Documentary: The monstrous Monte Zoncolan

Join Si Richardson and Dan Martin as they tackle one of Italy’s most infamous cycling challenges

Clock09:50, Thursday 21st September 2023

The Monte Zoncolan is unquestioned in its status as a monster. In fact, it was deemed so extreme that it was once seen as impossible to route the Giro d’Italia up.

Only after five years of negotiations between all the stakeholders was the Giro able to take on the Zoncolan in the 2003 edition after the Giro Donne first tried the climb in 1997. Since then, it has become a staple.

In the most recent instalment of GCN’s 'Mountains' series, Si Richardson heads to Ovaro in northern Italy and the Carnic Alps to tackle the infamous Monte Zoncolan. Joining him is former professional, Dan Martin, who battled to a top 10 finish there at the Giro d’Italia in 2010.

In the documentary, Si is joined not just by Martin but also WorldTour rider Alessandro De Marchi and journalist Antonio Simeoli, who both grew up at the foot of Monte Zoncolan. Simeoli helps shine a historic light on the climb, from its origins as an Alpine outpost for Mussolini's cannons in World War II to the first time up the fearsome Ovaro side in 2007.

“Zoncolan is a climb that has its own environment and characteristics,” De Marchi said. “Usually, the race goes up from the Ovaro side, which is the harder, more challenging one. So you leave the last houses at the bottom of the mountain, you slip into the forest and immediately it's steep, very steep.”

The hellish gradients of the Ovaro side immediately earned it a reputation as a bucket list climb to be feared by both amateurs and professional riders, with an eye-watering average gradient of 11.9% over 10.1km. With stats like those, many consider the Zoncolan to be at the very top of the rankings for the most challenging climbs in cycling.

Not only does Si take on the main Ovaro ascent with Martin, but he also tries an attempt at the least-known third side of the Zoncolan, and discovers the history of the climb's intrigue. Needless to say, the climb is worth a full documentary of exploration looking at all of its ins and outs.

Mountains: Zoncolan is out now on GCN+. Watch on-demand and explore our extensive collection of exclusive and original cycling films.

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