When you think you knew the most beautiful climbs in the Pyrenees, then you still can discover another climb that is even better than your favorites. I already had climbed Cirque du Troumouse, the amazing views of Gavarnie heading to Col du Boucharo, not to mention the stunning Cirque du Litor on your way to Aubisque. And then you know Port de Bales and it speeds up to first position.
Port de Bales was included in Tour de France 2007 for the first time. It was not possible before because the Mauleon side was still not asphalted.
In 2010 Tour de France at Port de Bales took place the most important fact of the whole tour, when Andy Schleck had a problem shifting gears and then Contador attacked and finally won the Tour de France. In 2012, 2014 and 2017 the Tour de France took again this big climb.
Then Vuelta a España 2013 got again this amazing climb in a very tough stage with 232 km and some very long and steep climbs.
Both sides are similar but if I have to choose one I take the Mauleon side (see elevation profile attached). The whole climb is beautiful in a narrow 3 m wide road, without any painting. No traffic at all. Cycling paradise. But the best is from about 3 km to the top. After a bend to the right you get an amazing view of green grass over a huge mountain with just the road in grey in the distance. Spectacular.
In Mauleon they know how lucky they are. Watch the picture above “Port de Bales, 19 km de bonheur” (Port de Bales, 19 km of happiness). That’s all.