VeloNews Mailbag: What gear ratio did the WorldTour riders use on Monte Zoncolan?
You have questions about the Giro d’Italia and we have answers! Well, we have informed opinions and access to the people who have the answers. Got a burning question in mind? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll direct your request to professional riders, WorldTour mechanics and other insiders. Today we are talking about Monte Zoncolan and the gear ratios used by riders on the very steep climb. Also, are there climbs in North America as difficult as Zoncolan?
Ah, Monte Zoncolan, the super-steep climb that thrills even the world’s fastest cyclists with fear.
Zoncolan – the Italian answer to the Spanish Alto de l’Angliru – has grown in popularity over the past two decades, and the climb is now recognized as one of the few more difficult climbs used in WorldTour races. The last few miles have lots of ramps over 20 percent, and the entire climb is almost 4,000 feet in total elevation gain.
If you missed last Saturday’s stage 14, which ended at the top of Zoncolan, I suggest you look for the replay on GCN +. You will see amazing faces of agony in the final throws of the climb.
Now we all know WorldTour riders can turn big gears, but the time to watch professional riders climb 42 × 19 are long gone. These days, even the best climbers in the peloton often opt for huge rear sprockets and even compact front chainrings for very steep climbs like Monte Zoncolan.
And that’s the goal of today’s mailbag. We had several questions on Monte Zoncolan this week, and you wanted to know what gear ratios WorldTour riders use on climbs like this.
What gear ratios did professional pilots use on the Monte Zoncolan?
Trek-Segafredo riders, all of whom use SRAM eTap, opted for a compact gearing up front and larger-than-normal cogs in the rear. The team reached Stage 14 with 50/37 chainrings up front and a rear cassette that went from 10 to 33, which is part of SRAM’s X-Range gear line.
So the riders tackled the steep climb with a 37 × 33 as the lightest gear, which is a gear ratio that most mountain bikers would appreciate.
I also posed this question to Larry Warbasse at AG2R-Citröen. The team is on Campagnolo, and just like Trek-Segafredo, they used an extremely friendly ratio. And Campagnolo’s 12 speed also allows for large cassettes.
“Yes, so we are driving on Campagnolo which is 12 speed and the standard cassette is 11-32 which is big enough already. The only thing we changed from that was I put a 36 tooth [chainring], so I made a 36 × 32 and then I rode on the tubular wheels because they are a little lighter. I went with the 50mm deep Bora wheels. And then the tubulars are a little lighter. I rode tubeless for most of the race.
Were you using 36 × 32?
“Oh yeah. The last 3 miles were really steep. You were grinding in 36×32. If I had had a bigger cassette I would have used it.
So there you have it, guys, Monte Zoncolan is a climb that will reduce the strongest runners in the world to using gear ratios that you could use to ride your local climb.
Hey, here’s a bonus question on Zoncolan.
Are there any climbs in North America that resemble Monte Zoncolan?
The short answer is ‘No’, of course, because the roads of the Italian Alps are truly individual in world cycling.
That said, the length and sustained slope of the Zoncolan is rare, but not unheard of in North America. Here’s what Larry Warbasse had to say.
“I’ve done climbs in Hawaii. There is one called Kaloko Drive [Editor’snote:63milesat88%)[editor’snote:63milesat88percent)[Notedel’éditeur:63milesà88%)[editor’snote:63milesat88percent)it is really difficult. It’s probably not that far in terms of incline. It’s like 10 km at 10% with sections at 20%. That one could be just as difficult. It’s on the Big Island, just outside of Kona.
The Italian Alps or Hawaii – where would you rather suffer on a bike? In my opinion, one or the other is a good choice.