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The old spa town Luchon must be one of the most inspiring towns, amongst those that play a big part along the route of theTour de France. With this town as an anchor point, riders race over Col de Peyresourde and Col de Portalet, and others. Sometimes the race also includes a climb to the ski area, named Superbagneres, above the old spa town. The road is steep and scenically sensational, but even more important - it is wide, well paved and all the turns have a fairly wide radius. And perhaps even more important that that: On top of Superbagnere is a super large parking lot, that can easily accommodate a train of entourages. Luchon itself stands in contrast to that. It is a charming little spa town with a wonderful main street. The buildings and arcades of old trees frame the mountain views at every street crossing. In my mind, I am sure, that the main street was oriented for the perfect view of the mountains above (although I am still only guessing).

1.(00.0km,0670m) START-END EAST:north side of Bagneres de Luchon
2.(06.0km,0900m)jct with road to Hospice de France
3.(09.6km,1120m)jct with D46a to waterfall at end of valley
4.(18.7km,1780m)TOP: Superbagneres Hotel


From North.
The road leaves town, passes two convenient campgrounds and then starts climbing steeply right away. This first part, where to road remains tethered to the bottom of the valley floor, is actually the steepest part of the entire climb. Near the junction with the loop to Hospice de France the road levels out a bit.

And after that the scenery gets interesting, so there is no more reason to just climb for pain's sake. By the time the road reaches the junction with the valley road to Cascade d'Envers, the size of the monumental amphitheater of mountains, that the road will attempt to climb out of, is clear. It does so with large far flung switchbacks, that allow for a fast trip when coming back down.

The monumental hotel at the top appears like a fortress to capitalism. Up close it doesn't look quite as well preserved, especially with the concrete addition, or is that the servants quarters ? Everything is mothballed in the summer, including the mini golf course. Out behind the hotel waits a great reciprocal view of the cemetery in Bangere de Luchon. It is the best vantage point onto the mountains from the village. And from up here all the graves are discernible through a good telephoto lens.

The first ski lift station is hardly much higher than the hotel, and is reachable on a dirt track. There are multiple ways down with a mountain bike. But my objective was to get a little higher on foot, since it was a very hot day. This road summit is perfect for that. An alpine trail leaves direction several sanctuaries, just past the first lift station to the north.

cLiCk on image , arrows , or thumbnails to advance slideshow

Pictures from the hike from the ski station are here

Dayride with this one-way point as highest summit,
and no two way summit points:


( < Col de Mente | Col de Portet > )

Superbagnere(ow): Bagneres de Luchon <> Superbagnere(ow) <> GR4 trailhead: 23.9miles with 4360ft of climbing in 3:13hrs (garmin etrex30 r5:19.5.31)
Notes: day also included a hike from turnaround  point to peak at 2380m (7808ft). Climbing while walking: 546m~1791ft; total climbing: 6151ft - the first mountain day with absolutely perfect weather - the only unpaved part in the ride is the sort section from the ski station to the trailhead.


the resort:
the resort was already opened in the early 20th century. Apparently a rack and pinion railway was first used to get to the top. I saw no signs or reminders of this along the way anywhere.

Cycling - Tour de France : The climb to the top of the ski area was included in the Tour de France the first time in 1961, the first of 6 stages that all ended on top of the mountain. 1961 was also the longest day of those 6 stages. The stage started in Toulouse and went over 208km.1986 also was a long stage, that started in Pau and ended on top of the mountain 186km later. It was Greg Lemond's first Tour de France stage win, and he managed to win it with more than a minute between him and the next competitor.