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Video: Mike Cotty rides forgotten Tour de France climb to Superbagnères

Pyrenean ascent has hosted six stage finishes - but the last, won by Robert Millar, was in 1989

For his latest Col Collective video, Mike Cotty has taken on a climb where Bernard Hinault and Greg Lemond once took Tour de France stage victories on their way to clinching the yellow jersey in Paris – the ascent to the Pyrenean ski resort of Superbagnères.

It’s hosted a stage finish in the race six times, but the last was more than a quarter of a century ago when Scotland’s Robert Millar won there in 1989, a year in which he finished 10th overall, his second highest overall finish in the race.

Since then, it has fallen out of favour with organisers ASO, with the race instead heading up other nearby climbs on its annual visit to the Pyrenees.

Here’s Cotty’s opinion of the climb.

Surrounded by no less than fifteen snowcapped peaks above 3,000 metres, climbing to the ski-station at Superbagnères deep in the Midi-Pyrénées opens up a whole new world of freedom all the way to its 1,800 metre summit.

Starting from the beautiful spa town of Bagnères-de-Luchon, also host to the start of the Col de Peyresourde and Port de Balès, the road traces its way alongside the river Pique as you wind your way up and around the mountain.

Don’t let the average gradient of 6.3% lull you into a false sense of security though as the road regularly holds its form above double figures from the first couple of kilometres.

I’m often surprised that it’s only featured six times in the Tour de France so far with greats like Bahamontes, Hinault, Lemond and Millar all being triumphant on its slopes but, to be honest, that’s the most fulfilling thing about Superbagnères, its relative anonymity nestled amongst better known climbs feels like a secret Pyrenean gift that just keeps getting better the higher you climb.

Vital statistics

Start: Bagnères-de-Luchon
Length: 18.5km
Summit: 1,800m
Elevation gain: 1,170m
Average gradient: 6.3%
Max gradient: 12%

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.

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jasecd | 8 years ago

Does Cotty ever climb in the saddle?

Mike Cotty replied to jasecd | 8 years ago
jasecd wrote:

Does Cotty ever climb in the saddle?

Only when I'm popping to the shops for a loaf of bread  3

efail | 8 years ago

Two weeks ago, the local club, Luchon Louron, hosted a new 'challenge' to do, in one day,all 6 cliimbs that radiate from around Luchon. A very tough project. Not many managed it. It was really well organised, with drinks and food at the tops and bottom. Super B and Hospice de France were two of the climbs. I agree that both of these climbs, and the descents are brilliant. The views at the tops are equally brilliant, especially if there is any snow left.

bikewithnoname | 8 years ago

I love this climb, the descent back into Luchon is also super fast! If you've got the legs left before you head back into Luchon you can add to the vertical mileage by turning at the Pont de Lapede (about 2/3 of the way down Superbagneres) and climbing to the Hospice de France. This is a little demon of a climb that adds only 7km of climbing but the last 3-4km is all comfortably over 12%!

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