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Cycling In Italy – Stelvio

There are a few places every cyclist dreams of riding, and seeing as by some twist of fate I’ve ended up living in the Italian Alps, I thought I’d take the opportunity to tick a few of those rides off my checklist. So after a full-on week of work, feeling totally shattered, Dave and I dragged ourselves out of bed to ride up a really steep hill for a couple hours and make our legs and lungs hurt. It’s funny the things cyclists find appealing – pain, sweat and struggle for instance. No wonder people think we’re wierdos.

Passo Di Stelvio is one of the most iconic climbs in Europe, not only because it’s a serious challenge but also just because the road looks so damn nice as it coils it’s way up the mountain. A series of switchbacks winds it’s way out of the valley all the way up to a height of 2757m, where you’re rewarded with views of Italy on one side and Switzerland on the other side of the pass. It’s the second highest col in the Alps! See, I told you cyclists are weird – we find roads exciting.

Dave and I took on the pass from the Bormio side, the ‘less famous’ side, so once we reached the top we rode down and up the North side a bit as it looked really cool and it seemed a shame not to. I believe that the Bormio (South) side actually works out steeper as it includes a flat section in the middle, so the hairpins are steeper to make up for it. The North side has hairpins all the way but I think they are a slightly lower gradient.

So that’s the Italian side of Stelvio ticked off my list – obviously I need to go back and do the whole thing from the other side, so where should we go next?

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As always, photos of Dave by yours truly, and photos of me by Dave

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Comments (4)
  1. Andy Powers October 20, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    I think the north side of the Stelvio is harder, as it starts at a lower altitude and the first 5 kms or so are relatively benign, before it hits a long section where it rarely drops below 8% average.

    Both sides are epic though.

    Some other great cols in the area are the Gavia, especially the southern side from Ponte di Legno; the Mortirolo, which is fearsomely steep and the Bernina towards St Moritz. I’m sure there are others though, it’s such a great area to ride.

  2. Juliet_Elliott October 23, 2014 at 11:11 am

    Ah I see, that’s interesting. I wonder if it depends on whether you prefer a steady hard slog or some very steep bits mixed in with the flatter bits, like on the Bormio side. I definitely want to try the North side too. It’s just snowed over here though, so I’m not sure whether it will have to wait until next year.

    I’ll add the Gavia, Montirolo and the Bernina to my list too. I’ve just ordered a more mountain friendly cassette which should help – sometimes it’s so steep around here that I can barely turn the pedals!

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