Peaking in the shadow of Nuvolau Alto, the 2,647 metre granite tower that stands above the pristine mountain pastures that adorn its higher slopes, the Passo Giau is a place of almost incomprehensible beauty.
A relative newcomer to the route of the Giro d’Italia it wasn’t included until 1973 when, still a gravel track the newspaper La Stampa described it as a ‘horrific obstacle’. It was a further 16 years until it was used again, in fact it was only given a layer of tarmac as recently as 1986 because as the nearby Passo Falzarego took all the traffic it was very seldom used.
Once it was sealed though it soon became a firm favourite of the Giro and not long after cemented itself as the jewel in the crown of the Maratona dles Dolomites route.
- From Selva di Cadore -
Unlike the other climbs that grace the route of the Maratona the Passo Giau is a monster. Don’t let its modest 10km length trick you into thinking otherwise because it is set on a vicious 9.5% average. Twisting through 29 numbered hairpins there is hardly a metre of respite from bottom to top of this iconic road which as beautiful as it is never relents in dishing out the punishment.
The lower slopes are wooded and offer slight protection from the weather but after seven kilometres once you reach hairpin 18 the climb arrives on its divine green pastures as the scenery opens up. From here to the summit although your legs will be screaming at you is one of the most amazing places you can pedal a bike anywhere, so ignore the pain and enjoy.
Points of interest
The climb boasts a total of 29 numbered hairpins which counting down towards the summit act as carrots to chase but if you start to struggle the numbers can become quite annoying.
At the bottom sits the Museo Vittorino Cazzetta where you can learn about the geology, archeology and history of the region.
The Passo Giau features in the classic 1974 Jorgen Leth cycling film ‘Stars And Watercarriers’ where you can see the peloton grinding up its dusty slopes during that first ascent in 1973.
There are three tunnels on the way up which offer you brief respite from whatever weather is tormenting you but present no relief from the relentless gradient.
BergHotel Passo Giau
The Berghotel Passo Giau at the summit is a must stop location whether you are in need of food and water or not, this is one place on earth that you mustn’t rush away from.
“The Giau never ends. You lose count of the hairpins.”
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