It feels as if these 10 climbs that swoop their way into the Cyclist 100 Classic Climbs on this particular occasion are an utter celebration of engineering.
Honestly, the feats that must have been reached in order to create 10 roads that snake into the sky are quite astounding.
You've got the Trollstigen in Norway that's like a bitesize Stelvio, the imposing Grossglcokner from Austria which feels almost fake, such is its snaking perfection and the Pico del Veleta, the highest road in Europe.
Each and every climb in this list are beautiful in their own way but with these 10, it feels like they are a bit more beautiful than the rest.
30 - Col de Sarenne, Isère, France (12.8km, 7.5%)
If you’re in the French Alps and you want to avoid the hordes climbing Alpe d’Huez, then why not sneak up the back route by heading a few clicks along the valley to tackle the Col de Sarenne?
It got its moment in the limelight during the 2013 Tour de France, when it was used as a descent so that Alpe d’Huez could be ridden twice in the same stage, but it was criticised for being too narrow and twisty with a poor surface and no guardrails.
Ridden as a climb, though, this is of little concern and instead you can enjoy its tranquillity with little chance of traffic.
29 - Col de l’Iseran, Rhone-Alpes, France (48km, 4.1%)
Reaching the rarified air of 2,770m above sea level, the Iseran is the King of the Alps, weighing in as Europe’s highest paved pass and second-highest road to be visited by the Tour de France (the highest being the Cime de la Bonette at 2,802m, which is not a pass but an additional loop of road at the top of a pass, which goes nowhere).
The average gradient of 4.1% may seem easy, but combine 48km of uphill with the challenges of cycling at altitude and you’ll soon learn to respect this French giant.
28 - Grossglockner High Alpine Road, Salzburg and Carinthia, Austria (21.4km, 8.3%)
Laying claim to being the highest paved pass in Austria, the Grossglockner traverses the Austrian Alps from Salzburg in the north to Carinthia in the south.
And if you want to get an ‘official’ climbing time using the stamping machines top and bottom, it’s north (Fusch) to south (Pockhorn) you’ll want to pedal.
Built as a road to serve motoring tourism in the 1930s, this pass is beautifully designed and surfaced, appearing to culminate in the Hochtor Tunnel… but don’t be fooled! At the car park with the flags at the top, look for a sign for Edelweissspitze, a 1.5km cobbled climb at 11% that tops out at 2,571m.
27 - Pico del Veleta, Granada, Spain (42.2km, 6.2%)
In the Sierra Nevada mountain range of southern Spain sits the Pico del Veleta. At 3,354m tall, with a mighty 2,600m of ascent, this is Europe’s highest and longest bike ascent.
As if a 42.2km uphill slog wasn’t hard enough, the last 10km is a mix of heavily cracked tarmac and gravel, and most consider it harder than the rest of the climb put together.
At around 2,300m sits an altitude training centre that has regularly played host to Spanish riders Alberto Contador and Alejandro Valverde, who would often do their recovery rides on these roads after a session in the centre.
26 - Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Dolomites, Italy (7.5km, 7.5%)
Surely the stats are wrong. A climb of 7.5km at an average gradient of 7.5% should be eminently doable. Easy even. So how come the slope always seems to be unrelentingly steep – consistently over 11% in the final 4km – and the end never quite seems to arrive?
Even the pros suffer like dogs on the Tre Cime. Just look at footage of Eddy Merckx at the 1968 Giro d’Italia, or Riccardo Ricco in 2007 – visions of pain.
Still, when a climb is this beautiful, a bit of suffering is worth the entry fee.
25 - Gavia Pass, Lombardy, Italy (17.3km, 7.9%)
The Gavia Pass is one of the Italian royals. It sits alongside the likes of the Stelvio and Mortirolo, not only in status but geography – you can ride all three in a single punishing ride.
The Gavia Pass proper begins at Ponte di Legno, but the ascent begins all the way back in Edolo, and offers 40km of uninterrupted incline. And if the headline 8% average isn’t bad enough, the climb has kilometre-long segments above 10%.
Its most famous moment came in 1988, when American pro Andy Hampsten rode through a snowstorm on its slopes to take a famous Giro stage victory.
24 - The Trollstigen Pass, Åndalsnes, Norway (9.4km, 8.4%)
The Trollstigen Pass, rising from just beyond the limits of Åndalsnes on the west coast of Norway is an awe-inspiring climb.
On the way up, the manageable gradient doesn’t detract too much from enjoyment of its magnificent surroundings, especially in the upper reaches where there are tumbling waterfalls and immense, sheer rock faces towering all around.
Once at the top, be sure to venture onto the viewing platform to savour the impressive view back down, the zig-zag climb very much resembling the Stelvio Pass.
23 - Mortirolo, Lombardy, Italy (11.9km, 11%)
A sanctuary for sadists, the Mortirolo is one of cycling’s most feared climbs and among the hardest regularly used in professional racing.
While its 1,857m summit is tiny compared to the nearby Stelvio and Gavia giants, its gruesome 11% average gradient sure makes up for its lack of height.
In fact, this climb is so difficult it even humbled Lance Armstrong, who labelled it the hardest climb he’d ever ridden after a training camp in 2004.
22 - Velefique, Andalucia, Spain (14km, 6.4%)
In the Tabernas Desert of Andalucia, the Velefique is one of Europe’s most picture-perfect climbs, snaking back and forth in 21 bends, like a decorative lace over the mountainside.
From the town of Tabernas, the climb is 29.2km at an average gradient of 4.6%, but for most the real climb is considered to start at the town of Velefique, from which point it is 14km at a considerable 6.4%. It takes in 891m of climbing in the process.
Like something from a cowboy movie, it’s no surprise the region played host to some of the great Spaghetti Westerns of the 20th Century. It’s long, quiet, tough and stunning.
21 - Col de la Croix de Fer, Rhone-Alpes, France (29km, 5.2%)
With only a small gravel car park and a dimly-lit restaurant at its summit, the Croix de Fer has never hosted a stage finish at the Tour de France despite being deeply ingrained in its history.
It first made an appearance in 1947, and has featured 19 times since, but is usually used as a mighty leg-softner for a summit finish on Alpe d’Huez to the east.
That’s a shame, as this climb’s breathtaking views and testing slopes deserve to be centre stage.
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