A Guide to Cycling the Col de Portel & the Mur de Péguère

This challenging route tackles the two approaches of the Col de Portel in the Ariège region of the Pyrenees. The Tour de France first featured this climb in the 2008 edition of the race. The second approach of this ascent from Massat also takes in the difficult slopes of the Mur de Péguère which has gradients over 18%.

Col de Portel 09- announcement of a vertiginous descent.jpg

Anthospace, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Climb Statistics

Col de Portel (Eastern approach)

Length: 29.8km / 18.5mi

Average gradient: 3.5%

Start point: 391m / 1,283ft

Elevation at top: 1440m / 4,724

Category: 1

Col de Portel gradient profile via Foix

Nearest town: La Bastide-de-Sérou

Facilities at top: None

When to ride: May to Oct

Road condition: Asphalt – Good

Nearest climb:

Number of approaches: 6

Through road at top: Yes


Col de Portel (South Eastern approach)

Length: 13.3km / 8.3mi

Average gradient: 5.9%

Start point: 650m / 2,133ft

Elevation at top: 1,440m / 4,724

Category: HC

Gradient profile Col de Portel via Massat

Nearest town: Massat

Facilities at top: None

When to ride: May to Oct

Road condition: Asphalt – Good

Nearest climb:

Number of approaches: 6

Through road at top: Yes

Cycling Route From Foix

Ride distance: 82km / 51mi

Elevation gain: 2,395m / 7,858ft

All uphill from the start – Col de Portel Eastern Approach

The cycling route we have mapped out begins and ends in Foix. Whilst this route may not be the longest there is quite a lot of climbing packed into it. The climbing begins straight from the start as you take on the first approach of the Col de Portel. The climb from this approach is just under 30km in length and ascends 1,270m in elevation over this distance. This long climb also includes the summits of three other Cols – the Col des Marrous, Col de Jouels and the Col de Péguère. The average gradient on this approach of the Col de Portel is relatively gentle at 3.8% however there are some steeper pitches as you leave the small hamlet of Burrat to the summit of the Col de Jouels. From here the gradient hovers around 5% for just over 9kms with some double digit gradients thrown into the mix. Once past this point the gradient eases off once more until you finally reach the summit of the Portel. Take in the summit view and then enjoy that well earned descent before tackling the next climb of the day.

Second ascent – and the Mur de Péguère

After the descent you will reach the village Massat and this is where the second climb of the day begins. You can top up your food and water supplies in the small village before tackling the next 13kms of climbing. Once again the entire climb to the top of the Portel actually combines the passes of a number of Cols – this time the Col des Caougnous and the Col de Péguère. The latter includes the Mur de Péguère which is definitely the most challenging section of riding for this entire route. There are three extremely challenging kilometres to contend with and a maximum gradient of 18%. Indeed this section of road is so steep that an initial plan to include it in the route of the 1973 tour as part of a descent was abandoned. You will be happy to reach the familiar summit of the Col de Portel with the knowledge that the remaining 30kms are now all downhill back to Foix.

Col de Péguère 09- Pendiente Caugnous- segundo y último pin.jpg

Anthospace, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Above: The steep gradients of the Mur de Péguère



Route Variations

There are a number of possible route variations you can choose for this ride. Firstly, it is possible to shorten this route to only include the first approach of the Col de Portel. This would make the ride 60km / 37m in length and reduce the climbing to 1,084m / 3,556ft. Another option is to tackle the circular loop from the summit in a clockwise direction. If you do this be mindful that the first few kilometres – particular those of the Mur de Péguère are extremely steep and will make the descent extremely technical.


Port de Lers

The climb of the Port de Lers has featured five times in the Tour de France. The eastern approach from Tarascon-sur-Ariége is the longest at just over 25km / 15.5mi in length at an average gradient of 4%. Read more about this climb here.

Port de Lers- route Massat.JPG

Anthospace, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons


Col d'Agnés.jpg

bebb83, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Col d’Agnes

The first section of the Col d’Agnes is on the Port des Lers climb. From this approach it is a scenic climb with numerous switchback leading to the summit at 1570m. Discover more about the climb here.


Discover more about cycling in the Ariège region

If you are not familiar with the Pyrenees, our comprehensive guide will help you plan everything you need for your cycling holiday. The guide includes information such as:

  • a map of the Pyrenees with climbs and towns marked
  • where to base yourself depending on which mountains you would like to ride
  • cycling hotels and lodges
  • bike hire outlets
  • getting to and from the Pyrenees
  • non-cycling attractions and activities in the region

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Looking down a layer of cloud in the valley from the summit of Col du Tourmalet

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