Five times the Pyrenees blew the Tour de France wide open

The Tour de France can be won and lost in the Pyrenees, so take a look at some of the iconic moments in recent Tour history in the mountain range

(Image credit: Watson)

The 2015 Tour de France has hit the Pyrenees and we have our first taste of the high mountains. The climbs of the mountain range in the south-west of France have seen their fair share of cycling history made on their slopes, with Tours won and lost on the brutal ascents.

Here we take a look at five iconic Pyrenean moments from the past quarter of a century of the Tour, with some of the biggest names in cycling involved.


Port de Balès may not be one of the more famous Tour climbs, but it's seen a lot of action in its four appearances since 2007.

The most famous of which was one of the most controversial and hotly debated events in Tour history, with Alberto Contador not making many friends when he 'attacked' Andy Schleck when the Luxembourger dropped his chain.

Schleck lost three and a half minutes to the Spaniard on the stage, pretty much ending his hopes of winning the yellow jersey.

The Saxo Bank rider had a few last laughs, though, as Contador was later stripped of his title for doping indiscretions, but not after Schleck had beaten the Astana man on the famous Col du Tourmalet, giving him a great look as he caught and passed him on the climb.

Indurain cracks

The Hautacam is hard enough to make even the best climbers struggle, and that was the case with Miguel Indurain in 1996, where he virtually gifted the Tour to Bjarne Riis.

The Spaniard was already four minutes down on the Dane heading into the stage, but losing another two minutes on the stage sealed his fate as Riis powered to victory on the mountain.

A day later, Indurain pretty much threw in the towel, losing another eight minutes to Riis, who finished second to Laurent Dufaux. Riis carried the yellow jersey all the way to Paris for his only Tour win.

LeMond relinquishes yellow

Another great rider to crack in the Pyrenees was Greg LeMond, but the American was wearing the yellow jersey when he fell apart of Superbagnères in 1989.

His struggles handed his rival Laurent Fignon the yellow jersey, which he kept hold of for five days before LeMond won it back.

And then everyone remembers the American's famous time trial victory on the final stage to beat the Frenchman by just eight seconds.

Armstrong tames the Hautacam

While Indurain cracked, Lance Armstrong made the Hautacam look like a training ride in 2000, although in hindsight it's easy to see why.

The Texan surged past every rider on the road on stage 10, including fierce rivals Jan Ullrich and Marco Pantani.

He finished 42 seconds down on stage winner Javier Otxoa, but importantly he put over three minutes into Ullrich and took control of the yellow jersey, which he held until Paris.

Armstrong crushes Ullrich

That man Armstrong features again for his exploits in 2003 on Luz Ardiden, where his bike handling skills came to the fore.

A spectacular tumble on the lower slopes nearly cost Armstrong more than a stage win, but with a broken pedal and a dented ego, the American carried picked himself up.

A few hairy moments followed, but once he found his rhythm, Armstrong powered up the climb, picking off his rivals one by one and took the stage win 40 seconds ahead of Ullrich and Iban Mayo.

Anything we've missed on this list? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter.

 Cycling Weekly's experts discuss the Pyrenean stages of the 2015 Tour de France

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