My Ten Most Difficult Pyrenean Climbs- 5th Hardest: Col de Mente

Departure: Saint Beat

Length: 9.3km

Altitude: 1,349m

Height Gain: 849m

Average Gradient: 9.1%

Maximum gradient: 10.0%

Category: Category 1

Nestled along the Garonne River that begins its journey in the Spanish Pyrenees, Saint-Beat has the hallmarks of a cosy rural town. Comprising of approximately 400 people, a typical sight is the handful of market stalls along the riverbank, while its urbanization seems to extend not much further than 300 metres along the main road through town-the N125.
Not to be taken lightly, the Col de Mente starts gaining in altitude the moment you cross the bridge over the river. A category one climb, connecting the Garonne and Ger valleys, it covers a distance of only 9.3 kilometres but its gradient is unrelenting, hovering around its 9.1 percent average for most of the way.
Accessible via the D944 and the D618 from the opposite direction, the climb has appeared regularly in the Tour de France since 1966, when during the 188 kilometre stage from Pau to Luchon, Spanish cyclist, Joaquim Galera became the first rider over the top. Predominantly climbed from its eastern approach, via the Col de Portet d'Aspet, its most recent appearance was in 2013, when Daniel Martin (Garmin Sharp) won the stage 9 breakaway ahead of Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step). The 169 kilometre stage fromSaint-Girons to Bagneres-de-Bigorre, included five category 1 and 2 climbs, the Hourquette d'Ancizan,  Col de Val Louron-Azet, Col de Peyresourde, Col de Portet d'Aspet and the Col de Mente. 

The sleepy village of Saint-Beat on the Garonne River.
Uncharacteristically for a climb so steep, the road spends much of its journey travelling in a straight line, not wavering until it bypasses the tiny hamlet of Boutx, almost three kilometres into the ride. Still true to its steep gradient, it's not until its final 3 kilometres that it dances in half-circles towards its tree-lined summit. 

A challenging and seemingly remote climb through verdant forest, the Col de Mente is like a B-Grade movie. It might not be as well-known overseas as many of the ‘big’ Pyrenean climbs, but once you’ve climbed it, you won’t quickly forget its mood, nor or its gradient.

Books by Mark Krieger:

‘High Spain Drifter’ is available on Amazon , Barnes and Noble, Booktopia  and other online bookstores. 

‘Lycra, Lattes and the Long Way Round’ is available on Amazon, Book Depository, Barnes and Noble, Kobo Books

Both books are also available at local bookshops on the Mornington Peninsula: @ Rosebud Bookbarn and @ La Brocante

“When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.”                        H. G. Wells

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