The Col Collective's first video of 2016 sees Mike Cotty take on what many consider to be the toughest climb in professional cycling - Italy's Monte Zoncolan, and specifically the ascent from Ovaro.
Located in the Carnic Alps in the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region in the north west of the country, it has featured five times in the Giro d'Italia, most recently in 2014 when Michael Rogers won the race's penultimate stage in the colours of Saxo-Tinkoff.
Entering the final 3 kilometres with Bardiani-CSF's Michele Buongiorno, the Australian benefited from a fan giving the Italian a 'helpful' shove that destroyed the Italian's rhythm and allowed Rogers to ride away to the win.
Here is what Cotty has to say about the climb:
The direct answer to the Vuelta’s a España’s Alto de l’Angliru, it wasn’t until 2003 that the mighty Monte Zoncolan claimed worldwide notoriety when the Giro d’Italia used it for the first time, although on that occasion it was from the “easier” eastern approach from Sutrio.
Four years later and it was back with a vengeance as the race unveiled the 10.2km monster, with ramps up to 22%, from Ovaro.
Highly regarded as the toughest climb in Europe by the professionals, Gilberto Simoni summed the climb up perfectly, “It’s like a slow execution, the easiest part of the Zoncolan is harder than the most difficult at the Tour”.
Go under an hour from start to finish and you’re on serious fire, to put it in perspective on that day Simoni covered the climb in a mind bending 39 minutes (so obviously not quite as slow an execution for ‘Soignor Zoncolan’ as he was nicknamed after winning twice on the mountain) as it is for the rest of us!
I’ve been fortunate to ride some amazing mountains throughout the world and so far I’ve never come across anything like the Zoncolan, it just keeps going and pushing you, you’re questioning your sanity the whole way up, thinking to yourself ‘why am I doing this?’
And then 400 metres from the top it completely opens up, you see the views behind, there’s mountain peaks, a little bit of baby blue sky and everything makes sense again. Savour every second, the Zoncolan is one of the true greats of cycling!
Elevation gain: 1,225m
Average gradient: 11.9%
Max gradient: 22%
Ridden in June
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.