Simon Warren is the author of 13 books in the cult series “100 greatest cycling climbs”. Here he picks five favourites, in reverse order:
5. Newlands Pass, Cumbria, UK
Length: 1.9km. Height gain: 215m
When asked which UK climb is my favourite the one that always comes to mind first is Newlands Pass in the Lake District. What I love about Newlands is its sheer simplicity, a simple sliver of tarmac cutting a tortuous line up the pristine hillside bisecting an ocean of green. Long enough to make you grovel but not long enough to break your will, steep enough to properly test your muscles but not steep enough to make you swear, it is just about perfect.
4. Roque de Los Muchachos, La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain
Length: 41.8km. Height gain: 2,401m
The longest climb I have ever ridden and the one with the most spectacular views, Los Muchachos on the island of La Palma is a true beast. Forget the far more popular Mount Teide on Tenerife, take the ferry west and go ride a real monster. Rising from sea level to 2,400 metres, you pass through forests, rise above the clouds and cross volcanic tundra to arrive at the location of some of Europe’s largest observatories.
3. Alto de Gamoniteiro, Asturias, Spain
Length: 15.9km Height gain: 1,450m
This climb just gets better and better the further you ride — once at the summit you may be physically broken but you’ll be overcome by the scenery you’ve ridden through. Sitting in the heart of the Asturian mountains, it is often overshadowed by its more famous neighbour, the Alto de l’Angliru, but is a far more beautiful road. Starting from La Pola, you climb almost to the summit of Alto de La Cobertoria, then break right and weave through a wonderland of rugged, beautiful, upland scenery until you reach the transmitter towers and a stunning panorama.
2. Col de la Bonette, Alps, France
Length: 24km Height gain: 1,589m
I fell for the mighty Col de la Bonette the very first time I rode it, transfixed by its epic length, towering elevation and the sheer emptiness of its pristine slopes. All the giant southern Alpine passes are bound by their unspoilt scenery but the Bonette is the best. Climbing north to south from the town of Jausiers you face 24km of toil through some of the most perfect mountain scenery in France. The higher you climb the sparser the vegetation until you reach the summit where nothing but tiny purple flowers grow from the dark grey rock. At the top of the world, isolated in the heart of the mountains, you stand in front of the road sign for Nice and the Cote d’Azur, 100km away and ALL downhill!
1. Colle del Nivolet, Piemonte, Italy
Length: 40.5km Height gain: 1,907m
This climb has been top of my list since the autumn of 2018, its combination of savage slopes and succulent bends, set in the most spellbinding scenery, set it apart from all others. Measuring 40km from bottom to top, the real steep slopes start in Noasca then pound your legs on ferocious gradients almost all the way to the sanctuary of the Lago Serrù dam. Now you’ve paid your dues, put the hard work in, you can soak up the majestic scenery as the pristine road winds round and above the azure lakes that nestle in the shadow of the surrounding peaks to enter the aptly named Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso.
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