Revered and feared since the first pro riders battled to the summit in the 1967 Giro d’Italia, Tre Cime di Lavaredo’s breathtaking switchbacks make up what is arguably the most iconic and instantly recognisable climb in the Dolomites.
Words: Haute Route Staff
Winding into the pale limestone peaks of the Sexten Dolomites, the Tre Cime di Lavaredo has certainly earned its title amongst the most memorable climbs in the world.
The three crags offer an iconic view that is instantly recognisable around the globe as the quintessential Dolomites.
Jutting out of the breathtaking landscape, the Tre Cime are a popular ticket for travellers, but for cyclists, it’s all about the journey.
"The final four kilometres of steep, winding switchbacks have been revered since the first pros battled to the summit in 1967"
The Tre Cime di Lavaredo is among the most epic climbs in the history of the Giro d’Italia. The names of the riders who conquered the stage and made it to the podium is a roll call of cycling greats, from Eddie Merckx and Felice Gimondi, to José Manuel Fuente, Giovanni Battaglin and Luis Herrera.
The scene of a stage finish on seven different occasions, the final four kilometres of steep, winding switchbacks have been revered since the first pros battled to the summit in 1967.
The last winner of a Giro d’Italia stage at the Tre Cime was Vincenzo Nibali – wearing the pink jersey – attacked the formidable climb through a snowstorm, pushing through the treacherous conditions with sheer determination and power.
The 7.5km climb to 2320m is a true rollercoaster ride, with glimpses of nature and gradients close to 20% that will both take your breath away.
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"Indeed, the final kilometres are the crux of this climb, with gradients and scenery that are as abrupt as they are rousing"
The climb begins with the opening kilometre winding up through hairpins at 11% to reach the stunning alpine lake, Lago di Misurina. The gradient softens, allowing you to enjoy the still crystal waters and a moment of reflection before the real challenge begins.
It’s here, following a short descent and flat section, with just four kilometres of the climb remaining, that you’re left with almost as much elevation gain to cover as you started with.
Indeed, the final kilometres are the crux of this climb, with gradients and scenery that are as abrupt as they are rousing. The average grade in this last section is always a two-digits matter, reaching close to 20% in some stretches of road.
After several switchbacks through the forest, the terrain opens up to reveal the true grandeur of this alpine landscape. As you round the final hairpin, muster the strength to sneak a look over your shoulder and witness a view you will never forget, with hairpins twisting down to the crystal lake surrounded by trees, all framed by the high alpine wilderness.
The panorama will keep you spinning and your reward at the top is a spectacular viewing platform with the Tre Cime themselves towering over you.
Undoubtably one of the most iconic and challenging climbs of the Dolomites, the otherworldy views of this UNESCO-listed site are absolutely worth the effort.
THINGS TO SEE:
- Enjoy the view over the lake before the challenge really starts.
- Check out the view at the last switchback to spur you on to the finish line.
- Marvel at the Tre Cime up close at the end of the climb. The peaks, particularly Cima Grande (the middle summit), are steeped in mountaineering folklore.
- As you charge towards Refugio Auronzo in the final stage of the climb, reflect on the history of this iconic hut, which was fire built in 1912, bombed in 1915, destroyed again by fire in 1955 and now stands defiantly as a window to this rich UNESCO-listed area.
Misurina to Tre Cime Di Lavaredo
Elevation Gain: 568m
Max Gradient: 18%