Like this site? Help us to make it better.

Video: Mike Cotty climbs France's highest road, the Col de la Bonette

Loop around summit is highest point ever reached in Tour de France - which has tackled climb just four times

Mike Cotty’s latest Col Collective film takes him to the French Alps to climb the Col de la Bonette –the highest point ever reached in the Tour de France.

The pass itself sits 2,715 metres above sea level, but a loop around the summit hits 2,802 metres, making it the highest road in France.

The pass has featured just four times in the Tour de France. On the first two occasions, in 1962 and 1964, Federico Bahamontes was the first man over.

It was almost three decades until it featured again, when Robert Millar led the race over the summit, and in 2008 John-Lee Augustyn took the Souvenir Henri Desgrange prize of €5,000 for cresting it first.

The South African, then with Barloworld, crashed on a bend on the ascent, falling around 30 metres down the mountainside, but remounted to finish the stage after a fan helped him climb back up to the road.

Here’s Cotty’s views on the climb:

Okay, so the Col de la Bonette may not be the highest road in Europe as it often proclaims but scaling its way up 2,802 metres with a cheeky little 2 kilometre loop around the top just to out trump some of its competition will always make it the stuff of legend.

From Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée you face a long 25.8km ascent, immediately giving you the sense that you’re going on a real journey as you venture deep into the Mercantour National Park.

The raw power of the Vens waterfall is a landmark well worth taking a moment to draw breath for as it thunders its way down the side of the mountain.

As you climb higher the sheer peacefulness that the Bonette instills often reminds you of how simple life can be, until it takes on an eerie (almost surreal) twist as you pass through the now derelict Camp des Fourches, once home to a battalion of Alpine troops.

It’s not often that you get both character and history melded together in such a beautiful way to create a climb that no matter how long it takes, or how much it hurts, by the summit you can’t help but feel totally alive once more.    

Vital statistics

Start: Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée
Length: 25.8km
Summit: 2,802m
Elevation gain: 1,652m
Average gradient: 6.4%
Max gradient: 15%

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

Latest Comments