News CWiX 500 Cycling regions Cycling holidays Contact
02-09-2022 | Frank Jansen

Alto de l'Angliru, the hardest climb in pro cycling

Last week, CycloWorld was invited by the tourism board to the Spanish region of Asturias. For more than 5 days, we were guided through this beautiful area, during which, of course, 2 days of the Vuelta (more about this later) could not be missed. But the highlight was literally and figuratively the climb of the notorious Alto de l'Angliru, the hardest climb in pro cycling.

History

Only 8 times has the Angliru been part of the Vuelta. The first time was in '99. The last part of the road was paved especially for the occasion. The Vuelta returned in 2000, 2002, 2008, 2011, 2013, 2017 and 2020. The last winner was Hugh Carthy, who also competes in this year's Tour of Spain. Our guide tells us that it was originally intended that the road would run through two municipalities. However, because one municipality did not want to contribute to the costs, the current route was chosen, which runs through one municipality. And that's exactly why the road is so steep.

It's no secret that many pros are scared of this beast. In '99, many, including the great Jan Ullrich, used a triple crankset. Nowadays, most pros opt for 34x32 as the lightest gear for El Angliru. Unprecedentedly light for men who can pedal 6 watts/kg.


Mixed feelings

In our group of 3, we had ambivalent feelings about this climb beforehand. We didn't really know what to expect, and that made it exciting. On the other hand, the three of us already had quite a record of steep climbs together, including the Mortirolo, Valley of the Tears and the Zoncolan. But the Angliru is really the toughest on paper. Our rental bikes should not be a problem. A 34x32 gear is not super light, but it should be enough.

We start from our hotel in Las Caldas. Our guides suggest that we do the first part by car, but of course we won't go for that. After all, it has to remain a bit of a challenge. It is about 20 km to the foot, in which we have to overcome a good 600 meters of climbing. During our earlier rides through the area it had already become clear that not a meter is flat here and that almost every climb here has very steep sections.

The numbers

  • Length: 12,3 km
  • Average gradient: 10,3%
  • Maximum: 24% (even though the signs say 26%)
  • Vertical drop: 1261m
  • Summit: 1557m

Zigzagging

After a good hour we arrive in La Vega, where the climb begins. It's a bit foggy on the mountain, but dry. The first 6 km are are fine. The road is wide and the percentages rarely exceed 8%. The real work starts only a few km after the village of Porcio. There the road gets a bit narrower, but not very narrow. The Angliru is certainly not a goat trail. The road is in excellent condition. We get ready for 6 very difficult kilometers. It starts off nicely with a 13% climb. A good way to set the legs on fire. The first real test follows immediately after: one km at 15% on average. Here we already have to zigzag to not fall over. I think, "It's going to get even worse soon". I decide to approach the climb kilometer by kilometer. The next 3 km are a bit irregular. There are very steep parts of up to 15%, but also resting points. In the meantime we navigate between cows and even horses - a wonderful experience.

Above the clouds

Also we are now above the clouds and it is suddenly Kaiserwetter. The views are fantastic. The only bad news is that the most difficult part is coming up. One kilometer at an average of 17%. It sounds crazy and it is. It's hard to describe how steep it is. We zigzag, puff and suffer our way up. When suddenly after this km 500m of 12% on average follows, it feels like flat. A strange sensation.



We can catch our breath shortly, but then there's another stretch of 15%. Is there really no end to it? It does, because after a few turns we arrive at a parking lot. From here it's only one easy kilometer to the cima. We're there!

The final verdict? A beast of a climb. Certainly the toughest we ever rode. But it is certainly not impossible, provided you are well trained. If you're ever in the neighborhood: do it. And anyway, this region is of course a must. Do take your climbing legs with you.

Fan of CycloWorld!

Become our Ambassador

Do you enjoy coming here, and do you think you can make a nice contribution to CycloWorld? We are always looking for ambassadors who want to help us deliver content.

Related posts