Velo News

  1. Home » VeloList: The top 10 climbers of all time » 2. Charly Gaul

2. Charly Gaul

There are two things that Luxembourg does not have: high mountains and a deep pool of cycling talent. Nevertheless, in the days of national teams, Luxembourger Charly Gaul rode above the din of team politics to become one of the defining climbers of his generation.

Give Gaul a cold, wet, snowy day in the mountains and he was untouchable. If the weather was the opposite, so too was his form, as he often wilted into obscurity. He pioneered a high-cadence climbing technique that others could not comprehend, let alone imitate.

Because of his penchant for climbing, Gaul focused almost exclusively on the tours of France and Italy. At the 1956 Giro, he erased a 16-minute margin to race leader Pasquale Fornara in a single, 14-kilometer climb to the summit of Monte Bondone. As the snow began to fall, and temperatures began to plummet, riders fell by the wayside — some, literally, into roadside ditches. In the final four kilometers he was all alone; by the finish he was in the lead. Though he looked unscathed on the bike, he later needed to be cut from his jersey; he confessed he didn’t remember the last three kilometers of the climb.

An instant legend. The “Angel of the Mountains.” Photo: AFP