The Olympic Torch visited the family of late Paris bid co-chairman Bernard Lapasset. X/@Paris2024

Day 11 of the Olympic Torch Relay saw a visit to the family home of the late Bernard Lapasset, who co-chaired the Paris 2024 Bid Committee with Tony Estanguet from 2015-17. It also reached great heights in the Pyrenees with five-time Tour de France winner Bernard Hinault among the torchbearers.

On Sunday 19 May, the eve of the French national holiday Whit Monday - or Lundi de Pentecôte the crowds turned out in force to welcome the Olympic torch to the Hautes-Pyrénées.

The natural beauty of the department, with landscapes ranging from valleys and mountains and plains in between, provided a stunning backdrop. Around a hundred runners took turns carrying the torch from the summit of the Pic du Midi de Bigorre and on a route leading to Lourdes, Bagnères-de-Bigorre, Lannemezan and the terminus in Tarbes.

Sport was once again front and centre, featuring household names such as former Eurobasket Women champion and London 2012 silver medallist Céline Dumerc, and former world champion handball goalkeeper Valérie Nicolas.

The Olympic torch also paid a moving tribute to Bernard Lapasset, one of the driving forces of Paris 2024 project over the past decade. After co-chairing the committee for the successful bid, he became Honorary President of the Organising Committee in 2018.

Bernard Lapasset and Tony Estanguet celebrate after Paris was awarded the 2024 Olympics in September 2017. YOAN VALAT/AFP via Getty Images
Bernard Lapasset and Tony Estanguet celebrate after Paris was awarded the 2024 Olympics in September 2017. YOAN VALAT/AFP via Getty Images

Before his involvement in the Paris bid, Lapasset was best known as the president of the French Rugby Federation and then chairman of the International Rugby Board (now World Rugby) from 2008-16. He was key to Rugby Sevens' addition to the Olympic programme and received the Olympic Order in 2022. After suffering from Alzheimer's disease, Lapasset died in May 2023.

Emotions ran high as the Olympic Torch visited the Lapasset family home in Louit. It was held by his friend Étienne Thobois, who serves as the director general of Paris 2024, as well as his brother Philippe Lapasset, daughter Isabelle Hélias and his grandchildren Arthur and Maëlys Lapasset.

The torch climbed to the peak of the Canigó and explored Peyrepertuse Castle, reaching the lofty heights of 2,876 metres above sea level. Five-time Tour de France winner Bernard Hinault and Nicolas Lopez, who won two fencing medals including team sabre gold at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, carried the torch from the observatory atop the Pic du Midi de Bigorre.

The region which attracts hordes of amateur and professional cyclists keen to reach the highest planetarium in Europe. The torch then descended the Pic du Jer on a mountain bike before venturing into the historic streets of Lourdes, known for the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes and the millions of pilgrims who flock to Massabielle Grotto every year. After a refreshment stop on the shores of Arrêt-Darré Lake, the visit to Gavarnie Cirque was another highlight. Surrounded by 16 summits over 3,000m in height and home to the tallest waterfall in Europe, it is a worthy UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Some of the torchbearers had achieved great sporting feats. Roxana Rocky Islas-Garcia Papin - a former world class triathlete who holds world records in cycling and rowing - was the first relay runner in Bagnères-de-Bigorre. She passed the torch to Sandra Forgues (formerly Wilfrid Forgues) - gold medallist at the Atlanta 1996 Games in the C2 canoe slalom alongside Franck Adisson - who announced her transition in 2018.

Others were figures of note in the local sports scene. David Adam is a volunteer firefighter and ski instructor to young people, while Dorian Blanquier has converted his love of pushing the pedals as a child into taking part in competitive cycling.

Tarbes hosted the end of the stage featuring the picturesque Romanesque Notre-Dame-de-la-Sède Cathedral and Parc Bel-Air. As well as cyclists, the Pyrenees welcome rock climbers from around the world with Tarbes also the home to the Usine Escalade, one of the largest artificial climbing walls in Europe.

A climbing team relay, organised by the French Federation of Mountaineering and Climbing, carried the torch starting with 16-year-captain Lila Samani who is a member of the French youth team. Also in the relay were lead climber Maena Issartel, long-serving volunteer Hervé Bullot, national routesetter and climber Clément Ozun, and climbing instructor Antoine Lacombe.

Heavy rain in the area forced the cauldron lighting ceremony, which was originally scheduled to take place at the Les Forges car park in Tarbes, to be switched to the Usine Escalade. However, the Tarbes locals were not put off by the poor weather as they turned out in force to watch the relay. Isabelle Yacoubou, who won Eurobasket gold and London 2012 silver with Dumerc, lit the cauldron to conclude the stage.

On Monday, the Torch Relay will mark 100 days to go until the Paralympic Games on the roads of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques. It sets off from Biarritz before visiting Anglet, Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Bayonne, Hasparren, Orthez and Arette before ending the day in Pau.