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Cyclist 100 Classic Climbs: 70 - 61

In-depth
23 Apr 2020
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It's a common misconception that the United Kingdom doesn't have any proper climbs. Not like the ones in Italy or France anyway, the one's that'll have you suffering like a dog for more than 10 minutes at a time.

You'll be told that climbs in the UK, while often very steep, are more like speed bumps that'll be over and done with quicker than it takes to boil the kettle.

Those who pedal this lie have clearly never heard of Bealach na Bà. Tucked in a windy corner of northwest Scotland, this is Britain's answer to the Alps.

It climbs an average of 6.7% for a full 11.1km meaning the statistics fall bang inline with those you'll find on the continent. But unlike the rolling gradient of the Alps, 28% kicks give this climb a very British feel.

Bealach na Bà comes in at number 64. See what else makes the cut below.

The Cyclist 100 Classic Climbs

Introducing the Cyclist 100 Classic Climbs  
Cyclist 100 Classic Climbs: 100 - 91  
Cyclist 100 Classic Climbs: 90 - 81  
Cyclist 100 Classic Climbs: 80 - 71  
Cyclist 100 Classic Climbs: 70 - 61  
Cyclist 100 Classic Climbs: 60 - 51  
Cyclist 100 Classic Climbs: 50 - 41  
Cyclist 100 Classic Climbs: 40 - 31  
Cyclist 100 Classic Climbs: 30 - 21  
Cyclist 100 Classic Climbs: 20 - 11  
Cyclist 100 Classic Climbs: 10 - 4  
Cyclist 100 Classic Climbs: Number 3  
Cyclist 100 Classic Climbs: Number 2  
Cyclist 100 Classic Climbs: Number 1  

70 - Oude Kwaremont, Flanders, Belgium (2.2km, 4.2%)

Words Joe Robinson Photography Geoff Waugh

When you ride the Kwaremont, it’s not the climb that gets you but the false flat at the top. The 4.2% average gradient on its jarring cobbles is perfectly manageable for almost any rider, but it’s once you are over the crest that the true challenge begins. 

What comes next is a further cobbled section that taunts you into pushing a bigger gear while also constantly trying to slow you down. This is where determination turns to despair.

It’s no wonder this section of road has been decisive time and time again at the Tour of Flanders.

See the ultimate Oude Kwaremont route on Komoot

69 - Col de Tentes, Pyrenees, France (30km, 5%)

Words Pete Muir Photography Juan Trujillo Andrades

If you were a smuggler trying to move contraband from France into Spain, the Col de Tentes would be the place to head for. At the top of this Pyrenean climb is an empty, lonely gravel path that leads across the border.

There’s just the small issue of the 30km climb to get there.

Wild, rugged and blissfully free of cars – or cyclists for that matter – the Col de Tentes is the classic climb that most people haven’t heard of, making it the perfect option for anyone who wants to escape the crowds. Or smugglers.

See the ultimate Col de Tentes route on Komoot

68 - Kitzbüheler Horn, Tyrol, Austria (7.1km, 12.5%)

Words Martin James Photography Pete Webb

When describing how hard a climb is, statistics tell only part of the story. But in the case of the Kitzbüheler Horn, it’s a pretty large part.

This Austrian beast offers a leg-buckling 865m of climbing over just 7.1km. It has an average gradient of 12.5% and a maximum of 22.3%. Or in the words of recently retired Austrian pro Bernie Eisel, ‘It starts off bad and then gets worse and worse all the way up.’

There’s no easy way to take it on, but sign up for the annual Kitzbüheler Horn Mountain Race and you’ll at least get to share your suffering with other cycling masochists.

See the ultimate Kitzbuheler Horn route on Komoot

67 - Col d’Allos, Alpes de Haute Provence, France (23.6km, 4.3%)

Words Joe Robinson Photography Juan Trujillo Andrades

A quiet, unassuming ascent, the Col d’Allos is the climb of any cyclo-tourist’s dream: not too steep, breathtaking views and a deserted road void of any motor traffic. 

It’s descent, on the other hand, is the opposite: one of the toughest in France, according to 1975 winner Tour de France winner Bernard Thevenet.

He’s got a point; that same year a Bianchi team car found itself plunging into the Malune ravine below, having misjudged one of its sweeping corners. Luckily, nobody was injured.

See the ultimate Col d'Allos route on Komoot

66 - Flüela Pass, Graubunden, Switzerland (13km, 6.4%)

Words Joe Robinson Photography Juan Trujillo Andrades

The Swiss town of Davos is famous for two things: annually hosting the world’s political and business elite for the World Economic Forum and being the starting point of the Flüela Pass.

Now, while we are no financial experts, we do know a thing or two about cycling climbs and can confirm that this winding Swiss Alp is one of the country’s most no-nonsense, underrated climbs, which is why it deservedly earns its spot in our top 100.

See the ultimate Fluela Pass route on Komoot

65 - Newlands Pass, Lake District, England (1.7km, 12%)

Words Martin James Photography Juan Trujillo Andrades

The bleak and barren hills of the Lake District are a truly unique place to ride a bike. The roads here undulate, twist and roll, but are never flat, and so any ride in these parts is likely to be as energy-sapping as it is rewarding.

Which makes a climb like the Newlands Pass all the more imposing. It may be less than 2km in length, but there’s simply no hiding from its difficulty.

A brief respite in hostilities around the 1km mark is simply the calm before the storm, with the most spiteful 22% ramps saved for just before the top.

See the ultimate Newlands Pass route on Komoot

64 - Bealach na Bà, Ross-shire, Scotland (11.1km, 6.7%)

Words Pete Muir Photography Wig Woreland

Plenty of people will tell you that Britain doesn’t have any proper climbs. Not real, tough, nasty climbs like they have abroad. Well, just send those people to do the Bealach na Bà in northwest Scotland.

Forget that 6.7% average – that’s Scotch mist. The Bealach na Bà hits 28% in places, the kind of gradient that will have you doing wheelies as you struggle to stay upright.

Its legend was cemented when Simon Warren awarded it 11/10 in his book of the UK’s Greatest Cycling Climbs. Alpe d’Huez eat your heart out.

See the ultimate Pete Muir route on Komoot

63 - Col d’Aspin, Pyrenees, France (12km, 6.5%)

Words Pete Muir Photography Juan Trujillo Andrades

Like a French poodle, the Aspin looks quite cuddly and approachable, but has a bite that is more vicious than expected.

Winding up through pleasant woodland and emerging into a landscape of green pastures, the climb is a balm to a rider’s eyes, but the consistent gradients of around 8% for long periods will be a dagger to the legs.

It also has buckets of history, including being the spot where in 1950 Italian legend Gino Bartali was attacked by French fans – one with a knife – leading him to abandon the Tour, taking most of the Italian contingent with him.

See the ultimate Col d'Aspin route on Komoot

62 - Rocacorba, Girona, Spain, 13.8km, 5.7%

Words Stu Bowers Photography Paul Calver

Once just a nondescript dirt road to service the mast atop the 992m Mount Puigsou, the Rocacorba climb was tarmacked in 2006 and has since been written into cycling folklore.

The likes of Lance Armstrong, David Millar, Dan Martin and countless other Girona-based pros have prepared for Grand Tours on its slopes.

The early part through pastures and woodland has more amenable gradients but you’ll need to keep something in reserve for the latter section where the road tilts up to over 10%, making the push to its exposed rocky summit a gruelling but satisfying finale.

See the ultimate Rocacorba route on Komoot

61 - Col du Grand Colombier, Juras, France (15.2km, 7.9%)

Words Martin James Photography Juan Trujillo Andrades

Like the Tour de France, Cyclist has visited the Col du Grand Colombier just once, although unlike the pros we went up the eastern side, which is actually slightly steeper overall, albeit a little shorter.

Note we say steeper overall. Our way up meant the 20%-plus ramps that decimated the Tour field in 2012 (though not a swashbuckling Tommy Voeckler) were experienced on the way down rather than the way up, which just makes sense for our money.

From either direction the highest road pass in the Jura Mountains is a tough climb, and one you’ll be glad to reach the top of. Probably just once.

See the ultimate Col du Grand Colombier route on Komoot

Ride the Cyclist 100 Classic Climbs with Komoot

Cyclist has teamed up with its good friends at Komoot to give you the ultimate route for each and every climb in the list.

If you are new to Komoot, it is offering a free regional bundle (worth £8.99). Simply follow this link to Komoot.com and create your free account today.

Alternatively, head to Komoot and enter the voucher code CYCLIST100. Valid until 31.07.2020.