The little-known Grosse Oscheniksee in Austria may be tougher than Zoncolan
Calling any climb "the hardest" will always invoke some degree of protest and argument. That said, I am going ahead with this post anyway, bring it on I say.
There are many difficult climbs in Europe, some are famous and others quite obscure, climbed by very few. There are of course the iconics, that carry a notoriety enhanced by both their frequent appearances on the grand stages of professional cycling AND the fact that many "punters" have ridden them (and are only too keen to tell you just how hard they are). Then there are the more closely guarded secrets that lay in wait, climbs of legend, known mostly by the locals that are convinced theirs is the hardest of them all, the mighty Grosse Oscheniksee, in the Austrian Alps is one such beast.
Gauging the difficulty of any hill often comes down to how the rider feels on the day that he / she rides it, good legs / bad legs. So in order to get a feel for just how tough the "Osch" is, we will look at the stats comparison with the brutally hard Montee Zoncolan in the Carnic Alps (Italy), which is considered by most as the hardest climb in professional cycling (and is known to many).
The Zoncolan is 10.2km long (the more difficult ascent from Ovaro) at an average gradient of 11.9%. The altitude at the top is 1730m. Now take the "Osch" which is 16.9km long at an average of 9.1%, BUT the final 12km are at an average gradient of 12.2% AND the altitude at the summit is 2334m!! The maximum gradient on the Zoncolan is 24%, whilst the steepest bends on the Osch are 28%. Both are tough (very tough), but it would be hard to argue that the Osch didn't have the edge.
And by the way, there IS in fact a harder road to the Zoncolan summit than the famous ascent from Ovaro. It is the original road up and was only sealed in 2006. It starts in the town of Priola, climbs for 9km at a leg-breaking (possibly literally) average of 13%!! A new contender emerges perhaps?
Enjoy the ride.
Brian "Bubba" Cooke
Lifelong (almost) cyclist, exercise physiologist and above-all-else just love riding my bike. Been lucky enough to ride some of the world's most epic roads and now live on the beautiful Gold Coast, hidden gem of Australian cycling.