2018 RBC Gran Fondo Whistler, September 8th.
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Switzerland – Europe's Best Kept Cycling Secret

For many decade’s Switzerland has been a mysterious place for the rest of the world. Located in the middle of the European Alps, without access to the sea and circled by Germany, France, Italy and Austria, Switzerland has avoided almost every major conflict during the last century, keeping true to the healthy and peaceful Alpine life - that we all know and dream about …

When you have a chat with your friend about Switzerland, the topic is usually about their brillant engineering, their tasty cheese or chocolate, but what about Cycling?

When you combine Switzerland and Cycling, the first thing that comes to mind would probably be Fabian Cancellara, the Swiss Spartan who has won some of the most iconic bike races in the world  (3 times Paris-Roubaix, 3 times Tour of Flanders and 4 times ITT World Champion.

Then, the Tour of Switzerland and Tour de Romandie should come second as these races are the 2 major stage races in Switzerland and the world.

But what if we asked you if you knew about the hidden treasures of the Furka, Sanetch or even Albula passes?

Top 10 Swiss Alpine Climbs

Here's our list of the Top Ten Swiss Alpine Climbs, for Road Cyclists:

10. COL DE LA CROIX

Start : From Bex
Ascension : 1255 meters
Length : 20.3 km
Average gradient : 6 %
Top : 1,776 meters

On paper, the Col de la Croix seems to be a long and steady climb. But don’t trust these numbers, the Col de la Croix is really a tough one!

The climb could be divided into 5 specific sections. The first, sets a high average difficulty with many sections over 10%. Between Gryon and Villars-sur-Ollon, the gradient becomes much more easier and declines drastically. While leaving Villars, you’ll face a wall just before another flatter section. The last 4 kilometers "ramp" is a steady and twisty road that will take you up 1,776 meters above sea level.

The Col de la Croix will put you in the "Hurt Box" quite a few times, but the view over the Rhone Valley and the Diableret is worth it.

10. COL DE LA CROIX - Top 10 Swiss Alpine Climbs, Switzerland – Cyclings Best Kept Secret - Sponsored by Altitude Training

9. SUSTEN PASS

Ascension : 1032 meters
Length : 14.9 km
Average gradient : 7 %
Top : 2,224 meters

If we had to choose between the West and East side, we’d definitely go with the West side, much more scenic and enjoyable. There is virtually no traffic and the road comes through a number of small tunnels, more than 10. As you make your way up, the view becomes more and more beautiful. Even in the middle of summer, you could find yourself riding between walls of snow at the very top of the pass.

We suggest you to do the loop - Susten - Furka - Grimsel, 120 kilometers with all 3 passes in our top 10.

9. SUSTEN PASS - Top 10 Swiss Alpine Climbs, Switzerland – Cyclings Best Kept Secret

8. GRIMSEL PASS

Start : From Gletsch
Ascension : 389 meters
Length : 6 km
Average gradient : 7 %
Top : 2,165 meters

This is the shortest climb of our top 10. Why would we put such a short climb in the Top10? Honestly we don't know, but you'll always habe that special feeling that you’re flying on a climb like the Grimsel with the amazing views!

Like every climb in Switzerland, the view is breathtaking, but the Grimsel has this little extra something that you can’t explain. If you've already done the Grimsel, you'll probably know what we're talking about.

8. GRIMSEL PASS - Top 10 Swiss Alpine Climbs, Switzerland – Cyclings Best Kept Secret

7. UMBRAIL PASS

Ascension : 1102 meters
Length : 13.0 km
Average gradient : 8 %
Top : 2,501 meters

Passo Umbrail is the highest Swiss pass at just over 2,500 meters in altitude, the top isthe natural border between Switzerland and Italy. This is one of the three ways, undoubtedly the lesser known and lesser crowded route, to get to the top of the Stelvio Pass, one of the most iconic climbs in Europe.

As always in Switzerland, the road is perfectly surfaced, but what makes the Umbrail a true charm is the 2 kilometer gravel section in the middle of the pass. A Strade Bianche taste in the middle of the Alps. Lovely !

7. UMBRAIL PASS - Top 10 Swiss Alpine Climbs, Switzerland – Cyclings Best Kept Secret

6. ALBULA PASS

Ascension : 1310 meters
Length : 22.6 km
Average gradient : 6 %
Top : 2,312 meters

Starting from Filisur, the Albula is a long and beautiful climb, never too steep nor too difficult, and goes through several typical Swiss villages.

The most gorgeous section is probably the section that goes under the Albula Railway bridges, which is a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site, right after Bergün.

6. ALBULA PASS - Top 10 Swiss Alpine Climbs, Switzerland – Cyclings Best Kept Secret

5. GROSSE SCHEIDEGG

Ascension : 1246 meters
Length : 18.3 km
Average gradient : 7 %
Top : 1,962 meters

If you’re a Professional road racing fan and especially like Peter Sagan, you might remember the incredible descent he did, to close the gap to Damiano Cunego and take a stage win. That was back in 2011, and he was only 21.

The most scenic part of the Grosse Scheidegg is the west side, starting in the small village of Grindelwald. The road is closed to all vehicles, except for the local bus, and therefore, is very very quiet. The pass becomes steeper after the first half and the average percent doesn't drop under 10%. A truly epic climb!

5. GROSSE SCHEIDEGG - Top 10 Swiss Alpine Climbs, Switzerland – Cyclings Best Kept Secret

4. NUFENEN PASS

Ascension : 1108 meters
Length : 12.8 km
Average gradient : 9 %
Top : 2,480 meters

A true giant, the second highest paved road in Switzerland. It doesn’t get anymore Swiss than this.

From the quiet Alpine valley in the first third, the vegetation gives way to a rockier, more menacing mountainous terrain. The road steepens. The few last kilometers are fun, with plenty of hairpins, that'll  make you forget the 8 - 9% gradients!

If you have the motivation, we suggest you to do the extra 2 kilometers detour to the dam if it’s clear of snow - you won’t regret it !

Towards the north is a spectacular view of the Bernese Alps, notably the Finsteraarhorn while there is a view over the Gries Glacier to the south. There are many peaks over 4,000 meters high and it feels like you're on a plane rather than standing 2,500 metres above sea level.

4. NUFENEN PASS - Top 10 Swiss Alpine Climbs, Switzerland – Cyclings Best Kept Secret

3. FURKA PASS

Ascension : 894 meters
Length : 12.2 km
Average gradient : 7 %
Top : 2,429 meters

Featured in the James Bond film Goldfinger, the Furka Pass is one of the most iconic roads in Switzerland.

Our favorite side is the from east, starting from Realp. After a twisty first half, the road straightens, you’ll have a glimpse at the top of Furka for the rest of the ascent. If you’re lucky enough to have a tail wind, the second half will seem a lot easier!

The famous Hotel Belvedere is located on the upper slopes and serves a great cup of coffee.

3. FURKA PASS - Top 10 Swiss Alpine Climbs, Switzerland

2. ST GOTTHARD

Ascension : 895 meters
Length : 14 km
Average gradient : 6 %
Top : 2,108 meters

The old Tremola (Old Shaky in Italian) is unsurprisingly near the top of the list, but it was hard to settle first place.

Mostly made of cobbles that date back to Roman times, this is climb like no other in the world!

The cobbles are very well maintained, smooth and are a lot of fun to ride ! La Tremola is never too hard, never too steep and offers epic views after every switchback, no matter where you look.

The combination of cobbles, the landscape and the sounds of the bells from the few cows along the roadside,.makes this a true charm also called Saint Gotthard.

The fourth longest road tunnel in the world diverts away most of the traffic, the road is almost traffic free, and these days, this is something really enjoyable.

Every year it’s cleared of snow and maintained in pristine condition. Experiencing this climb and the views from the top is like no other in cycling.

For any self respecting col climber or Alpine junkie - this has to be on your Bucket list!

2. ST GOTTHARD - Top 10 Swiss Alpine Climbs, Switzerland – Cyclings Best Kept Secret

1. COL DU SANETCH

Ascension : 1692 meters
Length : 24.6 km
Average gradient : 7 %
Top : 2,242 meters

And the winner is… Col du Sanetch!

The stats are comparable to the classic Passo Stelvio, the difference is the climb is a dead end. Yes, you read that correctly, so why does this climb makle our number 1, in front of St Gotthard?

First of all, since this is a dead end, the traffic is almost non-existent, making your ascent very relaxed. On reaching 2,000 meters in altitude, you’ll have to travel through a  narrow, dark and wet tunnel, that's 800 meters long. The first few meters are done in complete darkness - until the motion detection lights switch on.

Yes, this is Switzerland! Brillant!

Once you reach the top, keep riding for 5 kilometers slightly downhill and you'll reach the beautiful dam. This is the end of the road my friends.

You’ll have two options, first going back down the way you came, or secondly, and way more fun, take the cable car to Gsteig, to the other side of the mountain!

1. COL DU SANETCH - Top 10 Swiss Alpine Climbs, Switzerland – Cyclings Best Kept Secret

Bucket List Dreams

Whilst France and Italy are more widely known for famous cycling climbs, Switzerland, really is cycling’s best kept secret.

The Swiss hospitality, the engineering, the perfect, quiet and well maintained roads are like no where else in Europe.

The gastronomy and the unbelievable scenery wherever you look, are the reasons that cyclist’s "in the know" love Switzerland so much.

So if you’ve been there, done that, on the Alpine Highways and have already ticked off many of the famous climbs like Alpe d’Huez, the Galibier or even the mighty Stelvio, then Switzerland is made for you!

 
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