You are not able to climb the Col du Portet by bike

When, in a moment of intense late-night emotion, I stupidly threw

“Tomorrow, I’m biking the Col du Portet,”

I should have known this wasn’t a good idea. Especially when my companion challenged me with a smile of “You’re out of your mind” while committing to riding my electric bike with me. That’s when I should have realized that, after a certain age, playing the “cap or no cap” game can be childish, even suicidal.


“A good physical condition you will need and overcome you will be able…”


You will need courage

Let’s be clear from the start! Either you’ve already got a thousand kilometers of cycling under your belt and you’re just going to suffer or … you’re going to cry.

The Col du Portet climb is 16 kilometers with an average gradient of 8.7%. Just looking at the sign at the start of the village of Vignec, you’re sweating and not far from an acne flare-up. Don’t let yourself be impressed. Just get used to the idea that you’re going to be riding very small plateaus and very large gears.

Pack some energy gels and fill your water bottle. Sign yourself up if you’re a believer and hit the first ramp, all the way to the “Poulidor” turn.

Don’t get too excited. From there, you’ll already be hot. Small essential detail: don’t be intimidated by the fact that your companion, on an electric bike, will admire your effort with that little smile that will inevitably make you want to curse her.

First objectivethe village of Soulan

The profile for the first five kilometers is between 9 and 10 percent. Your first goal is to get to the village of Soulan without experiencing the sensation of being constantly breathless.

You can zigzag once or twice on the road to loosen up your legs on the steeper slopes and take advantage of what little lucidity you have left to admire the landscape. Don’t be surprised if your speedometer tells you that you are progressing between 7 and 8 km/h and don’t forget to warmly greet all the cyclists who are going to drop you off with a compassionate smile.

As for the one who keeps asking you “How do you feel?”, think of all the happy moments you have already shared. When you get to the village of Soulan, don’t forget to fill your canister at the fountain. It is the last water point until the Col.

Second objectivethe departure towards the Col du Portet

Take advantage of the small flat area at the exit of Soulan to grind a bit. It will lift your spirits and keep you from thinking about the 10% kilometer ahead. This one has the particularity of seeming endless.

This is definitely the moment when you’ll ask your companion to go ahead. Otherwise, you’ll foolishly risk forgetting “all those happy moments you’ve shared.”

Tell yourself that after this mile, you still have a choice. When you get to the crossroads, you can give up with dignity by simply taking a left and arriving at the Pla d’Adet otherwise … it’s to the right.

Once you get to the foot of the sign that tells you that you have only 8 kilometers left at an average of 8.6%, excuse to immortalize your feat by taking a selfie with the one with whom you have finally reconciled to enjoy a well-deserved break.

Last objectivefinish at all costs

The trap in starting this climb to the Col du Portet is to think you’ve done the hard part. This is forgetting that you already have a few kilometers of climbing in your legs. All the remaining ones will progressively seem… extremely long. This is where you have to enjoy the scenery … and think about the descent.

That moment when your companion, not very comfortable in this exercise and with a bike weighing a ton, will suddenly lose that unbearable little smile. I’m not going to lie to you, that’s when I had the most trouble. You feel like you have less slope but you don’t have enough strength in your legs to accelerate. Play it low key and keep telling yourself that you have to finish “no matter what.”

AdmireSheep and cows on the mountain pastures

Think that you are in a pastoral area, so take an amused look at the flocks of sheep and the few cows. You will be able to read in their eyes precious encouragements. After having overcome the various twists and turns, tell yourself that you will find a slightly less steep slope to the tunnel. A little friendly advice: when passing through the tunnel, don’t try to make friends with the sheep or cows that sometimes take refuge there. And if you start to try to start a conversation with one of these quadrupeds, swallow all the gel you have left, you are in hypothermia. During the last kilometer, don’t hesitate to talk about the descent with your companion, giving her that little smile that should definitely calm her down.

You didn't do Quintana but you did it

Once you pass the sign that says you’ve just passed your bet, remember to never play “cap or no cap” again.

But, considering you’ll lose feeling in your legs, get all red with a trickle of drool on your chin, and feel like you’re on the verge of apoplexy, you might want to remember that.

Well, you didn’t do Nairo Quintana, who won the first stage finish of the Tour de France on the Col du Portet in 2018, but you did. Take a selfie with your partner with a view of the Saint-Lary resort, and don’t forget to take one of her head at the bottom of the descent. It can always come in handy.

For more information on access conditions to the Col du Portet, log on to the website dedicated to the cyclo colduportet.fr or the Saint-Lary website