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Col de Portet: The New Tourmalet


Lee Parish, 27th October 2017

Following on from the publication of the 2018 TDF route through the Pyrenees, we want to highlight a monumental but largely unknown climb - the Col de Portet.

It will feature in Stage 17 on July 25th 2018: Bagnères-de-Luchon to Saint-Lary-Soulan.

It's late October and I desperately need to get in a longer ride, so I cycled from Velo Pyrenees to the Col de Portet for the first time to see what it was like - view it here on Strava. It has been described as the new Tourmalet, but is it tougher or just hype? Firstly, here's the numbers to muse over:

  Length Summit Altitude Gain Average % Maximum %
Col du Tourmalet 19.0 km 2115 m 1404 m 7.39 % 10.2 %
Col de Portet 17.8 km 2215 m 1405 m 7.89 % 10 %

 

On paper the Col de Portet looks more challenging. It is higher than the Tourmalet with a shorter but steeper climb. It is potentially the hardest climb ever featured in the Tour de France. I'd highly recommend giving it a go as it has some wild and rugged breathtaking scenery but most notably, it has far fewer cars, offering a chance of solitary pleasure to enjoy the mountains at your own pace and letting the mind wander without distraction.

One final point to add is that the last section is not yet tarmaced which certainly adds to the character of the climb and its difficulty. Perhaps it will be tarmaced in time for the TDF this coming July but given the successful sales of gravel bikes in 2017, it would not be surprising if the director wants to throw in some gravel into the Tour... wouldn't that be awesome!

The Col Collective have put together a short video as a reconnaisance of stage 17, focusing their attention on the Col de Portet.

The Climb in Photos

Pla d'adet and Col de Portet start

The start of the climb with extremely narrow streets. Built for bikes or maybe donkeys on bikes?

bike on new tarmac

The stuff of dreams - new hot rolled tarmac on the lower slopes.

Tribute Raymond Poulidor

An excuse for a break to look at the tribute to Raymond Poulidor from the 1974 Tour de France. This road is the same start for both the Col de Portet and the Pla d'Adet. Of course, like many, you can do both in the same ride, one summit after the other from the junction halfway up.

French stone architecture

French water fountain

Garmin view of road

bike on gravel road

gravel road in mountains

hairpin and switchback bends

Pla d'Adet

Scenery whilst climbing

Col de Portet