tour in 1994 was won by Luc Leblanc of Team Festina. He may have had some help on the day. The most memorable bit of the stage was at 2.5km to go when Indurain caught and then dropped Marco Pantani at what is probably the most difficult section of the climb.
|1994||11||Cahors||263.5 km||Luc Leblanc||Miguel Indurain|
|1996||16||Agen||199 km||Bjarne Riis||Bjarne Riis|
|2000||10||Dax||205 km||Javier Otxoa||Not Classified|
|2008||10||Pau||156 km||Juan José Cobo||Cadel Evans|
|2014||18||Pau||145 km||Vincenzo Nibali||Vincenzo Nibali|
Max elevation: 1499 m
From Argeles-Gazost, Hautacam poses no real difficulty for the first 1.5km. It is after you pass the 13km to go board in the village of Ayros that you feel the first steep pitch which will characterise the rest of the climb. Another kilometre on and you have the first 10% average kilometre before the village of Arbouix. As you enter the village there is a drinking fountain on the left, beautiful water. As you leave Arbouix the grade hits 13% and the suffering begins. This undulation continues until the village of Artalens where the climb and your heart rate monitor takes a definite jump skywards. The next 6km are torture. There are ramps up to 16% and some downhill sections which really mess with your head. What goes down must come back up. The 8km to go board tells you that the following kilometre averages 8%, shortly after the road goes down at 8% for 100m before rearing up to 15%.
Between 6km and 4.5km the grade is constantly over 10% before ending with two hairpins reaching 15%. There is a few hundred meters of flat or downhill before the 4km to go board where the suffering takes on a life of it’s own. The next 1.5km are the most difficult of the climb. A long straight stretch from 3km to go has a big psychological effect. There is no shade here and the weather plays a big factor, if it’s hot, it can regularly be 30c+ in summer, this stretch is infernal. If it’s wet and cold the wind cuts right through you. The 3km board tells lies. It says the average for the following kilometre is 9%, it actually 11%. The purpose of this board is surely to mock the weak. If you measure one kilometre from 3.2 kilometres to go, it will average 12%. At the top of this difficult section is the steepest part of the climb passing Auberge de l’Arrioutou, the grade reaches 16%.
There is a “Passage Canadien”, a steel cattle grid across the road, be careful in the wet. The good news is that after the cattle grid it eases off to 8% and the last 2 kilometres quickly disappear as the adrenalin pumps up the anticipation of completion of this epic Tour de France classic. At the finish is a large tarmac car park at Hautacam Ski Station, which is used for the stage finish. There is a Cafe at the ski station, it’s opening times are limited in summer. From the car park follow the signs for Col de Tramassel. Whoa!!!! Thats right you’re not finished yet, the climb continues on for 1.3km and gains another 100 metres. The views are among the best in the Pyrenees. You get a panoramic view of Vallée du Lavedan and can see Luz Ardiden, Col du Soulor and the cafe on Col d’Aubisque, a spec on the horizon to the west. There is a cafe at Col de Tramassel, signs at the car-park at Hautacam and at the start of the climb, will indicate whether it is open or not.