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A natural border between Spain and France, which links the Atlantic to the Mediterranean Sea, the mountains of the Pyrenees host some of the most challenging and spectacular climbing in Europe.
Since the Tour is about to hit the Pyrenees, we thought we would publish our favourite climbs in the area, to inspire your next holiday. And don’t forget, if you’re planning a trip, save yourself the hassle of flying a bike out by renting through one of our brilliant partners. Rent your bike now.
“The Terrible Mountain”… a nickname that tells you all you need to know about this col. A legendary climb, it was the first climb above 2000m used in a race, and is one of the most frequently used climbs in the Tour de France. It is the highest climb in the area, and that reason alone justifies an attempt. The western approach, shown below, is c.19km long at an average of 7.4%. The road picks its way across fairly barren landscape to the summit of the mountain. Not here the sharp hairpins of (eg) the Alpe d’Huez, but a unique climb in it's own glorious way. Adding to the challenge, this approach means you can see where you are going. Fingers crossed you are not having a bad day…especially as the final ramp is steep...
Like the Tourmalet, the Aubisque first featured in the Tour de France in 1910. Below we feature the climb from the west (from Laruns). The initial part of the ascent is fairly gentle, but after the Cascade de Valentin your legs are in for a real shock… The Aubisque is one of the area’s most feared climbs for a reason!> The view is not bad either…provided you are not suffering too much. The vistas across the Pyrenees are simply picturesque, which adds to the sense of achievement once you reach the top. If you go via the East, you can also take in Col de Soulor, to add to your Col scalps...
If you like irregular climbs, you are in for a treat. 13km, at 8% - this is a proper Pyrennean test. The first few kilometres feel very manageable at c.6%, but beware the (high) double digit slopes that await 7km in, and which do not really let up until the final couple of km. Having said this, these average gradients will not mean much to you once you have felt the undulation of the road. This is one for the climbing enthusiasts among you. We would say, however, that everyone should try it at some point in their cycling lives…it truly is one of the most rewarding climbs out there.
One of the most spectacular climbs in the Pyrenees. Whilst it’s not the most challenging climb on this list, it’s still an “hors categorie” climb for a reason. The average gradient of c.7% is deceiving, with the gradient varying considerably over the course of the climb. Despite this, it is a favourite of cyclists due to the beautiful scenery, and its excellent location, sitting above the village of Luz Saint Sauveu.
A real classic. It has featured more than 50 times in the Tour de France, and for good reason. At 15km, 6.5% (if you start in Bagnères-de-Luchon), it’s a real test (it’s surprisingly undulating). But it is full of rewards: the view across the midi-Pyrenees with just a few kilometres to go is worth it alone, but it’s the descent that we love. If you’re staying in Bagnères-de-Luchon, then you should also take on Superbagnères for an extra challenge… It’s also a little lower than the other climbs on this list, so can often be ridden earlier / later in the season, without the threat of snow.
Henry: 12th Jul 2017 19:16:00