With 100 greatest cycling climbs of Italy, Simon Warren has used his proven research and writing skills (and fitness) to highlight yet more climbs for cyclists. Italy provided him with an embarrassment of riches to choose from, and the results will undoubtedly continue to inspire adventurous types to 'ride them all'. The book provides a useful guide to some that have featured in a Giro d'Italia, and inspiration to seek out those that haven't.
- Pros: Focus on the climbs of most interest to cyclists
- Cons: Numerous worthwhile climbs didn't make the cut
Simon Warren's books of the greatest cycling climbs have led to debate and sore legs since their first appearance back in 2010. After a promising start of 100 in the UK, followed by 'Another 100', I felt that the series became less compelling with the subsequent eight regional guides, including NE England, Scotland, Wales, Yorkshire and SE England, with under 100 climbs included, of which many were repeats.
However, by making a start on the climbs of mainland Europe, with Belgium followed by France, Warren showed that his little pocket books were still valid as a source of inspiration and information. Now the series has rolled on into Italy, and very welcome it is.
Well, it's welcome if you want information about climbs for reasons of riding or spectating: if you don't understand the cycling fraternity's fascination with climbs then it won't have much appeal, nor will Warren's graphic descriptions of pain he encountered on the way up help to convince you.
For those of you familiar with Warren's previous books, the format has not changed. If you are new to the series then you will find that each climb has a double-page spread, with a colour photograph facing half a page of descriptive text, rudimentary maps, route profile, and key statistics.
Until the fourth Rapha volume appeared, guides to cycling climbs that concentrated on Italy were effectively non-existent, so most of us relied on some useful websites. For his planning, Warren made use of Cycling Cols as a good source of the basic information that cyclists want; Dangerous Roads gives more flavour, although is primarily aimed at motorised off-roaders.
Many have commented on Warren's choice of climbs in his previous works, arguing that some climbs either should or should not have been included. As the introduction makes clear, he wanted to have climbs from all across the country; although the Dolomites and Alps make up more than half of the book, you could fill the book with worthwhile climbs from either region.
As always, it was a subjective judgement as to what to include, but a combination of scenery, severity, and the role that a climb has played in the Giro d'Italia (or another Italian race) all play a part in the final selection. I suspect that ease of access could be a factor as well, because some worthwhile ones are a bit remote.
I am familiar with the majority of the Alpine and Dolomitian climbs chosen, and in my view they are all worthy of inclusion. However, you will often find good alternatives nearby as well, which may even score higher on one aspect (eg scenery), but lower on another (eg Giro endorsement). There are some that I wouldn't choose to ride because I have an aversion to long, slow climbs on busy main highways without the benefit of closed roads.
Every now and again the Giro will use a new climb for the first time, and the resulting fame will increase interest in it: that will be the case this year for the partial ascent of Colle del Nivolet, which Warren has covered, but you will search in vain for Passo San Boldo, which displays an ingenious bit of road engineering. He might need to plan for 'Another 100' sooner than he thinks.
I was pleased to see that Warren had found the obscure climb of Via Scanuppia, and reassured that it wasn't just us who couldn't ride up it – which is why it is one of only two climbs to be rated as 11/10, along with Monte Zoncolan.
At the other end of the scale, at 1/10 the Poggio is clearly only included because of its use in Milan-San Remo, and since the descent also plays a part in deciding the race, that is also included. The Cipressa is included for the same reason, but as it is a little longer it merits a 2/10.
Ah yes, the rating: another area for debate. It is a subjective judgement made up from the gradient, length, likely riding conditions, and road surface. A 10/10 climb will always be hard, but a 9/10 one might be a lot more enjoyable if your primary interest is stunning scenery on quiet roads. Just to be clear, 'the climbs are rated within the context of this book', so you can't compare them directly to those for your local UK climb.
While we are on potentially controversial matters, Warren has also had to make a choice about which single road to feature if there is more than one route up a mountain – or even 10 potential starting points in the case of Monto Grappa. Sometimes the choice is clear, but what if the Giro has climbed two (or more) of them?
I recommend that you never get into an argument about the exact statistics for any given climb, because different sources often give different results. Take a look at the distance, height, average and maximum gradient for Tre Cime di Lavaredo as an example: 6.8km, 2,362m, 8.9% and 16% says Warren. Yet the sign at the official summit says 2,320m.
Of the printed publications, Mountain High chooses 7.53km, 2,320m, 7.5%, and 19%; Rapha plumps for 2,320m, 7.1km, and merely notes that 'some claim [a maximum] of 18%'. Rapha sensibly steers clear of average gradients, as it is surely the most misleading metric on a climb, especially when there is some downhill involved (as is the case here).
The lesson is that there will often be some minor differences of opinion, but rarely enough to matter.
Warren has changed publisher for this latest book, from Frances Lincoln to Robinson, but I could find no difference in the product as a result – apart from the price: at £12.99 this is the most expensive book in the series. However, whereas previous books were rarely available at a significant discount, this one is already available for under £10.
It is also worth noting that the new publisher has decided to reprint the guide to Belgian climbs in July, which was otherwise going to remain out of print.
Same format, different country: business as usual for the series that could continue for ever...
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road.cc test report
Make and model: 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs of Italy by Simon Warren
Size tested: Paperback
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
From publisher Robinson:
From the Gavia Pass to Mount Etna, from The Stelvio to The Zoncalan, these climbs are legends in Italy and the building blocks of the Giro d'Italia. Technology may advance, training and diet may evolve, but these world-famous mountains are a constant. They have witnessed triumph and despair, courage and heartache, they are where champions are made and where dreams are shattered. And yes, the greatest arenas of Italy's greatest race are open 365 days of the year for any of us to ride. So take up the challenge, emulate your heroes and make your mark on the hundred greatest cycling climbs of Italy.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Title: 100 greatest cycling climbs of Italy
Author: Simon Warren
Price has gone up...
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It will introduce you to interesting climbs across Italy, but you will need more detail if you are planning for your own trip.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
It highlights climbs from all areas of Italy, and not just the famously mountainous parts.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The 100-climb limit inevitably means that some worthwhile climbs are not featured.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It is the first book in the series to be priced above £10.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
It is a welcome addition to the series, helping to highlight some under-researched climbs that will appeal to cyclists. The standard format is as familiar as ever, with the same advantages and disadvantages.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding