Climbing the Angliru, one of cycling's most feared climbs

Watch Conor Dunne and David Millar take on the beast of the Astorias in our GCN+ documentary

Clock00:08, Tuesday 8th August 2023

In 1998 a press officer for the ONCE team was taking a stroll in the Astorian mountains when he stumbled across a paved goat track switchbacking up an impossibly steep mountainside. As any member of the cycling community would naturally think, he saw the 20% gradients and wondered what would happen if a race went up it.

Immediately, the press officer called the director of the Vuelta a España to plant the idea. The very next year the Alto de L'Angliru was in the route of the race and, in turn, cemented into the small collection of cycling’s toughest ascents. Now, more than twenty years on, you can't say Ventoux, Mortirolo, or Zoncolan without invoking Angliru as well. In fact, some say it's the hardest of them all.

Two riders who may have come to that conclusion are GCN’s Conor Dunne and former British professional David Millar. In the most recent instalment of the GCN documentary series on the epic climbs of Europe, the two former pros return to the famous climb to test their limits against the fearsome slopes. More importantly, they also revisit some of the demons from their past professional careers when their younger selves climbed the Angliru.

While the Angliru has become famous in the cycling world, it is still deep in the Spanish hinterland, nestled in the mountains that dot the Asturias region of Northwest Spain. To get to the mountain, the two former pros rode together through the countryside around the gigantic green mountain that looms over the region while recounting their different experiences on the mountain during their careers.

Conor, who climbed the mountain in the 2017 Vuelta, remembered his experience at the back of the race, battling the steep slopes from the grupetto. Millar, who raced up the climb in 2002, had an even more challenging experience. Miller crashed twice in the lead into the climb and when he got to the top he stopped, with less than 100 metres to go in the stage, and ripped his number off in protest of the race going up the climb.

While the documentary is a retrospective look back at the climb and the two riders' experiences, it is also a chance to look forward. The Vuelta is returning to the Angliru on stage 17 of the 2023 race. The last time the race went up the climb was in 2020, with Primož Roglič struggling to hold his lead on the punishingly steep parts of the climb. This year, on the Angliru, the likes of Jonas Vingegaard, Remco Evenepoel and Juan Ayuso will be in the final stages of their battle for the red jersey.

Check out the trailer for the new documentary Angliru above and be sure to subscribe to GCN+ to watch a deep archive of bespoke cycling documentaries, as well as live racing from across the calendar and around the world.

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