For many road cyclists, there's nothing quite like the thrill and challenge of conquering a mountain climb and even if you never do it, you can always dream!
Whether you're an experienced rider or a beginner looking to test your limits, Europe is home to some of the most breathtaking and challenging climbs in the world. From the snow-capped peaks of the Alps to the sun-drenched hills of Spain, here are some of the most scenic European cycling climbs that will leave you breathless (in a good way).
Stelvio Pass, Italy
Nestled in the heart of the Italian Alps, the Stelvio Pass is one of the most iconic and challenging climbs in Europe. With its hairpin turns and steep gradients, this climb is not for the faint of heart. The ascent to the summit is 24.3 km long and includes 48 hairpin turns, with an average gradient of 7.4%. At the top, you'll be rewarded with stunning views of the surrounding mountains, as well as a sense of accomplishment that comes with conquering one of the most legendary climbs in the world.
Mont Ventoux, France
The "Giant of Provence" is a magnet for cyclists from around the world, thanks to its stark beauty and punishing ascent. The climb is 21.5 km long, with an average gradient of 7.5%. The final 6 km to the summit are particularly grueling, with an average gradient of 8.8% and no shade to shield you from the scorching sun. But the view from the top is worth the effort, with panoramic views of the surrounding lavender fields and the Mediterranean Sea in the distance.
Grossglockner High Alpine Road, Austria
This climb takes you through the heart of the Hohe Tauern National Park, offering stunning views of the surrounding peaks and glaciers. The ascent is 48 km long, with an average gradient of 5.2%, making it a bit more manageable than some of the steeper climbs in the Alps. But don't be fooled by the relatively gentle gradient – the altitude (the summit is at 2,504 m) and the length of the climb make it a serious challenge.
Passo dello Stelvio, Italy
Not to be confused with the Stelvio Pass, the Passo dello Stelvio is another Italian climb that deserves a spot on any road cyclist's bucket list. The climb is 24.3 km long, with an average gradient of 7.6%. The ascent takes you through 48 hairpin turns, just like the Stelvio Pass, but the views are slightly different – you'll be able to see the Ortler Alps and the Swiss Alps in the distance.
Sa Calobra, Spain
This climb in the Balearic Islands of Spain is not only one of the most scenic climbs in Europe, but it's also one of the most unique. The road to the summit descends down into a gorge, with a series of hairpin turns that take you through a natural rock tunnel. The ascent is 9.4 km long, with an average gradient of 7.1%, but the descent is just as thrilling as the climb, with stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea.
Col du Galibier, France
This climb is a regular feature of the Tour de France, and for good reason – it's one of the most challenging and scenic climbs in the Alps. The ascent is 17.7 km long, with an average gradient of 6.9%. But what really sets this climb apart is the stunning scenery – the climb takes you through mountain passes, past glaciers, and through quaint Alpine villages