Port de Bales and Peyresourde
One of the least known but truly fabulous climbs in the Pyrénées, the Port de Balès debuted in le Tour in 2007 and provides a fantastic spectacle for spectators because of the infrequent jumps in the gradient. Less enjoyable for amateur cyclists, the climb only averages a mere 6.3%, but do not allow yourself to be misled by the stats. This climb is a real test of the legs, and a lot of our riders say they found it tougher than the Tourmalet.
From Velo Le Closier, roll out towards Saint-Bertrand-de Cominges and then pick up the gradual climb to Maulèon-Barousse. Grab a drink at one of the small cafés, then leave the village to immediately start the climb. You’ll notice a short, sharp ramp at the start, and then the slope fades to rise ever so gently following the stream, up and down for a good 8km before starting the serious stuff. At this point you will cross a small bridge which you follow around to the left, and then you have what feels like an eternity of vicious 10% and 11% gradients, with some more gentle sections in between to catch your breath.
When you reach 2.5km to go, the scenery dramatically changes and becomes very open and the claustrophobia of trees and rock faces are left behind. Enjoy the luscious, green rolling hills, which create a fantastic backdrop for the finale, through the last few bends to the exposed summit. The descent on the north side is amazing, but watch out for the cattle in the middle of the road. Once you’ve weaved around the villages of Cirès and Mayrègne, be prepared for the immediate change from downhill to uphill.
As you will notice from the signs, this is the Col de Peyresourde. First ridden in the 1910 Tour de France, this 1st category climb is not the toughest nor the highest climb in the Pyrénées, but the road is very exposed to the afternoon sun so if you’re riding in the peak of summer be sure to fill up your water bottles before tackling this one! With 5km to go, there’s a junction where you split off to the right, then the incredible finale comes into view. This section involves beautifully constructed set of switchbacks, positioned perfectly on the mountain, illustrating it as dooming, but in reality never too hard to ride.
Once you reach the top, begin to descend until you see the turning on the left for Col de Peyragudes. Though your legs are probably done with climbing for the day, take this turning to follow the 2017 le tour route to the Altiport 007, where the smooth tarmac is covered in spectator art for the riders. From the Altiport you can either follow the signs for the col, or turn back the way you came and begin the descent where you will pass Camors and Bordères-Louron and join back onto the main road after Arreau. Follow the road back to Chemin de la Neste, and then roll back along the river to Velo Le Closier.
- Distance – 117km (73 miles)
- Total Ascent – 2,392m (7,848ft)
- Main climb – 1185m (3,887ft)
- Altitude – 1755m (5,757ft)
- Average – 6.3%
- Tour debut – 2007
- Category – HC