So we come to the end of our week’s cycling in the Friulian Alps, and the last of our “soft” routes. Having departed from our favourite kilometre zero, the car park at Terme di Arta – where later we’ll be able to have a sports massage to help our legs recover from this tough week and go home in good shape – we follow our route north for 6.3 km and tackle Zoncolan from Sutrio!!!
Turn right to begin one of the hardest climbs in the Giro d’Italia. It was part of the 2021 route but, most importantly, the scene of one of the last races of our beloved “Pirate” Marco Pantani in 2003. Here, at the start of a climb that will prove to be merciless, the gradient is gentle, with an average of 7-8% and occasional peaks of 10%.
The road is very wide, as it is used by vehicles to access the mountain huts at the base of the winter ski installations. The surface is smooth as a billiard table, and the only sound will be your wheels turning as you move. The views to right and left during the ascent change as you climb above the But valley and it appears increasingly distant.
Continue like this until km 9.5 of the 14 km ascent. We have nothing to add except enjoy the views. But we have no choice but to let you know what’s in store next. Here, when your computer tells you you’ve cycled 15 km with an elevation gain of 875 m, the climb unexpectedly gives way to a gentle flattish stretch of approximately 1 km, arriving at the buildings that serve the ski lifts.
It’s all lovely and relaxing until you reach the point where the ski slopes suddenly head for the summits: you’ll see the same thing on the road, which NO LONGER HAS ANY PITY FOR YOU!
For exactly 3 kilometres from km 16.5, it’s a stairway to heaven, with never-ending hellish ramps and peaks of 20%. The most terrifying – just like in the best horror films – comes at the end, and we promise this will be a truly “thrilling” experience! In this stretch the gradient rarely falls below 16% (just a couple of flat sections) and, as we mentioned, the final stretch is completely straight for 800 metres, with a concrete wall on your right, leading to the top and the end of your torture.
And here’s where you’ll regret having put too much effort into the first 9.5 km! But don’t worry, it’s a mistake made by many who come with the idea that the only difficult part of Lo Zoncolan is the Ovaro side, or who have never read a review on Silent Alps BikExperience. Big hugs and GOOD LUCK.