Written by Robyn Oppenheimer on 21st November, 2019
Escape the tourist traps and busy roads and discover Europe’s Best 10 Hidden Climbs. From the challenging gradients of Sobremunt to the relatively unknown gem of Rocacorba, explore some of Europe’s finest cycling utopias, before the word gets out!
Sobremunt is the most demanding climb in Mallorca, bar none. If you are prepared for the challenge and ready to take on one of the best cycling routes in Mallorca, Sobremunt has a maximum gradient of 19% and is 7.5km at an average of 8% gradient! With less traffic than Sa Calobra, it is in someways a more attractive option, however the road conditions are worse and there are very infrequent signposts which makes it trickier to navigate. Sobremunt can be conquered from Andratx to Port Pollensa, which in total will be 127km long and 3400m of ascent.
9. La Madone d’Utelle
La Madonne Utelle, which featured in the Paris-Nice a few years ago, is a brutal climb into the wilderness where wolves roam. A chapel sits proudly on top of the climb, with a giant metal cross looming over the landscape – it really is quite a sight.
Hairpins await before you arrive at Utelle where you can refuel before the desolate landscape ahead of you. The road from Uttelle is weathered but such is the remoteness of this place that you won’t see traffic, maybe just a few shepherds and locals. You will ride through pine forests until a couple of kilometers from the top, the views open up, in a manner not too dissimilar to Ventoux, and you are rewarded with sensational views across the mountains which feel an absolute world away from the cote d’Azur.
8. Coll de Rates
Coll de Rates is less well known than its Spanish counterparts Els Angles or Sa Calobra. However, the Coll de Rates route has unmissable views as you look west towards the Costa Blanca and the attractive mountains of the Bernia y Ferrer range. It is not a long or particularly tough climb at 6.8km with an average gradient of 5%, however what makes Coll de Rates special is the journey up to it. From Parcent it is quite a short and gentle ascent. Alternatively, cycle the 33km Port de Bernia loop from Calpe, then the Coll de Rates climb. There are many great possibilities to include it in a longer ride, making this one of the best hidden cycle routes. The secret to this mythical mountain is that the Coll de Rates cafe does not actually mark the summit, there is a 3km asphalt path that takes you up to the real peak and is worth a ride up to.
7. Road of the Goat
Travel back in time and cycle the Road of the Goat, which is the same route merchants used to haul mules carrying fresh fish inland to Granada from the coast. Whilst it will only take you a few hours to complete 37km of climbing up one of the best cycling routes in the area, merchants and their mules took several days. From Almunecar, the route travels steadily upwards past the towns of Jute and Oliver for 37km, then back down the same way. The scenery is so incredible that riding the route a second time will not disappoint. Lining the roads are lush, densely dotted vegetation, sleepy traditional towns and views that extend beyond to the jagged mountains in the distance. The climb itself averages at 5-7%, with picturesque hairpins winding all the way.
6. Valley of the Tears
As its name suggests, this is the most revered and one of the best cycling climbs in Gran Canaria. The Valley of the Tears continues for 12.5km at an average gradient of 11.1%. You would be forgiven for having tears of your own as you climb up the steepest 100m at a gradient of 25%. For those hardcore cyclists, the challenge is not solely the relentless gradient but the scorching heat. However, if you are tough enough to take on the Valley of the Tears, then there are great photo opportunities everywhere, which are good excuses for stopping and having a quick break. Our top tip is not to attack the bottom too hard – you will need to conserve your energy for later on!
5. Col du Spandelles
The Col du Spandelles may not be as well known as many other climbs in the High Pyrenees region but it is one of our favourite climbs for its complete serenity. Climb out of Argeles-Gazost and you will find yourself on a single (tarmac) winding track through huge pine and fir forests. Enjoy the peace and tranquility on one the best hidden cycling routes in the region, as you climb to reach the summit after 16kms. Take in the incredible views from the top before you descend to the bottom of the Soulor.
4. The Wall at Masca
Many flock to Tenerife to climb the famous ‘Teide’, but if you are a looking for one of the best hidden but challenging climbs, take on Masca. The climb is constant, with 4km of the route between 13% and 20% gradients. However, Masca is well worth the ride and it is undoubtedly one of the best cycling routes in Tenerife, as you will be rewarded with spectacular views of ravines and plunging cliff faces. Masca has been dubbed the last town in Tenerife due to its remote positioning. This means that the roads leading to it are incredibly narrow, with winding roads and hairpin turns, so our top tip it to simply take this ride with caution.
3. Gorge de la Nesque
Ventoux may be the well known highlight of this region, but the descent to Gorge de la Nesque is the lesser known cycling route for those looking for an easier climb. The decent is where you will encounter the gorgeous Gorges de la Nesque, which rests below the steep cliff face you will be riding atop. The breezy descent means you can enjoy the landscape without being out of breath, including the picture-worthy tunnel carved into the rock. After passing the Gorges de la Nesque, ride through the quaint villages of Methamis, Malemort du Comtat, Maza and Saint Pierre de Vassols. If you are riding this route on Sunday (between April to September), there is a great morning market in Monieux where you can enjoy the local produce and the scents of the freshly grown lavender.
2. Col d’Eze
Ride up one of the best cycling routes from Nice, on the stunning grand Corniche. Take in the sensational panorama of the Mediterranean, as you cycle past picturesque Villefranche. Against the backdrop of stunning mountains, you will look down over the St. Jean Cap Ferrat peninsular, full of boats of the rich and famous bobbing around. Top out at Col d’Eze, or if you feel like it, ride one of the best cycling climbs up to La Turbie. The water fountain in La Turbie is where all of the local cyclists meet – where you may be lured by the smell of freshly baked bread from the incredible bakery next door. Continue along this great cycling route as you descend through Beausoleil and find yourself in the middle of the buzz and glamour of Monte Carlo.
Rocacorba was one of the lesser known hidden gems of cycling routes until about 2006. Radio masts are perched at the top, so other than a few engineers and hangliders, a handful of people had climbed the dirt path up to what is undoubtedly one of the best cycling climbs in Europe. The destination became known as a great cycling route when Girona resident David Millar formed the Velo Club Rocacorba and the influx of professional teams to Girona began. The popularity of Rocacorba as a cycling holiday grew and there was even a rumour that Lance Armstrong had arranged for the once dirt road to be paved! The climb starts at the low stone bridge which is 10.1km to the top (although there is a 3.8km drag before that). From there, it is a grind to the top, averaging 6.5% but with ramps of up to 15%. The white painted line marks the end of the climb, at which point you can hop onto Strava to check out how you compare to the who’s who of cycling!
Decided where you want to cycle? These are just some of the best hidden cycle routes in Europe, and there are many more! Why not give our cycling specialists a call to see where your next cycling holiday will be?