2014 was my Italy year. In particular, I explored the Val d’Aosta and Piemont for the first time in any detail. On January 1st, 2014 – purely for fun – I began intensive language lessons and we took every chance to visit that great country and mangle their beautiful language. But while riding city bikes around Torino and Rome was fun, some of the big Alps climbs left me almost speechless.
See here for my ten favourite alpine mountain bike climbs of 2014.
Here are my ten favourite alpine road bike climbs of 2014.
#1 Colle del Nivolet
This may be the most beautiful high Alps paved climb I have ever cycled. The last 15 kilometres featuring dams, lakes, hairpins, high Alps, etc. is beyond astonishing. And yes, this photo was taken near the spot where the van hangs over the ledge in the original Italian Job film. Ride details here.
#2 Colle Fauniera (Colle dei Morti)
I managed to make it up two of the three sides of this gigantic, and remote Piemonte climb. The ridiculous Pantani statue at the summit was a nice reward, so were the empty roads and wonderful views. I can’t wait to try the third side and explore the old military roads near the summit next year. Ride details here.
#3 Lago di Narèt
I called this the best paved climb that I have ever cycled that is NOT in either of the Daniel Friebe Mountain High(er) books.
In the Italian speaking part of Switzerland, this 32 kilometre, super-remote road was closed this year until July. It features several beautiful lakes and huge dams. Maybe the biggest “surprise” of the year. An amazing place. Details here.
#4 La Maratona dles Dolomites
The most beautiful and best run cyclo-sportive that I have done. I won the entry lottery while injured and my recovery program had one goal: Try and get healthy enough to finish this. A super fun day riding with my good friends Philippe and Xavier. Ride details here.
#5 Col d’Izoard – car-free day
I am a big fan of all the car-free days organised in the French Alps every year. In 2014, I participated in events at both Col de Joux Plane and Col de la Ramaz. But the perfect day climbing both sides of Col d’Izoard was extra special. A friendly ambience, but not that well attended. The silence was wonderful. Ride details here.
#6 Monte Grappa Bike Day
This was fun. Hundreds of friendly and chatty Italians having a blast climbing this legendary mountain a few weeks before the Giro. I read a book on the tragic World War One history here beforehand, and managed to visit five sides over the weekend.
It’s a dream mountain for cyclists. Ride details and some history here.
#7 Col du Galibier snow ride
Galibier (and Izoard) were the two climbs on this list that I already knew well before 2014. Galibier opened early this year, and I rushed down to climb it for the first time in May, enjoying the huge snow banks and sun. Ride details here.
#8 Colle della Lombarda
This was another very pleasant surprise. Colle della Lombarda is a high Maritime Alps pass on the French/Italian border. The Italian side is an unbelievably beautiful route, and I included a small detour to the Santuario di Sant’Anna – the highest Santuario in Europe. I also peeked into France for a few kilometres. Ride details here.
I had been told that this climb was unpaved at the top (it’s fully paved) so I brought a mountain bike. In the stunning Berner Oberland in central Switzerland, this climb starts near the start of the truly special and far better known Grosse Scheidegg. I braved bad weather and overcast skies to break through to sunshine at the summit and started scaring the local cows. Tough, quiet road in paradise. Ride details here.
#10 Santuario di Oropa
Early in the year, I dashed into Italy to vist the Santuario di Oropa to preview a Giro stage finish. I explored a tiny road that headed higher despite being told the Galleria (tunnel) above was impassable. This led to one of the more fun adventures of the year (spoiler: the tunnel was “sort of” passable).
Ride details here.
A Final Thought
It’s no secret that Italy is a great place to cycle, but for me, it was a revelation how great Val d’Aosta and Piemonte is for climbers. See here for my Aosta / Piemont climbs map with links to ride details.
Most of my Italy Climbs here.