The Full “Lost Col” photo essay is here
St-Jean-Pied-De-Port is a perfect place for a Pays-Basque Pyrenean raid. An area surrounded by climbs that David Miller called his training ground when he lived in Biarritz, and one that he also called “hell”. The Col d’Ispeguy was a climb we were drawn back to over and over on our stay there. Riding a climb many times is how you come to know it, just like your “local” back home. We rode it on brilliant clear hot mountain mornings, in the soft warm evening Pyrenean light, in stifling humidity under hazy skies, with chest thumping thunderstorms in the distance, from the French side, from the Spanish side – every single time the same road offered something different. Featured in The Tour just three times it doesn’t carry the same fame as its Pyrenean sisters – but it is indeed a beautiful and hidden gem. It has had some famous names crest its summit first when raced in anger, Lucien Van Impe in ’77, Richard Virenque in “92 and Pascal Hervé in ’96. The Spanish side offers a beautiful descent with sweeping corners and a better surface, all the way down to the village of Erratzu and the bottom of another climb The Oxtondo, which makes for a beautiful loop. Ascending the French side from Saint-Étienne-de-Baïgorry up a “V” shaped valley it has the look of a classic with the road hugging a steeper exposed finish as you near the restaurant (and gift shop, and the biggest selection of cow bells I have ever seen) at the top. It is a climb loved by the locals one that if the Tour ever ventures this far west again will surely get the credit it deserves.