Sep 04
Published by johnb In Blog 3 Comments

Some of y’all know I moved to Salzburg Austria like a year ago. I have slowly started to enjoy climbing. It still hurts like a bitch, but …I love it. There is just no other option here.

Last weekend my riding pal Boban and I decided to drive about 4.5 hours south into Italy to hit up three of the most infamous climbs in the world – Stelvio, Gavia, and Mortirolo.

Here is a quick write up with pictures on how it all went down:

Saturday at 530am
I leave Salzburg and pick up Boban at his place in Marktschellenberg, Germany.
Load Bikes. Hit road. Eat some muffins with an American flag on the package.

Saturday at 8am
Arrive in Innsbruck Austria. Make wrong turn and drive 30 minutes before noticing. Take a detoured route. Get stuck in traffic.

Saturday 12pm
Arrive at the bottom of the north-side of Stelvio Pass. We originally were going to drive to Bormio then ride Mortirolo and Gavia on Saturday and Stelvio on Sunday.

We soon find out we can’t get to Bormio today…because it happens to be Bike Free day on Stelvio! FUCK YES! Park the car, change, watch a ton of Ferraris get turned away from the most desired driving road on the planet.

Saturday 1230pm
We begin our ascent, all 48 hairpin turns. There are thousands of cyclists (mainly Freds) on the climb today.

Things we saw climbing Stelvio:
woman pushing older woman in a wheel-chair
5 year old kid on bike with training wheels
roller bladers
dude towing his kid on a trailer
chick with her bike tied to her boyfriends seatpost, him tugging her up
old woman in a sports bra

The climb starts really easy…nice 5-6% grade. Nothing serious. You see the open glacier after about 3km into the ascent. It is breathtaking.

Saturday 2pm
We really took our time up the climb. I forgot to clean the soap out of my water bottles so I was spitting up soap suds the first half of the ascent.

Quickly the mountain opens up and you can see the most famous hairpin section

Saturday 3pm
DONE! was way easier then we thought it would be. It is amazing, especially once you get above 2k and the treeline. I can’t describe how gorgeous and fulfilling it was.

I admit it – I am a shit climber (I have only broken 1000 VAM on one HC climb!), but we were flying by people the entire way. Only passed twice the entire time! I kept composure the entire time #goslowlookpro

At the top we quickly realized that we made a mistake…no jackets to ride down. We hang at the top to dry off a bit and observe all of the Euro-Freds.

Saturday 4pm
Descend. It is cold, like nipples hard as diamonds cold, but beautiful and fun.

Saturday 5pm
Drive over Stelvio into Bormio. We didn’t have a hotel reserved so we drove around town until we found the cheapest place with vacancy…a little Southern Charm and a room was easily acquired.

Saturday 7pm
We hit up Bormio in search of Pizza, hot Italian woman, post cards, and according to Boban – “famous Bormio apples” (I swear he said the same thing about the apples when we rode in Freiburg too).

Nice town.

Saturday 7pm
After we discovered some awesome pizza we went on a mission to find some Coke Zero. Not a single place open for coke…awful. Bedtime.

Sunday 8am
Eat breakfast at Hotel.

Italian’s are well known for their pasta, pizzas, and deserts – not their breakfasts. It was awful…brutally bad.

Sunday 930am
We hit the road, but my headset is all jammed and my wheel is whobling. We find an open bike shop and they fix it all for 10 euro – not bad.

Sunday 1130am
We finally hit Mazzo at the bottom of Mortirolo. Lance Armstrong once said this was the “hardest climb I have ever done”

It starts off so randomly…like behind some farmer’s house there is a driveway – That’s it…the “Queen Climb of Europe”.

Mortirolo has 36 switchabcks, almost all hidden in the woods (quite different than Stelvio).

Riding her is like following an amazing storyline. She start easy…then out of nowhere she kicks up. After a handful of grueling kilometers you reach the infamous Pantini Monument…and she levels just a tad. Here my endorphins took over. I could feel Il Pirata’s presence as I grabbed my dropbars and yelled at the top of my lungs “PAAANNTTAANNIIIIIII!!!!” just as I passed another random cyclist. Then the 15%+ turn 6 came… She broke me here. Finally, for the last 3 turns it is heaven. The trees break and you can see the horizon. Pure bliss.

Sunday 1230pm
At the top we meet some Aussies (who we passed on the way up). One had the most amazing hand-built bike I have ever seen. It was a Baum. Gorgeous. We possed with it.

Sunday 2pm
Descending Mortirolo was amazing. Smooth and easy. We stopped for a moment to take a picture and an elderly Italian gentleman gave us his approval – in broken German.

You drop out of Mortirolo into the small village of Monno. It is super quant with a handful of Giro inspired murals on the walls. Just Lovely.

We stopped briefly in Ponte de Legno to grab some drinks and food before we conquered Gavia.

Sunday 3pm

Time for Gavia. I had no knowledge on the profile of this climb before we did it. I was under the impression it was easier then Stelvio…I was wrong

Like Stelvio…it goes above 2k meters. Which means it will be desolate and treeless at the top – which I love.

Also like Stelvio, it is starts relatively easy and slowly increases to a steady incline.

Unlike Stelvio, it is empty – no one was there minus a few cars and motorcycles.

Unlike Stelvio, the road surface were a bit rough.

Unlike Stelvio, it really really hurt going up it.

    The Story of the Old Italian Couple and The Two Cylists and The Tunnel

With about 5km to the end there is a 400m tunnel that is completely pitch dark. We forgot to bring lights with us. Luckily there was an old Italian couple at the head of the tunnel at an outlook. After 5 minutes of back and forth english italian german english italian german – they finally realized we wanted them to drive behind us with their headlights on. We started to roll into the 7% 400m tunnel with them behind us. Theor car pulls around us and goes in front, we think “OK..we will just follow them”. Then the car speeds up to about 25kmph…we get dropped. In the middle of the tunnel. In complete dark. 2000m up on a mountain. We sprinted as hard as we could to the distant light at the end of tunnel…we made it, but had to stop and rest for a minute. That damn old woman, tried to kill us.

Sunday 430pm
We finally ascend Gavia. The last 4km are amazing. You feel like you are on another planet. Lakes, weird colored rocks, tight switchbacks…all while you are huffing and puffing trying to finish the most painful climb of your life.

Finally at the top…we put on our jackets, sat down, and took a few pictures.

Sunday 530pm
Descending Gavia was nuts. The road was crap and it was painfully cold, but the landscape was AMAZING. Once you get below the treeline again the road cleans up a bit and it is much straighter. You could safely pull 90+kmph if you wanted.

Sunday 6pm
We arrived back in Bormio, packed the car, grabed some pasta, ate some gelato, and started the trip back to Salzburg. Fortunately, we had to drive over Stelvio one last time – just as the sun was setting. It was the perfect ending to the adventurous weekend.


About the Author

Copyright 2016 - VeloBeats// All Rights Reserved