Cycling Col de Portet - the King of the Alps
This climb is located in the Pyrenees Mountain Range which divides France from Spain. This bike climb is a World 100 (#70) and rightly so. We ride 16.4 km gaining 1,599 m to an elevation of 2,209 m at a challenging 8.6% average grade. Along a 1 kilometer stretch after the giant hairpin at km 1.5 we have a sheer cliff to our left - not so bad on a bike but terrifying in a car (at least for me . . . 😟
Climb begins in Vignec, France - population 189 (1999), elevation 821 m.
The first 7.5 km of Col de Portet overlap with the more well known Pla d’Adet (included in 10 Tours de France as of 2019).
First 7.5 km of Pla d’Adet overlap Col de Portet
Memorial to Raymond Poulidor who finished 2nd at age 38 in the 1974 TdF
On the climb to Pla d’Adet Poulidor attacked and won the stage.
PJAMM Cycling climbed Col de Portet August 6, 2018 -- and what an experience it was. This climb is a brute, cut directly into the slope of the mountain (2,215 meters/7,267 feet above sea level), and from our experience rightly sits atop the hardest climbs in France. The climb is paved to the top and in good condition, no doubt in large part due to its inclusion for the first time in the Tour de France on Stage 17 in 2018. In addition to good road conditions, this climb offers breathtaking views from the start, and at the summit boasts “a spectacular 360-degree view of all the surrounding mountain peaks” (Dangerousroads.org), but boy is it a trek to get there.
This climb is located in the Southwestern French community of Saint-Lary-Soulan, in the Hautes-Pyrénées area. If you can make it past the 7 to 10% average grades to the top, you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking view at the summit and then sent on your way with a “pleasant descent [which] will take you back to picturesque Saint-Lary” (Dangerousroads.org). To get to the summit, you can choose one of three routes: the 17.8 kilometer (11 mile) ascent from Saint-Lary-Soulan with an average grade of 7.9%; the 14.31 kilometer (8.9 mile) ascent from Aspet with an average grade of 4.2%; or the 18.14 kilometer (11.3 mile) ascent from Audressein, with an average percentage of 3.1%.
Ride through Soulan at km 5.2
Part company with Pla d’Adet at km 7.5.
Pla d’Adet goes south and Portet north at Espiaube.
A word of caution -- for those drivers who fear the many narrow roads with sheer cliffs on one side that we come across often in the Alps and Pyrenees -- this is one of them! For a couple of kilometers just after hairpin one at the start of the climb, this is perhaps the most terrifying road that you will ever encounter. In fact, our SAG refused to proceed up the mountain and thus we were left to do the climb on our own, which thankfully was not a problem.
Tour de France included Col de Portet in 2018 for the first time.
Consideration was given for Col de Portet to be included in the 1982 Tour de France, but that year the tour went only as far as the Pla d’Adet ski station, which is 8 km short of Col de Portet. Fast forward 36 years and Col de Portet was finally seen in the TdF.
Col de Portet was the TdF Stage 17 finish on July 25, 2018. While the stage was a very short 65 kilometers, 38 kilometers of that was uphill. The stage began in Bagnères-de-Luchon and first climbed col de Peyresourde and then Col de Val Louron-Azet before reaching the much more challenging Col de Portet. On July 25, Nairo Quintana broke away early on Col de Portet and won the stage. On this day Chris Froome would lose more time (+1.35 v. .52) to Geraint Thomas the ultimate winner of the 2018 Tour de France.
Bagnères-de-Luchon - Start of TdF Stage 17
TdF sign at the beginning of the climb.
TdF sign in Espiaube at km 7.5
Portet goes north and Pla d’Adet south here
It was not to be in 2018.
Rated the most difficult bike climb in France -- one 2 km segment averaging over 10%!