UP THE BLOCKHAUS
Ten things you should know about the Blockhaus
It’s the toughest climb in the Apennines, the mountainous ridge that stretches the length of Italy, but Blockhaus shares little of the limelight of its peers in the Dolomites. It’s a mountain for the quietly determined and is steeped in cycling history.
1: Eddy Merckx won his first grand tour stage victory on the Blockhaus in 1967. He went on to name a bike after it in 2015.
2: Merckx’s win marked the first appearance of the mountain in the Giro d’Italia. The mountain also featured in 2017, the 50th anniversary of the mountain’s inclusion.
3: Geraint Thomas and Mikel Landa barely made it to the foothills of Blockhaus on the 2017 Giro d’Italia – as the peloton made its way towards the mountain they collided with a stationary police motorbike, forcing Thomas to retire from the race.
4: The Giro has visited the Blockhaus six times, most recently in the 2017 tour.
5: The Blockhaus has an average gradient of 7.3 per cent, but soon hits between 12 and 14 per cent and has the honour of being one of the toughest ascents in the whole of Europe. Most of the ascent is more than 8 per cent, with little respite.
6: Much of the mountain is unmade rural back road and a lot of it is not much more than goat track.
7: Because this is a road up a mountain rather than a pass, few people venture up it, which makes it a haven for wildlife. Deer, boar, foxes and chamois are all inhabitants of the slopes, as well as the slightly more unnerving wolves and even bears.
8: It’s a 28km ascent from Scafa-Lettomanoppello but it’s the 2,038m of near continuous vertical climbing that gets you.
9: There are three routes up, each with its own challenges. The 2017 Giro took the route up from Roccamorice, which is considered the toughest option by Dario Cataldo of Astana, a native of nearby Lanciano.
10: The mountain’s vigorous name has its roots in the 19th century, and stems from the Hapsburg Empire’s military influence in the area. They stationed a garrison at the block house, where they were perfectly placed to monitor the surrounding countryside for smugglers.