Cols d’Excellence

Climb the French mountains with Rapha Travel

As the great race makes its merry way up and down France, Ben Lieberson, one of Rapha Travel’s lead guides, presents some of his favourite cols that the country has to offer. A man who abides by the philosophy of ‘Outside is Free’, Ben is perfectly placed to take us into the mountains. As he says, “All these climbs and many more are out there for us to enjoy, sometimes alone, sometimes with good company. The essence of escape is not too far away.”

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Col Agnel

Alps, 2,744m

“A real beauty showcasing the best of Alpine climbs.”

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Topping out at over 2,700 metres above sea level, this Alpine climb is a real monster. And coming up it from the Guillestre side means 42km of constant uphill. It’s a really special climb, with great roads, steady slopes and amazing views.

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Port de Pailhères

Pyrenees, 2,001m

“The gateway to the Pyrenees.”

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Climbing this Pyrenean powerhouse is a special experience. The road is serpentine, coiling steeply to the top which is exposed but well worth it. You have to work quite hard just to get to Mijanes, the village where the climb really begins, from where you’ll climb 10.6km at an average gradient of 8.2%. A stinger.

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Col d’Aubisque

Pyrenees, 1,709m

“The Cirque du Litor is the icing on the cake… breathtaking.”

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A real classic – there are so many superb climbs to enjoy in the Pyrenees. The Aubisque is quiet and remote, making it perfect for you to settle into your rhythm and enjoy the spectacular views.

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Col de Vergio

Corsica, 1,478m

“Corsica is one of my favourite places, full stop.”

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From Porto on the coast, the Col de Vergio demonstrates why Corsica is such an amazing place to ride a bike. Wild goats and pigs munching on chestnuts are the locals and you are the visitors. This climb takes you across the highest pass on Corsica into the centre of the island and Corte. Not just a great climb but the road down the gorge is one of the best.

Mont Vial

Alpes-Maritimes (Côte d'Azur), 1,550m

“The recipe for a great day on the bike.”

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This is an excellent climb that features on some of the Rapha Travel trips to the Côte d’Azur. You have to head deep into the country to find it, but the empty scrawl of curves up the craggy mountain face make it well worth it.

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Col du Tourmalet

The Pyrenees, 2,115m

“The payoff is beyond words. Stunning.”

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One of the giants, the Tourmalet is steeped in the history of the Tour de France, having been traversed 78 times. It has many stories to tell, whether broken forks or broken dreams. Octave Lapize famously called the race organisers who made the first Tour riders climb it “assassins”, and it still rings true as you ride its challenging slopes.

Discover the art of escape on two wheels

You can ride each of these climbs with Rapha Travel. Unforgettable trips that take in amazing roads, beautiful landscapes and legendary climbs, Rapha Travel welcomes riders of all abilities and ambitions. Choose between Europe’s best roads across France, Italy and Spain, or look to Norway, the United States and Japan. All you’ll have to do is get on your bike, take to one of our carefully crafted routes, and pedal.

2018 trips booking soon, with several new destinations.