With a summit at 2,236 meters, the Passo Giau doesn’t earn a high ranking in the list of highest (paved) passes in Europe.
However, with an average of 9.1%, the climb from Selva di Cadore is a tough one.
Climbing the Giau is also part of the long version of the Maratona dles Dolomites, the “Percorsa Maratona”.
I managed to ride that by myself, as it’s near impossible and expensive to get an entry to the official event, during my Giro d’Italia of 2020.
Besides, the event was cancelled in 2020, due to Covid-19…
Caprile / Selva di Cadore
This ascent is that of the Maratona and from Selva di Cadore it’s just over 10 km long, with 922 meters of elevation (9.1%).
You may also add the extra kilometers and elevation gain to even get to Selva di Cadore, unless you come descending from the Staulanza.
For the Maratona, you’ll have to get over the Colle Santa Lucia (2nd entry, final 2.5 km from Arabba split) first, which may not be very challenging by itself, but it counts.
Actually, the whole stretch between Arabba and Selva di Cadore, or Codalonga, is not offering a lot of rest.
I entered this part of the Maratona at Cernadoi in 2011 – I started with the Valparola and descended the Falzarego to Cernadoi.
At the time, I made a mistake and missed the ‘Giau exit’, going on past Andraz to return from there – in hindsight, I could/should have continued to Caprile and then start the Giau from there.
From Caprile, getting to Selva di Cadore is some 5 kilometers with around 300 meters of elevation – the total for the Giau from there is 15.6 km with 1,261 m of elevation…
The grades from Selva di Cadore fluctuate between 7+ and 10+, meaning that you will also meet stretches of 12 to 14%.
Since there are no sections where you can “relax” and catch your breath, you’d do well to settle for a pace you can maintain during the whole climb.
As I quickly found out during my ascend in 2011, when I had “only” climbed the Valparola before it.
In my Giro d’Italia 2020‘s Maratona ascend, when it was scorching hot in Arabba and up to the start of the Giau, I really feared it, but it wasn’t as bad as I remembered it.
The advantage is, that after the Giau, the Falzarego/Valparola – from Pocol – will almost feel like a recovery 🙂
And although there are a few nice hairpins in the climb, it didn’t make much of an impression for its beautiful views, even though the surroundings are overwhelming by nature in this area.
But the near 360 degree view at the summit was breathtaking…
Video of this ascend from the Col Collective here.
The commonly marked as “easy” climb up the Giau, is the one starting in Pocol.
This ascent is even shorter with 8.6 kilometers and with 716 meters of elevation, the average grade is “only” 8.3%.
But, other than via the descend of the Falzarego, Pocol can only be reached from Cortina d’Ampezzo – the about 5 additional kilometers from there to Pocol, come with an elevation of around 330 meters too.
Plus as usual, averages mean jack shit and also during this climb you will be presented with stretches averaging 12%.
So, I did not experience this side, at a total of 15.9 kilometers and 1,070 meters of elevation, to be that much easier.
Obviously, this was also influenced by the circumstances under which I ascended it in 2015…
After the Tre Cime di Lavaredo – also starting from Cortina – had already all but crushed me, I climbed a completely deserted Giau in the freezing rain, with a brisk wind in the upper half as an added bonus.
During this trip, I could only guess at the views – low clouds and mist veiled a lot and only a couple of times did I get a glimpse of what it would / could look like under better weather conditions.
And I had no view to speak of at the summit. In fact, I was so wet to the bone a feeling frozen, that I didn’t even descend the Giau during that occasion…
Video of the Pocol ascend from the Col Collective here.