Col de Peyresourde – Top Ten Cycling Cols of the Pyrenees

The Col de Peyresourde ? 1569m

A 1st Category climb that bookends the classic Tourmalet, Aspin and Peyresourde route so favoured by the Tour de France, the Peyresourde is a world famous climb that debuted in 1910 and cemented a reputation as a Pyrenean main stay from then on in. While both sides to the climb offer a challenging and enjoyable ride, it is the west to east ascent that the traditional Raid Pyrenean route follows, with a vertical ascent of 669m being achieved through 9.8km of riding. These figures, together with the on-road feel of the climb and it?s profile in the cycling community, combine to make it one of the most enjoyable and easily attained major cols in the Pyrenees.

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The Climb

Leaving Arreau, riders have a charming valley road spin, with the wide, well surfaced road meandering riverside as it enters deep into Val Louron. The climb proper starts as riders follow the D618 as it bears off left at the fork with the D25. Here riders spot the first kilometre board to their right (if they can drag their eyes off the stunning views straight ahead up towards the Spanish border and the peaks of the Val Louron ski resort) and begin the climb with a shallow descent into a sweeping left hander and rising road.

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With a 6.8% average gradient, it is easy to underestimate the challenge of the Peyresourde, as the first two kilometres contain a mix of ascent, descent and false flat that result in very little net altitude gain. This results in the remaining eight kilometres more than making up for these shenanigans with a mixture of 7, 8 and 9% gradients that could otherwise be unexpected by a foolhardy rider!?The Peyresourde itself is a mentally testing climb in that much of the road is alarmingly straight, giving riders an interrupted view of the road ahead (both a good and bad thing). These early kilometres are however characterised by a number of winding bends as the road follows the contours of the hillside, so enjoy the blissful ignorance while you can.

The third kilometre signals the beginning of the climb proper, with the gradient heading into the 9% average range as riders climb out of the valley floor and into the steeply banked farmland surrounding the road. Shortly after riders pass (and ignore) the turning for the D25, the road straightens out noticeably, with a difficult section of climbing ahead past several enticing refreshment stops and shaded lay-bys. This section is punctuated by a distant sharp left hand hairpin, with a seemingly vertical side road disappearing off below, followed by a further sweeping right handed hairpin with superb views across the valley.

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Through the hair pinned section, we always encourage riders without a fear of heights to make the most of the views to their right hand side, with the Val Louron Col d?Azet and its army of paragliders at eye level across the valley, Lac Genos? aquamarine waters far below in the valley bottom and the brutally abrupt mountains faces directly ahead. This is one of my favourite views in the Pyrenees, with each direction offering a completely contrasted, but equally stunning series of views.

Out of the forested lower slopes, riders emerge into a far more open outlook, with the D618 sweeping around to the left, while the road to their right rises up to the ski resort of Peyragudes, the home of one of the most alarmingly situated runways in the world (this runway can be seen in the opening sequence of the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies). Staying left, riders now catch their first glimpse of the Col, lying in the heart of the V shaped cutting just under three kilometres ahead.

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The remaining section of climb is fairly straightforward with a steady 7-8% gradient and superb surfacing, however the wide open nature of this section coupled with the wind tunnel effect of the surrounding slopes, can create winds which you will either love or hate depending on their direction. The distant Col also offers a mental challenge, with many past riders commenting on the fact that it seems to take forever to make any progress towards it! However, grit your teeth, keep peddling, ignore the second right hander up to Peyragudes in the last kilometre and the final rise to the Col will soon be within touching distance. It is important to note for the purists, that the official finish line to the climb (marked by the large Col marker stone) is actually a hundred meters or so further on from the Crepe shop on your left, so resist the temptation to stop early!

The History

Being one of the major mountain passes in the Pyrenees, linking the towns of Arreau in the west with Bagneres du Luchon in the east, the Col de Peyresourde has been used 44 times by the Tour de France since 1947. However, owing to its nature as a pass rather than a destination, it has historically been used as a linking climb on route to stage finishes elsewhere. In 2012, the Tour came the closest it has to a stage finish on the Peyresourde, with riders crossing the Col before the stage finish at the Peyragudes ski station above. This stage was the scene of the infamous Wiggins and Froome disagreement/argument which many (including our guests up on the mountainside that day) view as the point at which Froome emerged from Wiggins? shadow as Sky?s strongest rider.

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How Can I Climb the Col de Peyresourde

With options suitable for all ability levels, make this season?the one?you climb the Col de Peyresourde:

Raid Pyrenean?- the epic 100hr trans Pyrenean cycling challenge.

King of the Mountains TdF?- Tourmalet, Ventoux and Alpe d’Huez in seven incredible stages.

Pyrenean Coast to Coast?-?cross the Pyrenees over six days of incredible riding.

Bespoke Pyrenees?- Let us be your Domestique – we build your perfect Bespoke tour.

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