Favorite climbs in Grand Tours

Favorite climb in Grand Tours

  • Mortirolo

    Votes: 9 21.4%
  • Finestre

    Votes: 12 28.6%
  • Stelvio

    Votes: 7 16.7%
  • Giau

    Votes: 1 2.4%
  • Angliru

    Votes: 3 7.1%
  • Ancares

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Zoncolan

    Votes: 1 2.4%
  • Alpe d'Huez

    Votes: 6 14.3%
  • Ventoux

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Other

    Votes: 3 7.1%

  • Total voters
    42
I come to think about it on the stage to Gamoniteiro yesterday. Great climb, but not on par of with the best IMO. So I was curious about what other thinks about the gread climbs in cycling?

So, what's your top 5 or 10 climbs that have been used in Grand Tours. Top 5 for me is:

  1. Mortirolo - Together Aprica the best combo in cycling. The relentless gradients in forests on the narrow roads to Mortirolo will more or less always shatter the peloton provides great entertainment towards the finish in Aprica, Tirano or somewhere else in the region. Finestre is close, but Mortirolo has more history and provided man epic Giro stages.
  2. Finestre - close call but Mortirolo wins on history. Finestre is higher, have more scenery and the gravel makes in extra hard. Always delivers and is a perfect combo together with Sestriere.
  3. Stelvio - probably the most mythical of all high altitude roads in Europe due to it's height, scenery and many switchbacks. Climbed from Prato it also usually means a really entertaining race.
  4. Mont Ventoux - often doesn't deliver on cycling but it's dominance in the scenery in Provence and the moonlike landscape on the top makes it something else than just about everything other in cycling.
  5. Passo Sella (and Sella Ronda) - mainly because of the scenery and the extremely good location in the central part of the Dolomites.
 
My top 5:
  1. Alpe d'Huez - It has dwindled a bit, not being so frequently used in last tours, but for someone who learned to love cycling in Pantani's tour, the Alpe has the air of the ultimate mountain in the hardest fought GT. Some of the finest moments I remember in cycling were there: Sastre winning the tour, the Schlecks attacking Cadel, etc.
  2. Zoncolan - the atmosphere is incredible with literally an arena at the end, I have to confess the Mortirolo delivered better races (like contador in 2015) but the that goat track is kinda ugly, and not being at high altitude also makes it less interesting.
  3. Passo dello Stelvio: The ultimate alpine pass, the Giro being in spring, it usual delivers that eerie snowy appearence. Absolutely fantastic, and usually the launchpad of a great attack in the queen stage of the race (remember de Gendt jumping to Tour podium in... 2012?). It is one of the most photogenic climbs.
  4. Alto del Angliru - When they found it, it was the most outrageous climb in cycling, those +20% ramps were considered almost gimmicky. Since then all GT's tried to emulate its mystique. The almost constantly foggy ambience also is a signature mark.
  5. Tourmalet - like the Stelvio usually not the final climb, but present in almost every single Tour, it is synonymous with the Pyrenees.
And while not in GT's, let's not forget the Tremola (San Gottardo) in Switzerland, perhaps the most beautiful pass in Europe.
 
  1. Finestre - there's nothing that compares to it. The gravel sets it apart from everything else, it doesn't need another climb before it, it's always raced properly, and Sestriere is the perfect finish for it. The gradient is also perfect, IMO - I prefer length combined with a difficult gradient over sustained monster ramps.
  2. Stelvio (from its proper side) - it's THE altitude climb, at least as far as GTs are concerned, not only because of the difficulty but also because of the endless switchbacks and its history.
  3. Mortirolo - I did say I preferred longer climbs, but it's impossible to ignore the amount of epic stages this one has been raced in. It did disappoint on its last outing though, it has more to gain from a hard run-in than the two above.
  4. Agnel (again, from its proper side) - such a rare climb, but it links the big Italian and French climbs really well, while also being brutal in its own right with the sustained high gradients at altitude. The last two GT stages it's been a part of were among the best of the decade for a reason.
  5. Giau - impossible not to include the Dolomites here... and Giau, as the hardest climb in the region's core (Passo di Pampeago is harder but has only been seen once), is the obvious shout. Dolomite stages that use it are better on average than those that don't, and its history seals its spot.
Honourable mentions - Poggio Civitella/Lume Spento as the best mid-mountain climb, Romme-Colombière as (narrowly) the best French climb, and the citadel of Briançon as the best finish all go close, but are kind of debatable (not Alpine, technically two climbs, and/or underused) and therefore didn't make the cut. I honestly can't think of a climb the Vuelta actually uses that can compete, Gallina would probably be my pick if I had to make one...

Most overrated - tossup between the garage ramp MTFs like Angliru and Zoncolan on the one hand, and Alpe d'Huez on the other.
 
In all seriousness, I find it so hard to say much because of sample sizing issues for some climbs and misuse by route designers for others.

Would probably fairer to make a top 3 for each GT, favorites for "as raced" vs favorites for "potential use" etc.
 
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  1. Finestre - there's nothing that compares to it. The gravel sets it apart from everything else, it doesn't need another climb before it, it's always raced properly, and Sestriere is the perfect finish for it. The gradient is also perfect, IMO - I prefer length combined with a difficult gradient over sustained monster ramps.
  2. Stelvio (from its proper side) - it's THE altitude climb, at least as far as GTs are concerned, not only because of the difficulty but also because of the endless switchbacks and its history.
  3. Mortirolo - I did say I preferred longer climbs, but it's impossible to ignore the amount of epic stages this one has been raced in. It did disappoint on its last outing though, it has more to gain from a hard run-in than the two above.
  4. Agnel (again, from its proper side) - such a rare climb, but it links the big Italian and French climbs really well, while also being brutal in its own right with the sustained high gradients at altitude. The last two GT stages it's been a part of were among the best of the decade for a reason.
  5. Giau - impossible not to include the Dolomites here... and Giau, as the hardest climb in the region's core (Passo di Pampeago is harder but has only been seen once), is the obvious shout. Dolomite stages that use it are better on average than those that don't, and its history seals its spot.
Honourable mentions - Poggio Civitella/Lume Spento as the best mid-mountain climb, Romme-Colombière as (narrowly) the best French climb, and the citadel of Briançon as the best finish all go close, but are kind of debatable (not Alpine, technically two climbs, and/or underused) and therefore didn't make the cut. I honestly can't think of a climb the Vuelta actually uses that can compete, Gallina would probably be my pick if I had to make one...

Most overrated - tossup between the garage ramp MTFs like Angliru and Zoncolan on the one hand, and Alpe d'Huez on the other.
This looks suspiciously close to mine, lmao. Its really hard for me to put any climbs in Spain and/or France in my top 5 honestly. What would those potentially be? Alpe d' Huez and Croix-de-Fer since I have climbed those mountains many times. I especially loved Croix de Fer. Climbs I have ridden I tend to like a lot more, always scouting for specific spots I know, explaining to people who I watch with were they are on the climb, steep parts etc. Col du Portet since its an insanely hard climb and has the potential to be a TdF-classic. Ventoux obviously. And probably my favourite climb in France, Col de la Madeleine, which I feel is underused. What a monster.
In la Vuelta, I dont really have that many tbh. Covadonga is legendary, but I dont think its anything special. Angliru is always a show. Gamoniteuru has the most potential of all to create absolute carnage.. but my favourite climb is probably Hazallanas for some reason. I really like that place in Spain and it often creates great racing.
Edit: apparantly its completely the same
  1. Mortirolo - best climb in cycling hands down
  2. Stelvio from Prato - other side is quite dog, but from Prato its mythic
  3. Finestre - almost guarantee for great racing, and from far out - just like Mortirolo
  4. Agnello - who doesnt remember 2016? I love this climb.
  5. Giau - by far my favourite of the dolomites, and just as Madeline, I think its underused. More Giau, por favor
 
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Giro.

  1. Finestre
  2. Stelvio from Prato
  3. Monte Grappa (why does everyone sleep on Grappa)
  4. Mortirolo
  5. Agnello
Honorable mentions. Fauniera, looks legendary but never seen it myself. Fedaia cause FEDAIAAA!!!. Pradaccio but I've never seen it. Blockhaus in full. Giro just has too many legendary climbs potentially

Tour.

  1. Madeleine from la Chambre (plz for the love of god stop misusing this)
  2. Mont du Chat
  3. Col d'Agnello
  4. Ventoux
  5. PSM (I do have PTSD of this one)
Honorable mentions. Paillheres, one of the best climbs in the Pyrenees. Portet, pave other side maybe. Col de la Loze, amazing climb if used as pass. Agnello, but I didn't wanna cheat.

Vuelta

  1. Ancares (underused and loads of options with it)
  2. Collada de Gallina (not one of the monsters of La Vuelta, but it's never been in a bad stage)
  3. Hazallanas (both the crawling potential and useable as a pass)
  4. Gamoniteiru, I maintain it's better than Angliru if someone really wants to go for it
  5. Angliru, I tried but I can't find a 5th climb that's really better without taking too much piss
Honorable mentions, Formigal it's done way better than it has any right to, Cuitu Negru, proper crawling climb, why doesn't it come back? Bola del Mundo.

Vuelta is more of a race where there's a wish list of climbs that are never used than climbs that get my uber hyped when they happen. They generally lack in the ESP department and should plan routes accordingly like in 2019.
 
Definitely some great picks here. Not gonna lie, I have a soft spots for Italian climbs.
Stelvio east has always been my favourite: the ultimate Alpine climb with huge elevation gain, relentless gradient, dozens of switchbacks and amazing scenery of Ortler massif. Too bad it's used so rarely. Last year's combo (with Lago di Cancano) is a recipe for epic stages.
Finestre is a legend despite being used only since 2005. It's the second of my favourites: monster climb with gravel in the second part. It was cool when they switched to grey TV images during this climb as a reminiscence of old times (in 2005). Obviously combo with Sestriere is the best and hopefully one day the Tour will go there!
Other Italian climbs I really like are Gavia, Fedaia and Sella (epic views, especially last 2). Out of "leg-breakers" Mortirolo (+Aprica) is most appealing to me.

Maybe I will do a ranking later, including also climbs from the remaining GTs (Ventoux is probably my favourite from the rest).

Special mention: Grossglockner - one of most iconic roads in Europe. This year I drove there and trekked as well. The north side (+Franz Joseph Hohe climb) is a perfect combination of beauty and hardness (including almost 14 km at 10%) but it's hardly ever used in GTs.

@OlavEH How about making a poll (from preliminary answers) and see what's most favourite climb among forum users?
 
Last edited:
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  1. Finestre - there's nothing that compares to it. The gravel sets it apart from everything else, it doesn't need another climb before it, it's always raced properly, and Sestriere is the perfect finish for it. The gradient is also perfect, IMO - I prefer length combined with a difficult gradient over sustained monster ramps.
  2. Stelvio (from its proper side) - it's THE altitude climb, at least as far as GTs are concerned, not only because of the difficulty but also because of the endless switchbacks and its history.
  3. Mortirolo - I did say I preferred longer climbs, but it's impossible to ignore the amount of epic stages this one has been raced in. It did disappoint on its last outing though, it has more to gain from a hard run-in than the two above.
Most overrated - tossup between the garage ramp MTFs like Angliru and Zoncolan on the one hand, and Alpe d'Huez on the other.
Almost agree on the top 3, and very much agree on the most overrated climbs. Zoncolan is just too brutal and is usually underwhelming. The same also applies to Angliru, but to a lesser degree.

Could also add some climbs with more poentital if "correct" side is used and ridden aggressively:
  1. Sierra Nevada via Hazallanas. Has this ever been used in the Vuelta? The normal route to Sierra Nevada is not that spectacular, but if you blow things up using the ramp to Hazallanas, it could be something completely else. 4 km or so of 11-12 % climb followed by the last 16 km of 6-7 % to Sierra Nevada. Big potental.
  2. Col de Pierre Saint Martin via Issarbe. Never been used? The first kms to Issarbe are brutal and could destroy the peloton if ridden hard. Then you still 6-7 km with 7-8 % gradient to Issarbe followed by a short descent and another 7 km to Pierre Saint Martin.
  3. Puerto de Ancares. The version used in 12 and 14 was brutal. Should be more frequently used in the Vuelta.
 
It’s an obvious one, but I said Alpe d’Huez. It pretty much always delivers, race-wise, in a way that a lot of harder climbs, or climbs that are farther away from other mountains, or climbs that “get discovered in the wilderness,” just don’t manage to do. It just seems to have the recipe of brushed enough to be selective, but not-hard enough in the 2nd half that the riders are actually racing up, not just trying to survive.
 
This looks suspiciously close to mine, lmao. Its really hard for me to put any climbs in Spain and/or France in my top 5 honestly. What would those potentially be? Alpe d' Huez and Croix-de-Fer since I have climbed those mountains many times. I especially loved Croix de Fer. Climbs I have ridden I tend to like a lot more, always scouting for specific spots I know, explaining to people who I watch with were they are on the climb, steep parts etc. Col du Portet since its an insanely hard climb and has the potential to be a TdF-classic. Ventoux obviously. And probably my favourite climb in France, Col de la Madeleine, which I feel is underused. What a monster.
In la Vuelta, I dont really have that many tbh. Covadonga is legendary, but I dont think its anything special. Angliru is always a show. Gamoniteuru has the most potential of all to create absolute carnage.. but my favourite climb is probably Hazallanas for some reason. I really like that place in Spain and it often creates great racing.
Edit: apparantly its completely the same
  1. Mortirolo - best climb in cycling hands down
  2. Stelvio from Prato - other side is quite dog, but from Prato its mythic
  3. Finestre - almost guarantee for great racing, and from far out - just like Mortirolo
  4. Agnello - who doesnt remember 2016? I love this climb.
  5. Giau - by far my favourite of the dolomites, and just as Madeline, I think its underused. More Giau, por favor
Lol, my list is almost the same.
Of course I have to mention Tre Cime, a mythical mtf that already had 18% ramps back in the 70ies. It's close to my hometown, I climb it multiple times every year and Tre Cime after a proper tappone is IMO the best steep mtf in the world.
 
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Brokeback Mounatain delivering has had more to do with the best climber in the race not being in the lead at that point in the race and/or leaders having weak teams. It's also that with Brokeback Mountain stages you expect nothing more than waiting for the final climb.

In 2018 it didn't deliver.

In 2015 Quintana was better, had to attack and a better mountain stage design could've had much more action than one climb

In 2013 every MTF was crazy

In 2011 Contador went full yolo and the Alpe itself did nothing among the top 5 in GC except dropping Voeckler, and the stage in the end actively worse off for the valley

In 2008 best climber needed time on TT specialist without team. Any HC at 8% would've sufficed. Was also a bunch of hand holding behind Sastre and not by definition better than Hautacam.
 
Brokeback Mounatain delivering has had more to do with the best climber in the race not being in the lead at that point in the race and/or leaders having weak teams. It's also that with Brokeback Mountain stages you expect nothing more than waiting for the final climb.

In 2018 it didn't deliver.

In 2015 Quintana was better, had to attack and a better mountain stage design could've had much more action than one climb

In 2013 every MTF was crazy

In 2011 Contador went full yolo and the Alpe itself did nothing among the top 5 in GC except dropping Voeckler, and the stage in the end actively worse off for the valley

In 2008 best climber needed time on TT specialist without team. Any HC at 8% would've sufficed. Was also a bunch of hand holding behind Sastre and not by definition better than Hautacam.
It doesn't connect well with another climb, but in and of itself it's a great climb, consistently steep, but not too steep. Tough enough to encourage attacks. Not ridiculously tough so as to discourage them.

2008 was memorable; after all, it turned the GC on its head. 2006, 2003 and 2001 were all memorable. The latter 2 were both over 200 kms in stage length. Compare that to the recent Alp duez stage editions.
 
I feel like this question has much more to do with fond memories than the actual potential of a climb. Like sure, Stelvio from Prato is great, but I have only seen it once in my entire life. An even better example is the Col de la Loze. If the ASO starts using that climb properly it hast the potential to become one of the most iconic passes in the sport, but as of now I really don't care much about it. On the other side, Formigal consitently delivering great races seems to be a pure coincidence but it does anyway and is therefore one of my favorite climbs in Spain.

If I had to pick one climb I'd choose the Finestre. The worst Finestre stages still seem to be great on any normal scale and in the meantime that climb can cause carnage like no other climb in Europe can. Maybe Zoncolan used as a pass could have a similar impact but I'm not even sure about that.

I also have an absolute soft spot for the Agnello due to me being a huge Nibali fanboy and the Agnello being the place where his 2016 comeback started.

Then there is the Großglockner which in my lifetime has only featured in a GT once, but it still has a place in my heart due to the Österreichrundfahrt. When I was a child that race was still a pretty big deal in Austria with the only two stages that were always shown on TV being the Kitzbüheler Horn and the Großglockner stages. The Großglockner was of course way too hard of a climb for a small race like that meaning that even a huge distance from the finish it was often completely uncontrollable and led to absolutely crazy racing situations. I don't know which thread this was in but I know I once made a post about Jakob Fuglsang's completely insane 100km solo starting on the Großglockner which won him the 2012 edition. Stuff like that was what really fueled my love for the sport.

I'm now thinking of climbs in France or Spain that I truly love but I gotta admit, there isn't much there. Great racing that happens because of monster climbs is honestly surprisingly rare outside the Giro. I guess I like the Galibier but as cool as that climb has been in 2011 it hasn't excited me all that much since.

In Spain I suppose the Angliru is the most iconic climb I can think of. There are some pretty special memories with that climb (2013 and 2017 in particular) but I guess it's just that mtf's rarely get as much love from me as really hard passes. I feel like Hazallanas would have the potential to become a truly iconic Vuelta pass but then the organizers have to start using it properly. On another note, I'm always surprised Bola del Mundo doesn't have a bigger history in the Vuelta. It's one of the hardest climbs in Spain sitting there right next to the capital where the race ends almost every year, yet it rarely ever gets used. Can't help but think that if there was a hard climb anywhere near Paris it would be used in stage 20 of the Tour almost every year.
 
I feel like this question has much more to do with fond memories than the actual potential of a climb. Like sure, Stelvio from Prato is great, but I have only seen it once in my entire life. An even better example is the Col de la Loze. If the ASO starts using that climb properly it hast the potential to become one of the most iconic passes in the sport, but as of now I really don't care much about it. On the other side, Formigal consitently delivering great races seems to be a pure coincidence but it does anyway and is therefore one of my favorite climbs in Spain.

If I had to pick one climb I'd choose the Finestre. The worst Finestre stages still seem to be great on any normal scale and in the meantime that climb can cause carnage like no other climb in Europe can. Maybe Zoncolan used as a pass could have a similar impact but I'm not even sure about that.

I also have an absolute soft spot for the Agnello due to me being a huge Nibali fanboy and the Agnello being the place where his 2016 comeback started.

Then there is the Großglockner which in my lifetime has only featured in a GT once, but it still has a place in my heart due to the Österreichrundfahrt. When I was a child that race was still a pretty big deal in Austria with the only two stages that were always shown on TV being the Kitzbüheler Horn and the Großglockner stages. The Großglockner was of course way too hard of a climb for a small race like that meaning that even a huge distance from the finish it was often completely uncontrollable and led to absolutely crazy racing situations. I don't know which thread this was in but I know I once made a post about Jakob Fuglsang's completely insane 100km solo starting on the Großglockner which won him the 2012 edition. Stuff like that was what really fueled my love for the sport.

I'm now thinking of climbs in France or Spain that I truly love but I gotta admit, there isn't much there. Great racing that happens because of monster climbs is honestly surprisingly rare outside the Giro. I guess I like the Galibier but as cool as that climb has been in 2011 it hasn't excited me all that much since.

In Spain I suppose the Angliru is the most iconic climb I can think of. There are some pretty special memories with that climb (2013 and 2017 in particular) but I guess it's just that mtf's rarely get as much love from me as really hard passes. I feel like Hazallanas would have the potential to become a truly iconic Vuelta pass but then the organizers have to start using it properly. On another note, I'm always surprised Bola del Mundo doesn't have a bigger history in the Vuelta. It's one of the hardest climbs in Spain sitting there right next to the capital where the race ends almost every year, yet it rarely ever gets used. Can't help but think that if there was a hard climb anywhere near Paris it would be used in stage 20 of the Tour almost every year.
Yeah fondness and potential get a bit convoluted I guess, but this is about favorites.

I guess for some climbs it does make sense when you have to find people to pay for a finish but then I wonder who the hell pays when finishing ont he Angliru or Gamoniteiru or maybe those cows grazing are rich as ***.

I think very much the same thing wrt passes vs MTFs, and it annoys me to no end that race organisers seem to do 95% of their novelties by just finding "new" MTFs.
 
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