Port de Bales

Port de Bales out of Maleon-Barousse
Date: 3rd September 2022
Ride No. 13
Grade: 9/10
Location: Mauleon-Barousse

Segment ID: 16838086
My Time: 1:38:53





I’ve seen it in the movies. Let’s see if it’s true.

After the Col des Ares and safely despatching the remains of a chicken in a baguette overcoat, I set the satnav for the 9/10 Port de Bales.

It was a chance to compare it with the real thing since it was one of my FulGaz virtual favourite training rides.

I felt at home. The buildings were familiar, and the streets were quiet.

The first 5Km at 4-5% makes the Port de Bales climb a slow burner, but it soon warms up to 11-13% after that.

This was another undulating climb, but nothing too much to upset the rhythm.

The deviation from my virtual riding experience, however, was my old friend at the falling cloud base. With no scenery to gaze on, the ride now took on the guise if a long slog.



For the last ten days, I had carried a gel in my pocket. More through a lack of landscape boredom rather than necessity, I ripped it open.

I fumbled around in my pockets and produced the well crushed and folded gel sachet.

My timing for administering the gel could have been better. As I approached a corner that needed some care, I gently squeezed the gel into my mouth.

The squeeze was not as gentle as it could have been.

The gel scored a bullseye at the back of the throat.

My previous steady rhythm was now reduced to a frantic road weaving bout of coughing and spluttering.

Sticky gel was everywhere.

It was on my gloves, my hands, and the handlebars.

The cherry gel glued me to the Brompton.

Flies on a hot day were the only other thing that could have made this even more uncomfortable.

The gel did more for winding me up than it did for my performance.


De rigueur

But up ahead in the cloud, I saw another rider. (A CARROT).

I lost all gel thoughts as my mindset changed.

They were not going fast and by maintaining my current speed. I soon shortened the distance.

I recognised the rider as the lady I had seen at the base of the climb when I was getting ready.

She had been with a partner, but he was nowhere to be seen.

I put in a bit more effort and caught up.

In normal circumstances, I would have held her wheel to recover, but I guessed this would not be ‘de rigueur’ and so I carried on past.

I asked if she was ok, and she replied “Yes” then laughed at the Brompton. (cheek) ?

The cloud was now thickening, but I could make out some cars where I thought the summit would be.



At the summit, the rider’s partner was waiting and freezing. That was something I was not keen to do.

We briefly exchanged pleasantries and photos, then I set off for a 12-mile descent.

On this descent, my concentration levels went off the scale.

The friendly mountain cows on Port de Bales have a strange super-power: an uncanny knack of accurately placing a present on your preferred line around a bend.

In other circumstances, the cow’s skill deserved applause, but not now.

With no guard rails or crash barriers on the bends, this was more a case of, “Oh shit, cow shit.”