For thousands of years, intrepid spirits have crossed the Pyrenees, Alps, and Dolomites—from Hannibal with his mighty elephant herd to the campaigns of Charlemagne and the humble treks undertaken by medieval pilgrims. Today, you’ll see spandex in place of chainmail all over these ranges as cyclists challenge themselves to conquer the bucket-list giants. Yet so many are stuck on the same well-known climbs, never to venture into unknown territory.
On any sunny summer day, the Alpe d’Huez is a carbon magnet attracting thousands of cyclists. But also on this busy stretch of pavement are holiday travelers speeding past the cyclists finally fulfilling a lifelong dream. Don’t get us wrong—the ride is beautiful and the graffiti-covered road is a kind of tribal rune recording some of cycling’s greatest moments, but believe us when we say there are better Cols out there. Our favorite unknown climbs will show you the hidden sides of the Pyrenees, Alps, and Dolomites—and you may even like them better.