Climbing the Stelvio Pass (both sides).
Posted on October 16 2017
Climbing the Stelvio Pass
A few of us were lucky enough to ride the Stelvio Pass one day in August this year. Standing at 2758m above sea level its an absolute err 'mountain' of a mountain. The second largest in Europe. Our base was Prato Allo Stelvio (Agumes), the ascent from this side is the most photographed and like the photos suggest, is truly epic to ride. Your 24km of hurt starts on the Strada Stelvio 38. The road rises gently out of town, shaded by the trees and you're calmed by the ambient sound of mountain melt water rushing down the river beside you. The air is crisp and clean, and as the trees part, the sun is warm and encouraging. You notice then the road rising more but its a number of kilometres of perseverance before the epic series of switch backs reveal themselves. With me for company was our new Saddle Pack which is ideal for long days in the saddle. Jersey pockets need to be freed up for food on days like these!
Fassa saddle pack in Camo' with spare tube, lever, gel and bike tool
If you've never climbed a large mountain a top tip is not to bite off more than you can chew, visually. If you dare look at the top when you're only half way up you'll surely fail. Better to think about the next switch back or as the climb continues, just the next few metres in front of you. Talking of switch backs there are 48 so don't rush them, enjoy each one as they come to you!
Top of the Stelvio looking back down towards Prato Allo Stelvio/Agumes
The top of the Stelvio offers an incredible view both back down the way you climbed and also onwards to Bormio. The fast food kiosks at the top spoil the view, so after a few photos we descended down to Bormio for healthier refreshments.
On the Stelvio descending to Bormio
And what a descent! Approximately 30 minutes of smooth twisting tarmac in the most incredible scenery. It's on this descent that you find the famous tunnels, the fear of many pro cyclists (Including Brian Smith) in their pre-lit days. Today they have lighting but they are still intimidating and each tunnel offers up technical challenges in terms of speed, cornering, length and shadows.
Looking back at one of the many tunnels
Once in Bormio head to the paved side streets where you'll find many coffee shops, restaurants and ice cream parlours to choose from as well as fresh mountain water fill up points.
I found the ascent from the Bormio side less challenging, it's less steep in average gradient (7.1% v 7.7%) and slightly shorter (21.5km v 23.9km) but for me the big difference is the road surface, which is smooth and less draggy.
Once back on the top of the Stelvio, a brief stop to once more soak in the view before donning the gilet on before descending back down to Prato Allo Stelvio/Agmes. This is something every rider needs to experience, it's spoilt in places with the condition of the road, but as you enter the wooded section and enter the town you can't help feel a 'bit like a pro' having just ridden both sides of a climb that is twice the height of the highest point in Britain.