Nine must-ride climbs from the 2017 Giro d’Italia

From Mount Etna to the Mortirolo; the Stelvio to Monte Grappa

The Giro d’Italia is set for a climb-laden final week after the final rest day, with some of the race’s most iconic climbs on the menu as the battle for the Maglia Rosa heats up at the 100th edition of the race.

The Mortirolo, Stelvio, Monte Grappa… the action is set to be explosive, relentless and ultimately enthralling, and no doubt have many looking up flights to Italy for the chance to tackle to some of the climbs for yourself.

The Passo Stelvio was lit up pink ahead of the 2017 Giro d’Italia – the iconic climb is one of many on this year’s route (pic – RCS Sport/La Presse)

Fittingly for the milestone edition, this year’s Giro d’Italia has been packed with must-ride climbs steeped in Giro history.

So if you’re planning your own Corsa Rosa, which are the must-ride climbs from this year’s race? We’ve picked out nine of the best climbs from the 2017 Giro d’Italia.

Mount Etna

The first major climbing test of the 2017 Giro d’Italia was Mount Etna, with the live volcano serving up 19km of gruelling riding to really test the form of the GC contenders.

The Sicilian ascent has become a popular training base for cyclists, in addition to already being a tourist hot spot thanks to the volcano’s history.

The dramatic volvanic landscape of Mount Etna was the first real climbing test of the 2017 Giro d’Italia (pic – Sirotti)

But why? Well an average gradient of 6.6 per cent, and a steepest section – at about halfway up – of almost double that is plenty to be testing the legs.

We encountered it for the first time in 2013, on a Shimano press launch, and the relentless twisting, steep, road with rough surfaces as the summit approaches is one of the toughest we’ve ever ridden.


Blockhaus is the first climb on which Eddy Merckx ever won a Grand Tour stage, now 50 years ago in 1967, but The Cannibal’s relationship with the climb was not already smooth.

OK, so he never had to contend with a poorly-positioned race motorbike causing a crash as happened to Geraint Thomas, Adam Yates, Mikel Landa and Wilco Kelderman this year, but he did famously crack on the climb in 1972 as rival Manuel Fuente distanced him on the climb.

Nairo Quintana climbs to victory on Blockhaus (pic – Sirotti)

This year’s Giro took a different way up to the summit – longer and, according to locals, tougher than the other routes up.

It’s a climb of two halves, which starts gently but then kicks up to more than nine per cent average gradient and barely relents for the last 10km.


Oropa offered a huge sting in the tail of stage 14 of this year’s Giro d’Italia, on what was otherwise an almost completely flat day.

Perhaps forever linked to Giro d’Italia legend by Marco Pantani’s win on the climb in 1999 – shortly before he was removed from the race because of high haematic readings – the climb features a cobbled finishing straight to the Santuario di Oropa.

Tom Dumoulin celebrates victory on Oropa (pic – Sirotti)

It starts gently, before kicking up to its steepest section of more than eight per cent gradient in the middle, before an undulating run-in where rhythm is difficult and recovery is key on the flatter sections.


Stage 16 of this year’s Giro d’Italia is perhaps the most eagerly-awaited of the race so far, with three iconic climbs to be tackled.

Alongside two sides of the Stelvio (see below), there is also the Passo Mortirolo – nominated as the Cima Scarponi in memory of the late former Giro d’Italia champion.

The 2017 Giro d’Italia tackles the Mortirolo from Edolo for the first time since 1990, when Leonardo Sierra led over the summit (pic – Sirotti)

Lance Armstrong once called the Mortirolo the toughest climb he had ever ridden, and

This year’s race will actually go up from Edolo – the first time since 1990 they have done so, and only the third time ever that the Mazzo di Valtellina ascent has not been used.

It is the longest of the possible routes up but does offer the gentlest average gradient – if riding 17.2km at an average of 6.7 per cent can ever be considered gentle.

Featuring a memorial to Marco Pantani – the first man over the summit in 1994 – on the climb, the real suckers for punishment will want to try the more traditional Giro climb, however, with an average gradient of 11 per cent on the 11.4km ascent.


This is only the 11th time the Passo Stelvio is being tackled at the Giro d’Italia and yet it is without doubt one of the race’s most iconic climbs.

Fausto Coppi was the first man ever to crest the climb at the 1953 Giro, and the climb is the Cima Coppi – the highest point the races reaches – at the 2017 edition.

The iconic, hairpin-laden Passo dello Stelvio (pic: Damian Morys, via Flickr Creative Commons)

The slopes are barren and the weather can be just as cruel as the gradients atop the climb, creating one of the toughest, hairpin-laden ascents in pro cycling.

At 21.7km long, with an average gradient of 7.1 per cent and sections closer to 12 per cent, it is not hard to see why the stunning Stelvio is so revered a climb.

Umbrail Pass

An alternative Stelvio climb, the Umbrail Pass is the third ascent packed into stage 16 of this year’s race and is making its Giro d’Italia debut in 2017.

It only became fully tarmacked two years ago but the highest paved Swiss road (the Stelvio marks the Swiss-Italian border) climbs to 2,501m up.

The Umbrail Pass is new to the Giro d’Italia this year (pic – Zairon, via Wiki Commons)

Covering 13.5km of climbing, there are more exposed landscapes and steep hairpins to negotiate with the gradient ramping up pretty early on and refusing to abate.

The average is a thigh-numbing 8.4 per cent, but it reaches double figures on more than one occasion before sitting at more than nine per cent for the final push to the summit.

Passo Pordoi

Moving away from the Alps and into the Dolomites, the Passo Pordoi is a staple of the Giro d’Italia, offering stunning rocky backdrops and 11.8km of demanding riding.

It’s a gentler climb than some of those Alpine giants, with the gradient touching nine per cent at its maximum and hanging much nearer the 6.8 per cent average otherwise.

The Passo Pordoi is a Giro regular, and features on the Maratona dles Dolomites sportive (pic – Sirotti)

But there are hairpins aplenty and, riders to have tackled the Maratona dles Dolomites can attest to the fact it’s not a climb to be taken lightly.

Planning a big ride? You can also choose to go left at the junction halfway up the climb, rather than right, and take on the tougher Passo Sella as well.


Pontives is the final climb of stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia, and offers a bit of everything – at least as far as climbing goes.

It is a climb which gets progressively tougher, with the gradient ticking up as the kilometres to the summit tick down – four per cent, six per cent, nine per cent, 13 per cent… the steepest section is also likely to be the perfect platform for a stage-winning attack at the Giro.

Maglia rosa Ivan Basso leads the way on Pontives (pic – Sirotti)

But the climbing isn’t the only obstacle – as the climb levels off, there is then a 500m section of cobbles to tackle in the high mountains. As we said, there’s a bit of everything.

Monte Grappa

The penultimate climb of the 2017 Giro d’Italia is the Monte Grappa – a climb on which Nairo Quintana won the mountain time trial in the 2014 race.

At 24km in length, the climb will be a real stinger for the legs after a mountain-laden final week of the race – with the 5.3 per cent average gradient failing to tell the true story.

Nairo Quintana climbs Monte Grappa in 2014 (pic – Sirotti)

The bare statistics conceal the true difficulty of the climb, which is undulating in its nature, bookended by a steep start and a steep climb to just below the summit (the summit itself is a dead-end, so no good for the middle of the stage).

Finding a climbing rhythm, particularly towards the summit, will be difficult with plenty of sections in excess of eight per cent gradient, punctuated by much flatter sections and even a couple of downhills.

Having welcomed you onto the climb with an 11 per cent ramp at the bottom, the climb then finishes with a nine per cent gradient for the final half-kilometre.


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