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Roads to Ride - Giro

ETNA

14,1km / 6,5 %
1.490m altitude

Workshop of Hephaistos, the smith of the Gods; prison of the giant Typhon, beaten by Zeus despite his hundred fiery heads; location of King Arthur’s underground castle; the true and undisputed ruler of Sicily; the myths of Mount Etna have been woven into the fabric of countless cultures. And rightly so. The sinister, scorched flanks of the active volcano show the scars of many eruptions, the latest as recent as 2001. From the city of Paterno a grey ribbon of asphalt leads upward through the mythical black, concluding at the new cosmic observatory — the old one succumbed to a river of molten fire in 1971 — at a height of 1.736 metres, where a view worthy of the Gods themselves will reward the rider.

MONTE CERVINO

27km / 5 %
1.475m altitude

The Matterhorn, Monte Cervino to Italians, might well be the stateliest of all Alpine summits. Its pyramid-shaped summit, where high storms whip around shards of ice and snow, stands proudly above glaciers and mountain valleys alike. A true icon of the Alps, object of fascination for mountaineers and cyclists alike. By bike, the climb towards Cervinia is long and irregular. The average gradient is deceiving; finding a rhythm here will be tough. But the Cervino ever calls from the horizon, and the imposing scenes of towering mountains will drive the weary rider onwards.

MONTE ZONCOLAN

10,1km / 11,9 %
1.210m altitude

Even the most veteran rider will feel the jitters of unease while descending alongside the river Torrente Degano towards Ovaro, where awaits the turn up to the Zoncolan. In the village proper, a pastoral scene of white-stuccoed homes amidst green pastures, you might want to ease your breathing before setting off. After a few minutes up the sloping road, the struggle begins in earnest. For kilometres long, the percentages are up in the double digits, and the heartbeat deep in the red. An arena for gladiators, and it is a matter of death or glory on the Zoncolan. This is where you will ask yourself why you ever decided to ride a bike up a mountain, until you reach the summit, and then you remember why.

PASSO TRE CROCI

8,1km / 7,1 %
575m altitude

Under fragrant pinesand spruce, past the commanding Cristallo massif, the Pass of the Three Crosses spirals upward irregularly. This pass is much more than just an appetiser for the Tre Cime, whose historic ridges shimmer in the distance. The pass will reward you, turn after turn, with grandiose vistas on the typical landscape of ragged sandstone peaks. On the summit, the Tree Crosses await the humbled cyclist. A lasting reminder to a mother and her two sons, frozen to death in the pass in 1789, whilst travelling from their home in Auronzo to Cortina d’Ampezzo, looking for work.

COLLE DELLE FINESTRE

19km / 9%
1.694m altitude

For many decades, the military-built Colle delle Finestre road solely served the mountain regiments of different armies, as well as the occasional goat herder. The lingering remnants of fortresses in the area still serve as silent witnesses to the region’s turbulent past. Up until 2011, when the spectacle of the Giro travelled to the Finestre, and dramatic results unfolded. The unpaved sections in the climb’s final 8 kilometres demand the utmost of rider and materiel, who struggle to the summit through no less than 55 switchbacks. Ever higher and higher, towards the apex of the Col, where the past and present become one, and at last a peaceful sigh of relief will sound over the landscape.

GRAN SASSO

31km / 4.1%
1.263m altitude

The locals call the ‘big rock’ of the Apennine Range il Montagna Pantani, in honour of his win in 1999, when he arrived solo on the largest plateau of the region. The climb is long, but the average gradients make it very feasible, and the scenery in this remote part of Italy surely ranks among the best the continent as to offer. Ancient villages crown the hilltops, looking down on the lonely road, which snakes on and on above the treeline. There, the rider encounters fantastic vistas of green mountain pastures under an endless horizon, where the wind blows free and unhindered across the rolling plains. The venom of the climb is truly in the tail. Between packs of snow in the shadow of rocks, the gradient rises to above 10%, before it surmounts onto the Campo Imperatore, the Emperor’s field. We feel sure the locals would rather speak of the Campo Pirata.