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  • Words by Mr James Spender of Cyclist magazine

Assassins! You are assassins!" screamed the Parisian Mr Octave Lapize, much to the consternation of the stony-faced race officials. For this parcours (course) was arguably the hardest yet, and Mr Lapize's ascent across these cols (mountain passes) the most brutal. A lesser individual might have tossed his heavy fixed-gear to the floor and crumpled in a sobbing heap, but Mr Lapize was no ordinary man; he was a cyclist in the 1910 Tour de France, and like all cyclists, writ large across his grimacing face was that unmistakable word, souffrance: suffering. Assassins they might be, but ride on he would.

That was the first year the Pyrenees had been included in the race, and since then every cyclist from the sinewy pro to the weekend warrior has sought to ascend ever greater heights while plumbing ever deeper depths of resolve. It's a war of attrition - you and the mountain, which from the outside might seem like a hellish pursuit. But for those who've made the journey and have found where souffrance leads, climbing by bike to skim the tops of the world makes perfect, exhilarating sense. So kick back in your chair and click through the gallery, above, to see some of the greatest climbs the world has to offer. Then grab your bike and get out there yourself.