The Hardest Kilometre in Europe – Climbs, Cobbles & Cursing

A tough climb is often ridden in silence. The hardest kilometre is accompanied by the sound of swearing. At each other, the bike & most importantly the road. Often these are legendary sections where the anticipation builds as you get closer. Occasionally, they come out of nowhere. Here are our hardest kilometres in Europe.
Passo di Ghisallo

Forest of Arenberg. France

Section – Start to 1km
Ride this in 2016 at – Paris Roubaix Sportive

The organisers of the Paris Roubaix Sportive have a strange sense of humour. For the thousands of fresh faced riders each year that sign up for the medium (139km) route, the first cobbled section they hit is the Forest of Arenberg. In a route designed for maximum discomfort, this section stands out like a sore thumb. In total it is 2.4km of horrendously uneven cobbles but the shock of the first few metres is the highlight. Unforgettable.

Barbotto. Italy

Section – 4km to 5km
Elevation in 1km – 108m
Ride this in 2016 at – Nove Colli
Barbotta Rider
The Nove Colli is full of great climbs made for British weekend riders – gentle gradients & not too long. All the pain is kept for the top section of the Barbotto with gradients of up to 14%. This is classic sportive scene. At the top of the climb a dj blares out Euro pop. Crowds of people are there to cheer you on. To your right are the beaten ones walking their bikes to the top. And then there is you, pushing in your smallest gear at speeds your Garmin has never seen.

Alpe d’Huez. France

Section – Start to 1km
Elevation in 1km – 104m
Ride this in 2016 at – La Marmotte
Alpe first hairpins
This section is all about context. A couple of years ago we talked to Sean Kelly at a book signing and asked him what his toughest climb was. Without a thought he said “Alpe d’Huez”. Then followed it up with “Cos normally by then you have already been up 3 or 4 other mountains”. And this is the case with the Marmotte where by Alpe d’Huez you already have 4,000 metres of elevation in your legs normally in very hot conditions. The first sections of the Alpe are the worst averaging over 10% and the straight steep sections seem much longer at the bottom. When fresh this climb is exciting and iconic. After a full days climbing, it is just about survival.

Col du Glandon. France

Section – 19km to 20km
Elevation in 1km – 113m
Glandon Profile
At 19km into a climb we feel that every cyclist should have a sense of entitlement that they’ve done the graft, now please be over. The Glandon is cruel. You can see the summit from a long way away and it looks miles above you. As the km markers tick off it still looks miles above you. And it is. Because the last 2 kilometres are practically vertical. This kilometre is intimidating as much as it is hard. With no shade and long ramps of over 11% this will no doubt bring back painful memories for anyone that rode the Etape in 2015.

Muro di Sormano. Italy

Section – 6km to 7km
Elevation in 1km – 152m
Muro di Sormano
Without doubt the hardest kilometre we have ever seen. Averaging (averaging) over 15%. This climb borders on the ridiculous. A regular in the Giro di Lombardia and close to other classic cycle spots on Lake Como this is a popular climb for people searching for the ultimate test. There are no gears big enough to make this even close to comfortable. This will probably be the slowest kilometre you will ever ride and one of the most painful. Definitely one to put onto the bucket list if you like a challenge.

There are plenty that just missed the grade. We ruled everything out that was less than 1km which means a lot of the steep UK, Flanders, Walloon & Dutch climbs were out. We would love to hear your suggestions…