Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Greatest cycling climbs #13 Colle dell'Agnello (Col Agnel)

The Col Agnel and the border (photo: Touho Häkkinen)


Location: Piemonte, Cottian Alps, Italy/France
Altitude: 2744 m
Length from Casteldelfino: 21.3 km
Height difference: 1452 m
Average gradient: 6.8 % (Max: 15 %)

Colle dell'Agnello/Col Agnel links the Queyras valley (Hautes-Alpes) with Pontechianale in the province of Cuneo, Piedmont. It is the third highest paved road pass of the Alps, after Stelvio Pass and Col de l'Iseran.

The ascent is somewhat harder from the Italy side. The tough part starts from Casteldelfino Dam. Starting the climb down from from Sampèyre the total length is 31,5 km while the height difference is 1785 m. You will go up the valley via Sampèyre (959 m). At Casteldelfino (1296 m) it gets a bit steeper, but it is first at Chianale (1797 m) that it gets really steep. There is a part climbing with around 15 % gradient and that makes this side really tough. It is not often that these really high alpine pass roads have that steep sections. The road is broad and surface is fine all the way.

Climbing the ascent from the French side and starting from Château-Queyras, the climb is 20.5 km long at an average gradient of 6.6 %.

Despite being the highest international pass of the Alps, Colle dell'Agnello/Col Agnel is somewhat unknown and it has not been much used in the major cycling tours.  Not many cycling people thus know this great summit that well.

Huge views from the Colle dell'Agnello (photo: Touho Häkkinen)

Surprising, but Tour de France has climbed the Colle dell'Agnello only twice, with following riders taking the summit first: 2008 Egoi Martínez (ESP) and 2011 Maxim Iglinsky (KAZ).Giro d'Italia has visited the Colle dell'Agnello/Col Agnel only once. That was in 2007 when Yoann Le Boulanger from France made the top first.

One of our Z brothers has done the Colle dell'Agnello climb. Oopee Z has comments from 2011:
"This was another killer for the big boy sitting on the Bianchi saddle. I did not yet have my gearing done easier and the 15 % gradient sign at Chianale  almost took the guts off me. Slow and with cadence about 50 and all the torque I could find in my skinny legs I finally passed the steep parts. The cows beside the tarmac were standing skew and staring me obviously amused. When approaching the top I decided to make an instant move and contact a local cycle guru in Briançon - I needed a large cog behind. Well down I got a 30T and that made my Alpe d'Huez attack two days later easy and fun as dancing in the fire. However, the Colle dell'Agnello hero in our group was the photo specialist, Mr. Touho "Martti" Häkkinen, started his cycling from Verzuolo and reached the Colle dell'Agnello some 60 km later, with more that 2300 m of height difference. Respect!"

In Tour de France 2011 the Colle dell'Agnello was the first HC mountain during the incredible monster day, 200,5 km finishing via Col d'Izoard and all the  way to the top of the Col du Galibier.

The monster stage, Tour de France 2012.


  1. Anonymous30/5/14 21:12

    The Ascend to Agnello starts in fact from Piasco (or surroundings) and gives some 56 km of climbing. Colle del Agnello is a killer but also a hidden beauty among the passes. Made it last year.

  2. I will be in France in mid-October, and would love to ride it. Will it still be open at this time of the year? Thanks.