Opinion

7 Toughest Climbs In Pro Cycling

We take a look at some of the hardest inclines in professional cycling

With the new year in full swing we are counting down the days until pros and amateurs alike are powering their way up the toughest climbs around the world. So much so we decided to take a look at some of the most treacherous inclines in professional cycling.

Attempt these if you dare…

Alpe d’Huez

One of the most famous climbs in professional cycling, the Alpe d’Huez has been a Tour de France stage finish since 1976.

Measuring at 13.8km with a total of 21 hairpins, it has an average gradient of 8.1%.

It is the scene of Lance Armstrong famously sprinting away from Jan Ullrich on the way to winning the 2001 Tour de France. Despite eventually having his title taken away from him, Armstrong is still honoured on the climb as one of 21 winning names lining the road.

This year it is featuring in the Tour de France once more on stage 12 where it will be the finishing point for riders after traversing 175.5km from Bourg-Saint Maurice.

Plateau de Beille

Plateau de Beille

This is another climb used in the Tour de France and although it may be less well known, it’s arguably more difficult than the Alpe d’Huez.

The Plateau de Beille has an average gradient of 8%, with a 1,292m ascent registering at 16km.

On its inception it became something of a rite of passage, as the first four times it was used in the tour the winner of the stage went on to win the race.

Passo di Mortirolo

The Mortirolo

Lance Armstrong once labelled this steep Italian hell the hardest climb he’d ever faced and we can see why, it has an average gradient of 10.5% spread across 12.4km.

When used in the Giro d’Italia, the first rider to pass the summit is given an award in memory of Marco Pantani called the Cima Pantani (Pantani Top), who many recognise as one of the best climbers of his generation.

Pantani sadly passed away in 2004 but his memory was immortalised on this climb. Much like Pantani, the race remembers other past heroes with similar competitions, like the Cima Coppi, which celebrates Fausto Coppi by giving a prize for the first rider over the highest point of the Giro.

Alto del Angliru

The Angliru

The Alto del Angliru is considered by many to be the toughest climb in Spain.

A 1,248m ascent that’s 12.5km long, it boasts an average gradient of 10%, with the steepest parts reaching a terrifying 24%.

In 2002, the wet conditions became so difficult that British rider David Millar abandoned the race in protest. The most recent winner of the Angliru stage was Alberto Contador in his final year as a pro, the Spaniard made for a fairytale ending as he broke away to solo over the top of the iconic climb.

Muro di Sormano

Muro di Sormano

Nicknamed ‘The Wall’, many cyclists would rather join the Night’s Watch and defend Westeros from White Walkers than tackle this climb.

With an average gradient of 17% that peaks at 25%, the climb was removed from the Giro di Lombardia three years after its introduction in 1960.

Much to the displeasure of its riders, it has found its way back into the race and is still used on occasion.

Mont Ventoux

Mont Ventoux

Famous for the picturesque observatory at its peak, Mount Ventoux is one of the Tour de France’s most iconic landmarks.

Unfortunately, the views from the top don’t make the ascent any easier on the quads with the 21.4km climb peaking at a horrible 12% gradient.

It’s a climb Chris Froome knows well, having stormed to victory up it during his 2013 Tour de France win before having to abandon his bike and run up it in his 2016 Tour de France victory.

Tom Simpson tragically died on the climb in 1967 and he is honoured with a memorial close to the summit.

Passo dello Stelvio

The Stelvio Pass

And last but not least, this stonking 24.3km climb that zig-zags round an incredible 48 hairpins is surely the toughest of them all. Stelvio Pass is akin to the holy lands with its seemingly never ending hairpins and breathtaking views.

With an average gradient of 7.4%, getting as high as 14%, it is one of the most beautiful climbs in the world, trailing through the eastern Alps.

It has appeared in the Giro d’Italia 11 times, including in 2017, and was described as the greatest driving road in the world when it featured on Top Gear.

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