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The Greatest Cycling Climbs – Passo Giau

Written by Robyn Oppenheimer on 21st March, 2019

Also known as the ‘Monster Giau’ and the ‘Mighty Giau’ this notorious climb undeniably earns its place as one of the best cycling climbs in Europe and certainly a must for any cycling holiday in Italy that takes in major climbs.

The Location

Passo Giau is located in the Dolomites in Italy. It connects Cortina, the playground of the rich and famous with Colle Santa Lucia and Selva di Cadore. It’s set within the rugged Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that offers some of the most sensational views (and riding) in Europe.

Cyclists climb the Passo Giau during the Maratona dles Dolomites sportive

Why Passo Giau?

Conquering this beast of a climb is something to be proud of – 9.8 km climbing with an average gradient of 9.4% is tough in itself but the fact that the climb has zero respite makes it all the more difficult. This climb gives the legs no time to recover, no time to take your foot off the gas, it’s just a mammoth effort and one that riders of the Maratona dles Dolomites must conquer each year.

The Stats

Under normal circumstances, 9.8km at an average gradient of 9.4% is no easy task, but this climb makes its name as the brutal climb riders encounter after slogging their way round 100km of the Maratona dles Dolomites sportive. Turn left after an awesome 20km descent from Arabba and you are greeted with nothing but a long and straight ramp in front of you.

The climb maintains an eery silence even as thousands of cyclists ascend it due to its never ending ascent.  The road was only built in 1986 and commences with 1km of climbing with no hairpins, just a straight climb up the mountain. The toughest section of this climb is undoubtedly at the bottom where you ride alongside the Codalonga river. From here, you have 29 hairpins snaking their way through the mountain with virtually no recovery. The meandering nature of the road means that you can look back at the hairpins you’ve climbed in satisfaction but other than the tiny bridges crossing the river, there is nowhere to recover.  The hairpins are numbered, which may serve you well as you psychologically tick them off, or be a painful reminder of the number of bends you still need to climb!

Cycling the Giau, The Greatest Cycling Climbs – Passo Giau

The Giau is relentless but the views it gives across the rugged Dolomites are breathtaking. Ride this on the Maratona Dles Dolomites.

You can also climb the Giau from the town of Pocol in the north, which is considered to be the ‘easier’ of the two, however the varying gradient makes it more challenging to find a good rhythm.

Off the Bike

There’s a cafe at the top for you to grab a coffee and a piece of cake before you descend back down this epic climb.

Passo Giau in the Dolomites

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