Great Climbs: The Manghen Pass

What we are going to describe is one of the longest and hardest climbs in the Alps, part of the route of the Sportful Dolomiti Race (better known as Granfondo Sportful) and, for 2019, the key climb inside the 20th stage of the 102° Giro D’Italia. The last appointment for climbers before the stage in Verona, where the winner of the Giro D’Italia 2019 will be decided.

Manghen Pass

We are talking about the road from Borgo Valsugana/Molina di Fiemme to Passo Manghen, located in the Lagorai chain in south-eastern Trentino. The climb from Borgo Valsugana (the one we are going to describe today) is 23.4 kilometers long and has an average gradient of 7%, although the last 7 kilometers are the most challenging with an average gradient of 9.5% and with peaks of 15%. The climb from Molina di Fiemme, on the other hand, is the one that is the shortest in terms of kilometres, 16.4 kilometres at an average gradient of 7.5%, but it is always the final stretch that makes the difference: another 8 kilometres at an average gradient of 9.5%.

The road that leads from Borgo Valsugana to the top of the pass was built in 1958 on the route of an old mule track and in total it measures 1600 meters of elevation gain. For those who climb up from Valsugana, the Manghen pass takes you to the village of Borgo. The first 4 kilometres are easy to reach and with quite steep climbs; while, immediately after the Telve crossroads, you enter the forest and it begins a slightly more demanding stretch of road.

After about 8 km you can breathe for a short stretch of road. These are the two kilometres that anticipate the start of the real climb, which in some places has slopes of around 13%. The effort is made, in fact, feel in the heart of Val Calamento, a place as much suffered as enchanted by the frame of characteristic pastures and huts.

You have to pedal for another 4 kilometres to arrive on a short and useful plateau that is nothing more than the preamble to the last, very hard, stretch. There are 7 kilometers that seem to never end. In the end the climb offers no coolness, no shade, but only an endless “tongue” of asphalt that inevitably leads to great satisfaction: the classic sign with the words “Passo del Manghen – m 2042 a.s.l.“.

A little bit of history…

The Manghen Pass was included for the first time in 1976 in the route of the Giro d’Italia; to be precise, in the Vigo di Fassa – Comano Terme stage, where Luciano Conati won the stage. That day the pink jersey was worn by John De Muynck and the final winner of the lap was our Felice Gimondi. This was the only time that the pass was climbed from Molina di Fiemme and, moreover, on a dirt road.

In 1996, twenty years later, on the Marostica-Passo Pordoi stage, the Manghen was climbed from Borgo Valsugana. The stage winner was Enrico Zaina (Carrera Jeans). At the end of the stage the pink jersey was worn by the Spaniard Abraham Olano and the final victory of the lap was Pavel Tonkov (Panaria). For the record, Mariano Piccoli, a cyclist from Trentino, was the first to pass the mountain grand prix and won, for the second year, the classification of climbers: the green jersey.

Giro d’Italia 2012

Three years later, in 1999, the pink caravan inserted the Manghen Pass in the Castelfranco Veneto-Alpe di Pampeago. That day Marco Pantani (Mercatone Uno) was the first to pass the GPM and won the stage wearing the pink jersey; that year Ivan Gotti (Team Polti) won the 82nd Giro d’Italia.

The Manghen pass was later faced in 2008 in the Verona-Alpe di Pampeago, with stage victory to Emanuele Sella (CSF Group) and pink jersey to Gabriele Bosisio (LPR Brakes). Tour won by Alberto Contador (Astana).

The last passage of the pink caravan on the Manghen Pass was in 2012. That year Roman Kriuzigher (Astana) won the stage of Manghen (Treviso – Alpe di Pampeago) while the pink jersey was on the shoulders of Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha). In the end, the Giro d’Italia saw the Canadian Ryder Heisedal (Garmin) as an unexpected winner.

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