After a really tough few days of riding around beautiful Bormio, a slightly weary group set off at 7am, bound for the summit of the passo Forcola and a 125km loop that also included; passo Eira, passo Foscagno and the famous mountain town of Livigno. After a very cruisy dowhill ride to breakfast at Tirano, the climbing began in earnest. When you include the uphill drag fo Poschiavo, the ride from Tirano to the Forcola summit is 34km of climbing.
All of the group did themselves proud and reached the summit smiling, before a fast downhill plunge to Livigno for a well-earned lunch. Two more climbs, both around 6km, brought us to the summit of Foscagno, from which it is an amazing 28km downhill back to Bormio. Another great day and the collective tiredness in the group may make tomorrows double ascent oof the Gavia, a real challenge, as if it wasn't hard enough already.
Rated the third hardest climb in professional cycling, the mighty Mortirolo (from Mazzo) was the main obstacle in our ride today and justifiably had the group a little nervous at the morning coffee meeting. Our ride started with the stunning road down through the Valtelina valley, almost entirely downhill for 29kms to the small village of Mazzo, made famous by the fact that it marks the start of one of the most famous climbs in world cycling.
The climb itself is around 12km long and averages just over 11%, but it is the long ramps at 18-20% that present the real challenge on this brute. The road is super narrow and today the surface was a little wet, making it difficult to get traction at times. Most climb this "hill" out of the saddle and all riders today had compact cranks fitted with cassettes sporting 28 or 30T rings. None of us threatened Ivan Gotti's climb record, or Pantani's time of 40:20 (note, Contador climbed the Mortirolo in 43:45 this year in the Giro). Also interesting to note that Pantani rode a 39/22, on his way to winning the stage of the Giro in 1994.
Brad was the quickest today with 1:07 and every rider did themselves proud and reached the summit smiling and as happy as cyclists in Italy. We took the descent down to Grosio (there are a few choices) and what an incredible ride it was with superb views of the mountains and valley.
After a quick lunch in the valley we tapped back up through the valley to Bormio for a well earned afternoon of "recovery". Tomorrow it's the Bernina Pass loop and a look at beautiful Livigno.
There are few mountains in cycling that inspire like the magical Passo Dello Stelvio, It is close to the highest pass in the alps, but in the beauty stakes there are very few that compare. Today our group set off from Bormio with near perfect weather and for those who don't know, the Bormio side of the Stelvio is superb, 22km at 7.3% with character that changes regularly as you climb. The crew reached the top, all bar two for the first time ever, and the summit was a trophy nobody will ever forget. The summit of the Stelvio is like a small town, restaurants and souvenir shops everywhere!
After a short break and an espresso, we headed down the other side, each rider with a different turn point designed to allow some experience of the classic side of the climb. Most turned at Trafoi, climbing 15km back to the summit, at 9%, some brave soldiers however went all the way down to Prato, to take on the 27km climb back to the summit. The Prato side of the Stelvio is unique in all of cycling and every rider on the planet should try to ride it at least once. I know for a fact our group will remember for all of their days.
Special mentions to Eddy, riding seriously for only a few years and summitted like a pro, and Gordo who crashed heavily only 5 days ago, back on the bike today and bagged the summit twice. Thanks to all for making it a day to remember.
I will let the photos speak for themselves.!
Brian Bubba Cooke
Exercise Physiologist, coach & cycling tragic for 30 years. Love the freedom, reward and sense of achievement that one can only experience in our amazing sport.