Col de Portet d’Aspet — Top Ten Cycling Cols of the Pyrenees

The Col de Portet d’Aspet — 1069m

Compared to many other climbs on the Raid Pyrenean, the Portet d’Aspet is wholly unremarkable owing to its 1069m peak altitude figure. So what makes it one of the most feared of all the Cols? Easy — the final 4.4k (which in the eyes of the purist are the totality of the Portet d’Aspet) average a leg wilting 9.6%, with several ramps reaching high into the 17, 18 and 19% range according to the trusty Garmin readouts.

The Climb

While some cycling websites list the climb as starting from the town of Aspet, or, for the purposes of the Raid Pyrenees, at the sharp right turn to stay on the D618 shortly after the Col du Buret, this section of road is more of a rolling valley road that steadily gains height up to the fork in the road that send those turning right onto the Col de Mente and those turning left onto the Portet d’Aspet. For me, this is the true starting point of the Aspet, as it is here that the road heads up!

Starting from the green marker sign, the road curves steadily right as the gradient rises sharply. With riders having hopefully selected a sensible gear ratio, they will likely notice the vase of flowers and small plaque fastened to the wall on their left handside. Rounding the right hander and with the gradient now firmly in the mid to high teens, riders cannot fail to miss the stunning Fabio Casartelli memorial to their left. This monument commemorates Fabio, who tragically died on the 18th July 1995, following a crash during the descent of the Aspet on stage 15 of that year’s Tour de France.

Having taken a moment to gather their thoughts, riders continue past the memorial on route to a particularly challenging and claustrophobically overhung section of the climb, which in September 2014 was ruthlessly covered in fresh gravel inches deep. This section culminates in a sharp left handed hairpin that leads to a wall like section of road, offering few breaks for several hundred meters as the road bears round to the right. Once riders have tackled this ramp, the road eases (although on the Aspet this is a relative term), as the forest thins out and riders are afforded a much welcome view of the surrounding mountains. With less than a kilometre to the Col, riders can click out of 28T here and build some rhythm for the final ramp to the much welcome Col and the above pictured sign to their right.

With nothing much at the top of the Aspet beyond the occasional cheese vendor and a seemingly never open camp site restaurant, riders are encouraged to begin the descent down to the village of Portet d’Aspet, where Chez Jo (look out for the faded Coca Cola sign on the right handside towards the end of the village) will welcome riders with a burning fire, fantastic lunch and if you ask nicely, a tumble dryer to dry soaked kit!

The History

Sadly, the Portet d’Aspet is best known for the aforementioned death of Fabio Casartelli, however, the Aspet has been a regular in the Tour de France since it’s first inclusion in 1910 and continues to be one of the most feared and revered climbs of the Raid Pyrenean. The climb features early in Stage 12 of the Tour de France 2015, offering a fascinating test for riders during a monster 195km stage.

How Can I Climb the Col de Portet d’Aspet with Le Domestique Tours?

With options suitable for all ability levels, make this season the one you climb the Col de Portet d’Aspet:

Raid Pyrenean — the epic 100hr trans Pyrenean cycling challenge including Col de Portet d’Aspet.

King of the Mountains TdF — Tourmalet, Ventoux and Alpe d’Huez in seven incredible stages including Col de Portet d’Aspet.

Pyrenean Coast to Coast — cross the Pyrenees over six days of incredible riding including Col de Portet d’Aspet.

Bespoke Pyrenees — Let us be your Domestique — we build your perfect Bespoke tour.

Originally published at www.ledomestiquetours.co.uk on July 15, 2015.

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