Monte Zoncolan (1.735m) – Italy

28 08 2009

09: 50 am, 10-08-2009

Climb:    Monte Zoncolan (1.735m), one of the steepest paved road climbs in Europe.

                 Ovaro, 525m – Monte Zoncolan, 1.735m

                 [1,210m – 10,50 km – 11,5%]

Distance & Time: 20,10 Km – 1:58h

Time going up /down (only climb): 1:35 – 0:23

Average speed up /down: 6,38 km/h  – 26,35Km/h

Max. speed (GPS) and Max. gradient over 1k: 51,5 Km/h – 19,5%

Conditions: No wind, no direct sun but stuffy

Pace: Below my potential pace going up and very cautious going down


Starting from Ovaro the beginning is already steep, around 10% gradient, and as I smile for the first photo my photographer (my wife) says: “ouch!” to which I reply: “this is only the harm up!” (I had seen previously the climb profile on the Internet). This climb develops through a narrow road that crosses a dense forest. The first 1,5 km are in a “warm up” average gradient of 8%, passing by some houses and reaching the village of Liariis after which you have a 500m of rest. After the warm up… “Welcome to the jungle” (Remember Guns n Roses?). The next 6 km you have 15% of average gradient! During this distance the road is always so similar that if it wasn’t for the signs with some of the greatest cyclists of all times (Eddy Merckx, Marco Pantani, etc), that appear now and then, the déjà vu feeling could begin to affect your mind (something like: “I could swear that I had already done this one”). Because I was doing this climb with a MTB I was able to go more or less halfway on the saddle (in my lightest gear) and the other half standing. The lightest gear felt, for the first time, very heavy and, immediately, I thought about the ones climbing this hill on a two chain ring road bike – Ouch! The final 2 km have again almost a “relaxing” gradient of 8% and start to give the rider some view about the climb behind. The beautiful scenery, the lower difficulty and the top on sight gave me a final boost that curiously enough, as I cross the finish line, presents me the thought: “I could do it two times in a row”. The truth is that I was expecting even worst, something like 10 km of the hardest climbs I had already done (around 30% for no more than 100m). I did it at “comfortable” pace because I was always expecting the worst and that never came. I have to say that with a MTB at this pace this climb is OK. A possible climbing metaphor could be when you look on a climbing guide for an 8a to try on sight and you make a mistake and get yourself into a 7b+. In the end it will be very hard for you to say how hard this route really was, because you were always expecting the hard part… Nevertheless, I can’t really say it is easy. How can I explain how steep is a 15% gradient over 6 km? Maybe telling you that my wife didn’t want to bring the car down and really insisted that I would put the bike inside the car and drive us down. She was afraid of going back!

The descent was done going back and it was done very cautiously! Three seconds without using the brakes (resting my fingers) meant increasing the speed by 20km/h. It was dangerous enough for me to think that if I lost any of the brakes I would have been in deep trouble (surely wouldn’t be able to make the next turn). Still I’ve finished at Ovaro 2/3 min before the car that came down most of the way in 1st gear!!


It would have made all the difference if I didn’t have my lightest gear and if I had done some kilometers before.


Map & Photos















Photos captured by Cristiana Matos



One response

5 03 2010

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