When is a climb too steep? When the pros have to walk

Sometimes the weather and gradient even forces the professionals to dismount

by David Arthur   March 12, 2013  

On yesterday’s sixth stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico, a 30% climb near the finish of a rain soaked stage produced the unthinkable: photos of professional cyclists dismounted and pushing their bikes.

The photos of the professional riders walking up the climb, dismounted and pushing their bikes, grinding their cleats into the Tarmac, has gone viral since the photos first hit the internet. It was the Strada Cocciari summit on the Sant'Elpidio a Mare climb that caused the damage, a 300m stretch with an 18% average gradient and 30% final 50m ramp.

While the front runners managed to ride the cruel slopes, many of those further back in the peloton clearly found it too much and dismount. These were the riders who had done a lot of work setting the pace and taking the wind earlier in the stage, and they were obviously pretty knackered by the time they hit the climb. And it did come at the end of a 200km stage...

What made the climb especially hard is the slippery surface caused by heavy rainfall. Traction is easy to come by in the dry, even on such a steep slope. Following persistent rain ,however, traction becomes a scarce commodity and stopping the wheels from spinning while applying the necessary power would have been nearly impossible. This is the main reason so many riders resorted to walking. 

It would seem that many of the riders didn’t anticipate the severity of the route's parcours and simply arrived in too big a gear. Chris Froome’s mechanics had reportedly made a change to the gearing of his Pinarello, fitting a 36x28 lowest gear. Even that was too hard, he’s quoted as saying.

Next time we’re at the point of considering dismounting, we can all take comfort in the fact that even the best sometimes have to walk

Below, thanks to Google's Streetview, you can see just how steep it really is.


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36 user comments

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Actually, it's worth mentioning that pros walk Muur quite often.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [978 posts]
12th March 2013 - 14:25

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Fantastic viewing and to see Sagan weaving from one side of the road to the other, cyclo cross style and still only climbing at walking pace was a sight rarely seen....lets hope Froomie wins the time trial today.

posted by merckxman [33 posts]
12th March 2013 - 14:30

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This makes me feel better!

TurboJoe

posted by TurboJoe [52 posts]
12th March 2013 - 14:43

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'is the slippery surface caused by heavy rainfall in the last couple of hours in the rain.'

Sorry but did anybody actually proof this article before it was published?

posted by Yennings [153 posts]
12th March 2013 - 14:52

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Colin Peyresourde wrote:
Actually, it's worth mentioning that pros walk Muur quite often.

Many are forced to walk the other steep climbs of the Tour of Flanders as well, it is just that on the TV they rarely show anything but the first dozen riders. It is even less likely now that they've bastardized the race, and it just loops around the VIP tents near the relatively easy Oude Kwaremont.

posted by ubercurmudgeon [168 posts]
12th March 2013 - 15:48

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I see the armchair subs are out in force again.

Its knot like your paying two reed this iz it.

posted by Batfink [18 posts]
12th March 2013 - 16:03

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I made it up Fford Penllech in Harlech once, that's steep:
https://maps.google.com/?ll=52.86128,-4.107095&spn=0.003193,0.007564&t=h...

http://s0.geograph.org.uk/geophotos/03/28/45/3284561_ecda6af6.jpg

Obviously this means I am better than the pros!

posted by mattheww385 [45 posts]
12th March 2013 - 17:15

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kinza wrote:
Interesting content - but this could really have done with being proofread before being posted and highlighted on the site!!

Yes sorry about that, published the wrong version by accident, you weren't meant to see my mistakes!

David Arthur's picture

posted by David Arthur [1229 posts]
12th March 2013 - 17:30

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The pros are sometimes forced to walk the Koppenberg, but that's really due to how narrow the road is and them getting in each others way, rather than because of the severity of the gradient, as in the case of this 30% climb

David Arthur's picture

posted by David Arthur [1229 posts]
12th March 2013 - 17:33

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Hang on. In those pics the ground looks bone dry. Was it raining further down the hill? Thinking

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posted by Chuffy [183 posts]
12th March 2013 - 17:56

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Check this link out. The stage profile for Stage 2 Tour de France 2014.

I ride in Sheffield and surrounding area and can vouch for the severity of the bottom few climbs in the list. Jawbone is bound to see an attack from Gilbert/ Rodriguez etc...

The stage ends in a flat sprint finish near the Sheffield Arena, but I can guarantee Cav and Greipel won't be in the bunch.

Chiggety check yourself before you wreck yourself

posted by therealsmallboy [84 posts]
12th March 2013 - 18:30

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Chiggety check yourself before you wreck yourself

posted by therealsmallboy [84 posts]
12th March 2013 - 18:30

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mattheww385 wrote:
I made it up Fford Penllech in Harlech once, that's steep:
https://maps.google.com/?ll=52.86128,-4.107095&spn=0.003193,0.007564&t=h...

http://s0.geograph.org.uk/geophotos/03/28/45/3284561_ecda6af6.jpg

Obviously this means I am better than the pros!


You must be nuts!!! That one is on the ridiculous scale not for the soft or week!

posted by 60kg lean keen ... [52 posts]
12th March 2013 - 18:56

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Great article, last time photo's of pro's walking was the motirolo or some such killer climb on the giro.

To slo to live, to slo to die! ::-}

posted by OldnSlo [122 posts]
12th March 2013 - 19:16

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I think that Hardknot pass comes after about 150 -160 km on the Fred! Lots of riders go up that without getting off. I realise that they will be going at slower speed overall, but also they are not as fit as the pros.

posted by jayme [113 posts]
12th March 2013 - 20:29

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A little embarrassing whenever this happens. I'm sure more so for these pros under a microscope. This happened to me several weeks ago on a climb, and I thought to pull out my iPhone to take a picture of the condition of my bike and the road to try to assuage my embarrassment as a column of cars drove past: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-ORpzB7dDJps/UQg0QjdrRSI/AAAAAAAABEU/hTFnoKOVq9...

posted by bobbylama [12 posts]
12th March 2013 - 20:51

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kinza wrote:
Interesting content - but this could really have done with being proofread before being posted and highlighted on the site!!

Or 'proof read' even. Smile

MercuryOne

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [935 posts]
12th March 2013 - 20:57

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Batfink wrote:
I see the armchair subs are out in force again.

Its knot like your paying two reed this iz it.

Quite! We had 1 typo in 60 pages in our first issue of Spin Cycle and it was like the world had come to an end. People were enraged at our carelessness. Ready to cancel the subscriptions they weren't paying for... Big Grin

MercuryOne

Silly me. You're probably right....

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posted by MercuryOne [935 posts]
12th March 2013 - 21:02

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I have wondered why they don't have a 'killer' stage in the Lakes during the ToB. I would have thought that it would be fairly easy to include some nasties...

posted by stealth [152 posts]
12th March 2013 - 21:13

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Im sure i saw some get off and pushing on one of the stages at the Vuelta last year.
Was it Alto Hazallanas?

Also - isnt Jenkin Road in Sheffield on the 2014 TdF?
http://goo.gl/maps/1doUi
It gets to around 30% in places and i am also led to believe it sometimes rains in northern England.

posted by Some Fella [621 posts]
12th March 2013 - 22:14

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it was amazing to watch but it wasn't really bike racing, more just a masochistic clusterfuck on 2 wheels.

posted by pj [135 posts]
12th March 2013 - 22:34

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i live in harlech and have only done penllech twice and nuts is the word but am thinking of including it in a local 4 hills challenge incorporating two other 20-25% hills; oh yeah, by the way i had to walk up and down this 40% monster daily to PRIMARY school

posted by glascymru [8 posts]
13th March 2013 - 0:01

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'I see the armchair subs are out in force again. '

Standards cost nothing.

posted by andyp [634 posts]
13th March 2013 - 9:58

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Even the toughest of pro's can sometimes feel the pain; and need to dismount, they're only Human after-all!

posted by Mostyn [387 posts]
13th March 2013 - 10:16

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i ride up hills with the aim of getting to the top and sometimes find them hard

pro's and club cyclists race up hills with the aim of getting to the top in a good position and very rarely find them hard

think the difference is immense if wot i writ makes sense Smile

posted by antigee [106 posts]
13th March 2013 - 13:15

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Some Fella wrote:

Also - isnt Jenkin Road in Sheffield on the 2014 TdF?
http://goo.gl/maps/1doUi
It gets to around 30% in places and i am also led to believe it sometimes rains in northern England.

Yup. It's fine when you're fresh, but after nearly 200km of riding I think it's going to be interesting. There's a steep downhill on the other side as they go back towards the motorway before heading towards the city centre for the finish. A breakaway might stay away if they can get there with a minute on the peloton and TT it to the finish afterwards?

posted by nivagh [53 posts]
13th March 2013 - 13:21

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The point was that it was one of a succession of difficult climbs. I think that there must be a contest amongst Spanish and Italian organisers to find the most ridiculously hard climbs, which add zero to the spectacle of a BIKE race when people are reduced to walking. Fair enough some 15 -20% sections, but 30% is getting silly. Surely what is needed is a sensible and challenging course, not a weightlifting contest, which is what these mad "monster" steep climbs amount to.
And by the way, Constitution Hill in Swansea is cobbled, about 350 metres only, and has a dip in the middle section. So even after a difficult day it's not quite so extreme, just an attacking opportunity.

Doc

posted by doc [167 posts]
13th March 2013 - 15:37

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Surely the Sram riders could have used WiFLi? Or they could have ran triples!

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posted by Municipal Waste [190 posts]
15th March 2013 - 21:49

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Anybody with a link to live video from stage 6 of T-A (and especially "the climb")?

posted by Hansemann [72 posts]
16th March 2013 - 7:04

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Some Fella wrote:
Im sure i saw some get off and pushing on one of the stages at the Vuelta last year.
Was it Alto Hazallanas?

I rode the Vuelta last year - err, that is, I rode most of it, and pushed my bike up some of it. Mind you, my bike was loaded up with all of my touring gear, but it was also running MTB gearing. I felt a bit better though when saw pros pushing on at least two of the climbs (I'm thinking stages 12 and 16, but would have to look it up to be sure...). Was the guys at the back though, and they had already done a solid day's work!

I'm riding the 2013 Giro d'Italia for charity! Check it out and follow my progress live at www.tourletour.com

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posted by Tour Le Tour [91 posts]
17th March 2013 - 1:20

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