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It’s time to claim your crown.
There are many reasons to climb a mountain. There are the spectacular, vertiginous views from the summit, clouds spread beneath your feet and pierced by the odd neighbouring peak.
Then there’s the sense of challenge, and the lung-heaving, leg wobbling feeling of euphoria on cresting the final rise. There might also be a really good cafe at the top. Or perhaps we just do it “because it’s there”, as mountaineer George Mallory said of Everest.
Making the climb on two wheels can only add further spice to the challenge. Tackle one of these five mighty ascents and you will be truly ready to claim your crown – and your polka dot jersey – as King or Queen of the Mountains.
Col de la Bonnette, 2802m France
The Tour de France can be turned on its head when riders reach the mountains and the climbers launch their attacks. For the stout of heart, Col de la Bonnettestands as the highest col in Europe at 2,802m.
Starting from Isola, the day’s 2,394m of climbs are balanced by a breezy 3,259m of descents, but don’t get too comfortable; there are many more famous names to take on in subsequent days.
Alpe d’Huez, Croix de Fer, Galibier, Izoard, and more, will keep you on your toes.
Mont Ventoux, 1912m France
The Giant of Provence, Mont Ventouxcan set even the hardiest cyclists’ knees a-tremble, and riders in the Tour de France have been pitted against the peak on 15 gruelling occasions.
On its way to the summit, the road winds through the chiselled curves of the Gorges de la Nesque, to the town of Bedoin, which provides the launch point for the assault on the summit.
From there, a mere 21.5km of climbing at an average 7.5% gradient separates you from your celebratory drink at the top.
Khardung La, 5602m India
The Khardung pass makes most of the mountains of Europe look like a child’s sandcastles.
At 5,602m it is one of the highest passes in the world that a car can crawl over without the engine dying of asphyxiation; but where cars die, cyclists continue unfazed.
Starting deep in the Himalayas at the city of Leh, the route winds gradually higher into the thinning air.
From the top, drink in the enormity of the view, jagged peaks and azure skies in all directions, then freewheel all the way down.
Nuwara Eliya, 1893m Sri Lanka
The highest town in Sri Lanka, Nuwara Eliya sits on the slopes of Pidurutalagala, the highest mountain in Sri Lanka, amid the clouds and the rolling terraces of the tea plantations.
It’s an 82km ride from Kandy to the old colonial hill station, where many of the buildings the British left behind – and their lawns – have been carefully preserved.
During the ride, the air cools to a temperature that is good both for cycling and for growing what is reputed to be some of the finest tea on the island.
Ride it: Cycle the Backroads of Sri Lanka
Tizi n’Tazzazert Pass, 2200m Morocco
Rising out of the desert like oversized termite mounds, the rugged red pillars of Morocco’s Jebel Sahro set the backdrop for this 16km ride to the Tizi n’Tazzazert pass.
The route takes in the rock formations at Bab n’Ali – bab meaning ‘gate’, this one is formed by two great stacks of rock, rising towards the sky.
Having gained nearly a kilometre of elevation to reach the pass, look out at the snow-capped High Atlas mountains, and enjoy a well-earned rest.
Ride it: Atlas Descent
This article was written for Exodus by journalist, traveller and guest writer Dan Hinge.
Discover more summit rides below and start planning your next cycling climb.