Arch over the start of the MIGHTY and merciless Zoncolan!
Ovaro, Friuli-Venezia Giulia Region.
Summit -- PJAMM reaching the pass from Ovaro.
OUCH!!! After Scanuppia, the Monte Zoncolan bicycle climb (from Ovaro and Priola) may be the most difficult (at least the most painful) of climbs in all of Italy. No wonder it has only been included in the Giro six times!
Monte Zoncolan from Ovaro.
Ride 9.9 kilometers gaining 1,157 meters at 11.8% average grade.
Below is a table from Wikipedia showing the Giro d’Italia appearances for this brute:
Gilberto Simoni (ITA)
Gilberto Simoni (ITA)
Ivan Basso (ITA)
Igor Antón (ESP)
Michael Rogers (AUS)
Chris Froome (GBR)
There are three routes up Zoncolan, two of which (Ovaro and Priola) are beasts -- murderous, punishing ascents. The third, Sutrio, is quite manageable and a “pleasant” climb up the mountain, until its fatal intersection with “The Old Road” from Priola, and thence we spend 2.1 miles / 3.3 km at a punishing 12.7% average grade.
Pass through Liariis at kilometer 1.6,
400 meters from here the climb begins in earnest.
Bring your climbing legs for this extraordinary road bike climb -- Monte Zoncolan from Ovaro is the thirteenth most difficult climb in Italy (which is saying something, as Italy is home to an unbelievable 26 of the World Top 100 bike climbs, more than any other country!). Monte Zoncolan is also the and #52 most difficult climb in the world. This is also the tornanti (hairpin) route up to the pass, with roughly 24 hairpins in the brief 9.9 km / 6.2 miles we are on the mountain.
24 tornanti (hairpins).
Traffic and Roadway Surface Report: The roadway is in excellent condition along this climb, and there is generally not much traffic on it. Keep in mind that there are three fairly short but dark tunnels near the top, so be sure to bring lights for your climb.
Tunnel - Bring flashing taillights and a high lumen headlight.
There are three tunnels at the top of Zoncolan from Ovaro, and,
while they are fairly short you should bring lights to be safe.
Below are all of the kilometer signs on the Monte Zoncolan climb. If a year for a Grand Tour is listed, that means the rider won the event that year, unless specified otherwise (e.g., if he was KOM).
Photos clockwise from top left: Louison Bobet (FR; TdF 1953-1955); Charly Gaul (LU; Giro 1956, 1959, KOM 1956, 1959;; TdF 1958, KOM 1955-1956); Federico Bahamontes (ES; TdF 1959); Jacques Anquetil (FR; TdF 1957, 1961-1964; Giro 1960, 1964); Felice Gimondi (IT; TdF 1965; Giro 1967, 1969, 1976; Vuelta 1968; world champion 1973); Eddy Merckx (BE; not enough room for all of his accomplishments 🏆🏆🏆🏆, etc. - but . . . some of them: TdF 1969-1972, 1974; Giro 1968, 1970, 1972-74; Vuelta 1973; hour record 1972); Francesco Moser IT; Giro 1984; World Champion 1977); The Badger (FR; TdF 1978-1979, 1981-1982, 1985; Giro 1980, 1982, 1985; Vuelta 1978, 1983; World Champion 1980).
Giuseppe Saronni (IT; Giro 1979, 1983); Gianni Bugno (IT; Giro 1990; World Champion 1991-1992); Miguel Indurain (ES; TdF 1991-1995; Giro 1992-1993; Olympic Gold 1996); Marco Pantani (IT; TdF 1998; Giro 1998); Fiorenzo Magni (IT; #1 Greatest cycling photo of all time 👍👍; Giro 1948, 1951, 1955); Gino Bartali (IT; TdF 1938, 1948; Giro 1936-1937, 1946); Fausto Coppi (IT; TdF 1949, 1952; Giro 1947, 1949, 1952-53); Gilberto Simoni (IT; Giro 2001, 2003).
Wikipedia provides an excellent summary of the three Zoncolan ascents:
“The mountain can be climbed on three roads: One from Ovaro, another from Sutrio, and a third from Priola.
West from Ovaro: This is a very demanding climb, and one of the most difficult in Europe, usually compared to the Alto de El Angliru. It was featured for the first time in the 2007 Giro d'Italia. The climb starts in Ovaro in the Gorto valley, and is 10.1 kilometres (6.3 mi) long at an average of 11.9% with an elevation gain of 1,210 metres (3,970 ft) and a maximum gradient of 22%. The real climb however starts at Liariis, 8.5 kilometres (5.3 mi) from the summit. Shortly after the village, the road disappears into forest and gains 900 metres (3,000 ft) in the next 6 kilometres (3.7 mi), averaging thus 15%. After this section, the road passes through three short tunnels, before a series of steep switchbacks immediately beneath the summit. The former rough asphalt between Liariis and the tunnels was replaced in 2007; that between the last tunnel and the summit had already been resurfaced by autumn 2005. The tunnels are now lit.”
Plenty of evidence of the Giro on the climb.
Tunnel lower middle of photo, and hairpins leading to the pass top right-center of photo.
Final approach to the summit.
Photo from PJAMM’s 2018 European Cycling Adventure (23 countries in 4½ months).