Monte Zoncolan

As part of my Giro d’Italia of 2011, the infamous Monte Zoncolan (1,750 meters) was included in the road book.

I took on the ascend from Ovaro, after a three hour drive to get there – shortly before 1pm, with a temperature of well over 30 degrees Celsius at the foot, I got on my bike.

The fatigue from the stages the days before, coupled with the temperature – rising to 37 degrees while climbing – made this the only ascend to date, during which I thought several times that I would not make it…

Report here.

For the Giro of 2015, I considered a new attempt at the Monte Zoncolan – better prepared this time – but I wisely put a lid on that.


Zoncolan-OvaroFrom Ovaro, the ascend of the Zoncolan is ‘only’ 9.9 kilometers long, but with an elevation gain of 1,204 meters, the average grade amounts to a staggering 12.2%.

Read the stories of people – like me – that have done it and if that doesn’t make you shit your pants, Google for comments by professional cyclists like Damiano Cunego: “The Monte Zoncolan is not hell, it is not a monster. It is much worse than that…”

The steepest kilometer has an average of 17.2%, the steepest 5 kilometer stretch is 15.4% and the steepest shorter sections get up to 20%.

During the ‘middle’ 6 kilometers, every time you think it can not get any worse, or if you hope you will be able to catch your breath around the next corner, you will be confronted with an even more impossible stretch.

It’s only between kilometers 8.5 and 9.5 – the part with the galleries – that you are offered a short respite, before you take on the final steep 800, 900 meters to the summit.

And if you think there will be a nice little tavern where you can recover and enjoy some well deserved snack, you will be disappointed: other than the summit sign, there is absolutely nothing there.

There may be an “off the track” tavern/rifugio left and right of the summit, but the one I could see was closed…

A video from the Col Collective here.


Zoncolan-SutrioAt first glance, the climb on the eastern flank from Sutrio seems less of a suicide mission than the one from Ovaro: 1,198 meters of elevation gain, but over 13.3 kilometers – an average of ‘only’ 9%…

The first 8 kilometers are definitely less hard, but the final 3 are just as ridiculously steep as the climb out of Ovaro.

So, use the ‘flat-ish’ bit between kilometers 9.8 and 11.2 to the max to ‘recover’ and prepare for that final.

It averages 12.9% and features a kilometer at 14.1%…


Zoncolan-PriolaThe climb from Sutrio has an alternative probably even more insane than the Ovaro ascend: starting in Priola.

It has the last 3 kilometers in common with Sutrio and like Ovaro, it features a steepest kilometer of 17.2%, plus a 5 kilometer stretch at 14%.

However, the entire climb has an average of 13.2%, which is worse than the Ovaro climb.

If you take the first ‘flat’ 500 meters out of it, that becomes close to 14%.

And although it’s 1 kilometer shorter, it doesn’t offer any respite, anywhere


Zoncolan summit
At the time, I didn’t realize there was something missing at the summit ‘memorial’…
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