Tour of Turkey monster climb tougher than Mont Ventoux, Angliru and Zoncolan

Mount Babadağ is heaven for paragliders and hell for cyclists

Aerial map of Babadag mountain with mountain profile embedded
(Image credit: Strava/LaFlammeRouge)

On Tuesday afternoon, the peloton at the Tour of Turkey will scale one of the hardest climbs ever featured in a professional bike race. 

Mount Babadağ - which towers over the Mediterranean sea at almost 2,000m altitude - will host the finale of the race’s third stage, following two days contested in sprints.

To reach the summit, the peloton will begin at sea level and climb 18.1km at a leg-sapping average gradient of 10.3%. 

What’s more, the surface of the climb is uneven, with large sections laid with bricks, others unpaved, and maximum gradients reaching in excess of 20%.

This makes Mount Babadağ one of the toughest ascents in global cycling. 

"I think it speaks for itself," UAE Team Emirates rider Jay Vine told Cycling Weekly in Turkey. "You don't want to go over your limit. The climb's going to be 90 minutes long. It's by no means a short climb. 

"Most of the finishing climbs in the Grand Tours this year have been 45 minutes, maybe 50 minutes." 

To categorise climbs at the Tour de France, race organiser ASO uses a simple formula, multiplying the distance by the average gradient squared. 

A climb must score more than 600 points for hors catégorie status at the Grand Tour. Using the same formula, Babadağ comes in at an astonishing 1,920. 

Mont Ventoux, by way of comparison scores 1,233 points, while the Angliru, Spain’s toughest ascent, yields 1,223. 

Perhaps one of the only climbs that comes close in difficulty is Italy’s Monte Zoncolan - 10km in length at around 12% - which comes in at 1,440 using ASO’s formula, still over 400 short of the Turkish giant. 

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According to the Tour of Turkey race manual, Babadağ is a hotspot for paragliding enthusiasts, but the reserve of only “mountain goats” by bicycle. The organisers say the ascent will make for “the most difficult stage” of this year’s race, despite the day only spanning 104km. 

The Strava segment for the entire climb has only been attempted by 22 people, with the KOM standing at 2 hours and three minutes. The person who holds this course record managed an average speed of just 8.8km/h. 

Other Strava users have climbed sections of the mountain, but stopped short of the summit, where cycling is generally not permitted.  

Jasper Philipsen won the first two stages of the Tour of Turkey, which began in Antalya on Sunday. Mark Cavendish is also present at the race, and shared an Instagram story on Tuesday morning showing a fearful expression, with Babadağ looming over his shoulder. 

The stage is expected to finish at around 14:30 UK time (15:30 CET), with the finish line drawn at the mountain’s summit. 

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