Strava Classics: the 15 most popular must-ride segments

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Strava Classics: the 15 most popular must-ride segments

Strava segments to add to your must-ride list from the 'Classics' collection

Strava continues to grow at a pace, with millions of cyclists now uploading their rides to the app and website, whether that’s the commute to work or winning some of the WorldTour’s biggest races.

And with riders using Strava around the globe, there are countless segments on which to test your mettle and see how your fare up against the rest of the world. But which segments should be on your bucket list?

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Strava have helped out by creating a pool of Classic segments, using the criteria of history, difficulty and scenery to put together a list which includes everything from the most iconic Tour de France ascents to lesser known climbs which, while off the beaten track, are no less worthy. Whatever way you look at it, these are some of the best roads in the world to ride.

Which of Strava’s Classic segments have the biggest draw? And who tops the leaderboards? We’ve rounded up the 15 most popular below, ranked by  how many attempts have been recorded on each segment. How many have you tackled? And where are you planning to ride next?

15) Mortirolo, Italy

Alberto Contador gave a climbing masterclass on the Mortirolo at the 2015 Giro d’Italia (pic: Sirotti)

The Passo Mortirolo made an eagerly-anticipated return to the Giro d’Italia for the 2015 edition, and the action on its fierce slopes did not disappoint.

As Alberto Contador dealt a climbing masterclass to his rivals for the maglia rosa, the climb was showcased in all of its beauty – and brutishness.

The Strava Classic segment covers 11.4km of the climb, with the average gradient of 11 per cent proving this is not one for the faint-hearted – indeed, a certain Lance Armstrong once dubbed it the hardest climb he’d ever ridden.

Of the Strava users in the Giro peloton back in May, Movistar’s Giovanni Visconti was the fastest to the summit – his average speed of 13.5km/h seeing him complete the climb in just shy of 51 minutes.

14) Col d’Izoard, France

The Col d’Izoard has hosted some memorable Tour de France moments (pic: Will_Cyclist, via Flickr Creative Commons)

The Col d’Izoard is a Tour de France favourite, with the exploits of former champions Fausto Coppi and Louison Bobet celebrated in a small cycling museum at the summit.

The rocky landscape, dubbed the Casse Deserte, has formed the dramatic backdrop for some of the Tour’s key moments and marked the climb out as a must-ride ascent for Alpine adventurers.

Expect plenty of hairpins, wooded slopes and stunning views at the top – with the gradient, which averages six per cent over the 18.8km ascent – really kicking up at the halfway point.

Team Sky’s David Lopez and Great Britain’s Emma Pooley top the Strava leaderboards, with more than 6,000 attempts having been logged in all.

13) Mount Lemmon, Arizona, USA

Mount Lemmon is the highest point in the Santa Caralina mountains (Pic: a rancid amoeba, via Flickr Creative Commons)

Strava’s Classics aren’t limited to Europe, far from it in fact, and standing tall at number 13 is Arizona’s Mount Lemmon.

The Catalina Highway highway leads the way up, with the summit – at 2,792m above sea level – the highest point in the Santa Catalina Mountains.

Plenty of fluids will be needed on the desert ascent – which ends at the often snow-capped peak – with the full Strava segment covering some 34.1km, at an average gradient of five per cent.

You will find a smooth road awaiting and one which isn’t too heavily frequented by other vehicles either – all good reason to, as the locals say, ‘Squeeze the Lemmon’.

12) Passo Stelvio, Italy

The iconic Passo dello Stelvio is likely to feature on the ‘must ride’ list of any cyclist

The stunning Passo Stelvio is a bucket list favourite, and it’s little surprise that it features regularly in round-ups like this.

Snaking up the mountainside, the Giro d’Italia icon is the highest in the Eastern Alps and second only to the 2,770m Col de l’Iseran in the whole Alps with its peak at 2,757m.

The 24.3km climb packs in an incredible 48 hairpins, with an average gradient of 7.4 per cent, and the changeable weather conditions can add to its difficulty – Team Sky’s Dario Cataldo claimed the Cima Coppi prize on the ascent at the 2014 Giro d’Italia in thick snow.

Possibly one of the most photographed climbs in the world, the Stelvio’s beauty is renowned globally. Quite simply, a must-ride ascent.

11) Mount Hotham, Victoria, Australia

Mount Hotham, in the Victorian Alps, is said to be the toughest climb down under (Pic: Steven Caddy, via Flickr Creative Commons)

Located in the Victorian Alps, in Australia’s Great Dividing Range, Mount Hotham is said to be the toughest climb down under.

Just shy of 30km in length, the climb is one of the few chances to pit yourself against a tough, long climb when riding in Australia and it will put your climbing ability to the test with some of the steepest sections towards the summit.

Another climb with a dramatic, rocky backdrop, the full 29.9km segment features a number of false flats and even a couple of descents to really examine your ability to pace properly.

The average gradient of four per cent belies the true difficulty of the ascent, which climaxes with Victoria’s highest ski resort at the summit.

10) Hardknott Pass, Cumbria, England

Hardknott Pass is typical of Britain’s steep ascents and boasts a stunning Lake District backdrop (Pic: Barney Moss, via Flickr Creative Commons)

The most challenging ascents don’t always have to be hour-long slogs through the mountains and, indeed, if you head to Britain those Alpine-like ascents are in short supply.

But British climbs make up for their lack of length with brutal gradients, so it’s little surprise to see Cumbrian thigh-burner Hardknott Pass sneak into the Strava Classics top ten.

It’s just 2.6km in length, set against the stunning backdrop of the Lake District National Park, but with narrow roads and severe bends touching up to 30 per cent in gradient it is a punishing 2.6km.

The average gradient for the whole climb is 12 per cent and veterans of the Fred Whitton Challenge sportive will attest to the pain it can dish out.

9) Alpe d’Huez (Official Crono Course), France

Chris Froome sealed his second Tour de France title after a battling performance on the iconic Alpe d’Huez (Pic: Sirotti)

Alpe d’Huez has become a cycling mecca thanks to its prestige, beauty and the iconic Tour de France moments that have played out on its slopes.

Fausto Coppi was the first man to triumph on the 21 hairpins, while the Strava leaderboard is topped by the most recent stage winner on the iconic climb, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ).

Pinot ascended the climb in July 2015, on a day when Chris Froome’s Tour de France nearly blew up just one day from Paris, in a time of 42m09s, while other Strava pros Romain Bardet (42m15s), Laurens ten Dam (43m12s) and Adam Yates (44m15s) are all near the top of the Strava leaderboard thanks to their efforts that day.

Its bare stats are a 13.9km climb at an average gradient of eight per cent, but it is the history and prestige in which it is seeped which make it one of cycling’s absolute must-ride climbs.

8) Mt Faber Rd Climb (to top), Singapore

Mount Faber Road is one of the few climbs in Singapore (Pic: Bertrand Duperrin, via Flickr Creative Commons)

Singapore is flat as a pancake, right? Wrong – Mount Faber Road is one of the (albeit few) short climbs in the country, offering great views from the summit.

It is neither long, nor particularly challenging, but for the locals at least it is a chance to get those hill repeats sorted – hence the number of attempts that have been recorded on Strava and it’s place towards the top of this list.

The 1.7km ascent, through Mount Faber Park, carries an average gradient of five per cent, which you will feel most in the middle sections.

From there it is a sprint to the finish with, at the time of writing, 3m32s and 4m17s the respective King and Queen of the Mountain times to beat.

7) Col du Galibier, France

The Col du Galibier is often the highest point of the Tour de France (Pic: Marcel Musil, via Flickr Creative Commons)

The Col du Galibier is another Tour de France icon and another of the Alps’ highest-paved roads. That, along with the frequency it features in the Tour, means it often represents the highest point of the race.

Though closed in winter – and also shut for the part of last summer after a landslide – the 17.6km ascent, with an average gradient of seven per cent, still attracts plenty of riders in the summer months.

Its brutal nature is reflected by the fact only three riders got over without walking on its maiden Tour de France appearance and, while things have improved both in terms of technology and the quality of the road, it’s still not one to be taken lightly.

But, reach the summit – saving yourself for the steepest section, in the thin air, at the very top – and your reward is almost unparalleled views.

6) Cypress: Shed to Power Line, Canada

Cyclists on Cypress Mountain, during the Cypress Challenge ride (Pic: Chad Eberle/Glotman Simpson, via Flickr Creative Commons)

Locals say the climb of Cypress Mountain, which rises above Vancouver in the North Shore Mountains, is one to suit all riders.

On the one hand, it’s a stunningly beautiful ascent, with panoramic views of the city and vegetation which carpets the backdrop in an array of colours, especially when autumn comes.

On the other hand, it’s a steady 10.5km climb, through gently switchbacks, with an average gradient of six per cent.

Bears and badgers are possible hazards as you ride through thick forest, but that hasn’t stopped nearly 20,000 attempts being recorded on Strava.

5) HKPeakClimb, Hong Kong

Victoria Peak is one of the best ways to view Hong Kong, but as tourists take the tram up the roads are free for cycling (Pic: Bevis Chin, via Flickr Creative Commons)

Victoria Peak is a major tourist attraction in Hong Kong, representing as it does the highest mountain on the island with the incredible vantage point over the city.

But if you want to swap the tram, which takes the tourists up to the summit, with two wheels it’s a narrow, twisting 5.4km ascent with an average gradient of five per cent.

‘The Peak’ is lined with trees as you climb, before making way for a view across the city – which for the early risers means a great view of the sun waking Hong Kong up.

And if you’re after more of a challenge than the HKPeakClimb segment offers, then the full Mount Austin segment ramps up much more sharply to really get the burn going.

4) Coll de Soller, Mallorca, Spain

Coll de Soller is packed with hairpins, stacked on top of each other (Pic: SantiMB.Photos, via Flickr Creative Commons)

Ask anybody to name a climb in Mallorca and chances are Sa Calobra will be one of the first to spring to people’s mind – but the Coll de Soller rivals its Mallorcan sibling for popularity.

The 7.3km ascent comes with a steady six per cent gradient almost from bottom to top, but the road snakes up to the summit.

Two sections in particular boast switchbacks packed tightly on top of one another as the summit approaches.

More than 20,000 attempts have been logged on Strava, but you will be hard pushed bagging the KOM title – currently held by a certain M.Kwiatkowski, who ascended in just 17m12s.

3) Koppenberg, Belgium

The brutal cobbled surface of the Koppenberg and steep gradients have forced even the best to walk up (Pic: Sirotti)

The Koppenberg, in Flanders’ country in Belgium, is just 600 metres in length, but is one of northern Europe’s most fabled ascents.

The climb, a staple of the Spring Classics and integral part of the Tour of Flanders, has forced even the best pros out of the saddle for a miserable walk to the top on its slick cobbles.

When the bone-jarring cobbles are not throwing you around the road, the typically unpredictable Flandrian weather will be doing all it can to beat you back instead. And that’s not to mention the 22 per cent gradient at the climb’s steepest section.

To the uninitiated, the Koppenberg just an unpaved, farm track – but to the cycling public is one of the sport’s most famous arenas.

2) Mt.Ventoux via Bedoin, France

Mont Ventoux is steeped in Tour de France history (Pic: Sirotti)

On the topic of cycling meccas, Mont Ventoux comes in as France’s most popular Classic segment.

Set for a return to the Tour de France route in 2016, the iconic climb is tackled by thousands upon thousands of cyclists every year.

The moon-like ascent, on which Tom Simpson infamously collapsed and died in 1967, is steeped in Tour de France history, with a monument to Simpson on the approach to the summit.

Covering 20km in all, much of the climb is barren with the trees stripped back to make for an unprotected rise to the observatory at the summit.

An average gradient of eight per cent means even the Strava pros must set aside an hour for the ascent – Laurens ten Dam’s efforts at the 2013 Tour de France still see him top the leaderboard in 58m26.

1) Chapman’s Peak (Noordhoek Side Full), Cape Town, South Africa

The road around Chapman’s Peak has been carved out of the cliff face (Pic: jbdodane, via Flickr Creative Commons)

Even more popular than Mont Ventoux, however, and topping the tree when it comes to the most frequented Strava Classic Segments, is Chapman’s Peak in Cape Town, South Africa.

The only African segment in the entire list, the number of attempts recorded on the challenging coastal stretch is approaching 40,000 at the time of writing.

Its average gradient is just three per cent, over 4.4km, but that includes a short descent about a third of the way through before it’s all uphill at something more like five per cent.

It won’t challenge the most adept climbers, but what it does boast is a simply awesome riding experience which sees riders tackle what is essentially the edge of the cliff.

‘Chappies’ overlooks the South Atlantic Ocean and was considered an engineering feat when it was built – now you have the Argus Tour pros to challenge for the KOM and QOM honours.

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