Saturday, June 18, 2011
Stelvio Pass June 16 2011
The camp was electric with excitement this morning over the climb up the Stelvio pass. It is one of the most renown climbs in the world so everyone was wired over today’s ride.
We were camped 25 kms from the start of the pass and I was off as early as I could as I wanted to be over the pass by noon. The first 25 kms took me along a bike path which was very well paved and marked. I arrived at the entrance to the pass at 9:10 so I had under three hours to make my goal. It was 25 kms to the top of the Stelvio. We started at 550 meters and the pass is at 2760 meters. There are a total 48 hair pin switch backs on the climb and they are all sign posted and they count down to the top. The first few are a long way apart so it seems like you are not making any progress. Ten kms in to the climb I stopped and ate an energy bar which sure helped as I had been grinding away for close to an hour by then. I ground away past a bunch more switchbacks but the numbers were still only in the thirty’s. We have now entered the clouds and it is very foggy. After about two hours of grinding I still have 8 kms to go. It started to rain so I stopped and put on my rain suit. I am sure glad I found it back in Rome. The numbers are now down to the low teens and you can see the summit. However is really steep and each switch back seems steeper than the last. Fortunately there are lots of photo opportunities so you can stop often. Finally I am at the top.
It is bitter cold and pouring rain. Bike Dreams have taken over a restaurant at the top where we have lunch. They have a huge fire going and I change out of my wet gear into dry stuff. There are a lot of small shops all selling souvenirs and cycle jerseys. So I picked out a jersey. It is great! It has the picture of the Stelvio on it.
It stops raining and I jump on the bike and head off as there is still 43 kms to go and a really steep decent to deal with. It is cold and wet on the road down and in places so foggy you cannot see 50 feet. There are a bunch of tunnels and more switch backs on the decent however they are much easier to deal with on the down hill.
We are in a very nice little hotel to night in Grosio. Tomorrow is last day of the Bella Italia ride and we then have two rest days before the Alps tour starts.
What an exciting day.