Colle dell’Agnello


Colle dell’Agnello (Col Agnel in French) is the third highest paved mountain pass in Europe. In the Cottian Alps, the summit is the border between Piemonte, Italy, and the Hautes-Alpes, France.

I’ve cycled the French side, But never the very challenging Italian side, and this seemed the perfect time as it was cleared of snow weeks earlier than usual as the Giro d’Italia will cycle it tomorrow.

My plan was simple and not too ambitious: Start at Casteldelfino. Ride up, and ride down. I decided against the valley below as it can be busy with fast traffic – and I am lazy.

Below Casteldelfino, is the start of another great climb: Colle di Sampeyre. The paved route is superb, but there is a truly brilliant old unpaved military road option: La Strada dei Cannoni. Both rides here.

From Casteldelfino, after a few steepish kilometres, the flat part on the profile is where the route rides along side a nice lake / dam.

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Being well behaved I ate around this point.

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The climb is uneventful until one passes the last village, perhaps 10 kilometres below the summit. Then the road turns up. It’s tough to show steepness in photos, but the fun starts here:

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Many alpine cols have nice kilometre markers with % grade / altitude, etc. Agnello is different. It has very few signs, strategically placed. And they always mean bad news (+11% ahead).

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From this point on, it is always steep. Think of the last 10 kms as similar statistically to Passo Giau, but far higher. Also from this point on, every kilometre gets more beautiful than the previous one.

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There were cyclists of all levels. Quite a few walking a LONG way from the summit. Some as fast as pros (in my slow mind). I chatted briefly with this couple, perhaps 70. Cheerful, chatty, and able to turn a pedal quite nicely.

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So many great hairpins

So many great hairpins

Perhaps with 5 kms to go, (and half a kilometre of vertical) – there was more and more snow. And lots of sexy hairpins.

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Not surprisingly the last couple of kilometres were the most fun.

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Loving my new Podium Café kit:

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The final hairpin:

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Here’s a view down the French side:

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I absolutely loved the Italian side. Wow, I was impressed. Beautiful. Looking down on the summit, I chatted with a nice Italian family. I am a Francophile but asked them “Why is the Italian side of almost every Alpine border pass more beautiful than the French side?” they smiled.

Below, the pass itself:
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A nice lady from the Italian emergency services took my photo (luckily I had bought a beer at a panino stand much lower – worth the extra weight).

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It’s always too much fun to cycle a high climb, on a sunny day, when there is still lots of snow around. Wooohoooo.


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Happiest while cycling uphill.


  1. Pingback: The Ten Highest Paved Cycling Climbs in Italy

    • Hi Jamie, Same day as the post. May 26th. But note, it was open far earlier than usual as it had been cleared for the Giro 2 days later. Usually this wouldn’t be open until mid June or later.

  2. Hi,

    I had the pleasure of doing both sides on Sunday which happened to be a car free day which was a happy accident. Both sides are absolutely gorgeous but that Italian side is a monster! I would say that’s even harder than the Nufenenpass from Ulrichen. I would rate it as the hardest climb I have done but then on Monday I did the Fauniera from Demonte which was even worse!

    Strava links here if you’re interested

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