In any other part of the world, Cancano would be the headline climb. However, Cancano, in the heart of the Italian Alps, situated next to the Gavia, Foscagno & Stelvio and as a result is often overlooked. However, with 17 hairpins in just over 4 kilometres and an incredible view at the top, this is an absolute must-ride if you are in the area.
When to ride Cancano
There are a few ways to get to the bottom of the climb through the small villages outside of Bormio in the Italian Alps. The climb is an out-and-back leading up to a stunning turquoise lake. There is a loop road around the lake but the tarmac ends close to the top of the climb and the lake circuit is loose gravel. The summit is at almost 2,000 metres, with peak season taking place between late-May to late-September (though it is possible to ride this climb in October on a good day). In 2019 the Stelvio Santini used the Cancano as the final climb due to the traditional route being unpassable and in 2020 the climb made its Giro debut as a stage finish. Cancano is well on the way to firmly establishing itself on the cycling map.
Riding the Cancano
Being an out-and-back this is usually ridden on a rest day (maybe with another climb of Bormio 2000) or combined with a loop to Livigno over the Passo Foscagno. From Bormio you start on the main valley road and climb past the start of the Stelvio and up to Premadio until you pass the Fior d’Alpe restaurant and turn right onto the Via Cancano.
The climb kicks off with four hairpins in quick succession at a gradient of about 7%. Similar to Alpe d’Huez the corners are flat and there are chances to take a wide line and increase your cadence before the next ramp. The road surface is mostly very good but it can get fairly narrow, meaning cars behind can take time to pass.
After the first four hairpins, the road heads straight up for 3km with nice views down in to the valley below. The gradients go over 8% which is the steepest part of the climb. Then at around 5km, you hit the main part of the Cancano, the 17 climbs in 4km. This section is relatively easy-ranging from 3 to 7%, again with gentle corners meaning you are never far away from an opportunity to pick up your pace. At the top of the hairpins you ride through two short (but dark) tunnels until you reach the tower. This is a great spot to take a picture. From here, keep going past the first small lake and grab a coffee and cake at the cafe by Lago di Cancano.
At just under 10km, this is a great warm up ride with steady gradients and no steep sections. It is one of the most picturesque climbs out there and a perfect easier ride in between a Stelvio & Gavia day!