“When the road rises, you cannot hide.” Anecdotes and interesting facts about some iconic climbs in Italy

“When the road rises, you cannot hide.”It is a famous quote from Eddy Merckx, the most successful cyclist of all time. These words contain the essence of road cycling, a sport which – like few others – requires extreme endurance and great inner strength. The strength that riders have to find within themselves, one pedal stroke after another, hairpin after hairpin when the road climbs and seems to smell the sky. Pain creates the attraction between the cyclist and the climb. It is the endless struggle to go beyond one’s own limits, the excitement of reaching the summit and repeating the incredible feats of the great champions.

In this section we have collected some of the most famous climbs in Italy, routes which have left an indelible mark on the history of cycling, and other lesser known routes. Challenging climbs which everyone should tackle at least once in their lifetime.

Croce d’Aune

An Alpine pass through the Dolomites in Belluno, the Croce d’Aune was part of the 2019 Giro d’Italia route, specifically the climb that goes from Ponte Oltra to Croce d’Aune with an average gradient of around 10%, and even above 16% in some stretches. It was in 1927 that the Croce d’Aune was the setting of an unforgettable event in the history of this sport. During the Gran Premio della Vittoria, his fingers numb with cold, Tullio Campagnolo was not able to loosen the wing nuts of the rear wheel and so he could not change the pinion before the climb. At that time, in fact, bicycles didn’t have a transmission system but only the so-called “hub gear”, a hub equipped with two pinions which had to be replaced manually depending on the road gradient. Finishing in fourth place, Tullio realised that “something had to be changed” and, shortly after, he designed the quick release skewer, Campagnolo’s first great invention.

Mount Sante Marie

Climbing Mount Sante Marie in Asciano (Siena), the sweat of the cyclists mixes with the dust, creating a vintage cycling atmosphere. Not asphalted as it is part of the route of the Eroica (the most important vintage cycling race), this dirt track of 11.5 km with a gradient of up to 18% requires very trained legs and technique. Its slopes and the rough surface do not allow cyclists to ride “out of the saddle”, and so it is necessary to have the right cadence and finding a good position on the handlebar and the saddle to be able to face the steepest parts of this climb. Since 2007, the ascent of Mount Sante Marie has been part of the professional circuit, included in the Strade Bianche race, the “southernmost northern Classic race in Europe”, and in 2017 this stretch of dirt track was dedicated to Fabian Cancellara, three times winner of the race.

Cancano Lakes

Less known than the great climbs in Lombardy such as Mortirolo and Gavia, the Valtellinese climb of the Cancano lakes was included in the Giro d’Italia in 2020 and it is a climb which can guarantee great emotions and challenges. It is characterised by as many as 21 hairpin bends that wind up the mountain from Isolaccia Valdidentro (near Bormio) to the lakes of Cancano, also passing the renowned Towers of Fraele. It is a smooth climb of about 14 km without any extreme ascents. Considering its length and the average gradient of 6.9%, we still recommend approaching it with the right preparation and adequate gearing – at least if you are just a normal cyclist like us.


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What view! ? #laghidicancano #climbing #training #bestview #bestplacestogo

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Renowned all around the world thanks to the Granfondo Nove Colli, the Tiffi is a legendary climb among all amateur and professional cyclists who train and compete in the Romagna hinterland. Fifth of the nine climbs of the longest route of the most famous Italian Granfondo race, the Tiffi climb is 3 km with an average gradient of 5.8% and peaks of up to 16%. If these figures fail to impress you, just hop on the bike, ride for more than 100 km on the official route of the Nove Colli, facing the climbs of Polenta and Barbotto and tackle the Tiffi to understand why this climb is known among local cyclists as the “cruel Tiffi”.


In the hills on the eastern shore of Lake Garda, there is a climb which is well known among local cyclists and professionals who regularly go to the area for their early seasonal training. Known as casting out nines, the climb of Peri-Fosse has precisely 9 hairpin bends, a length of 9 km, a vertical drop of 900 m and an average gradient of 9%. This fact as well as stretches, where the gradient goes up to 17%, have made it the training ground for numerous cyclists challenging themselves with watt bikes or BPMs trying to be the first to reach the finishing line. It is a very challenging climb for cyclists with good endurance.


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Engine test day – Как вы считаете FTP тест эффективней на станке или в реальных условиях?

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Cipressa and Poggio

Included in the Milan-Sanremo route in 1982 and 1961 respectively, the Cipressa and the Poggio are the two climbs that have determined the outcome of numerous editions of the Classicissima di primavera. Although the two climbs are not particularly demanding, professionals know that they must not be taken too lightly. The Cipressa is 5.6 km long with an average gradient of 4.1%, while the Poggio with its 3.7 km and an average gradient of 4%, becomes decisive in the stretch that marks 8% of slope. Here it is essential to attack soon to take advantage of the descent in the last 2 km before the arrival in the centre of Sanremo. In 1992, the famous Sean Kelly was able to catch up with Moreno Argentin during the descent and beat him in the final sprint, one of the most exciting pursuits in the history of cycling.


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Sormano climb

Famous section of the Giro di Lombardia, an end-of-season race also known as the Classica delle foglie morte, the climb of Sormano is one of the toughest in the whole world. It has a length of 1920 m with a gradient of up to 25% to be tackled at the end of the climb, which goes from Maglio to Colma di Sormano (a 9 km stretch with an average gradient of 9%). If that is not enough to convince you of its difficulty, maybe you can read the words of a “certain” Gino Bartali, imprinted on the asphalt of Sormano: “The 50 and the 42 gears in the front wheel, the 24, 17, 19, 23 and the 26 in the back, as this is a climb where you need the 42×26. You have no choice, the first stroke is so difficult, almost like starting from a standstill because it comes after a hairpin bend. Two long kilometres incredibly hard to climb as they have sharp bends and scary gradients. The last pedal stroke will be the most difficult one.”


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Climbing Muro di Sormano: about 2 km long, the climb averages 17% with sections at close to 25%. One of my faves for sure! ~ ? Arno

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