Stage 19 of the 2013 Giro d’Italia is scheduled to tackle The Stelvio but it appears that Madre Natura has other plans. With the pass blocked by snow, and more forecast to fall, (at the time of writing this blog) race organisers look set to remove the climb from the day’s route. You can check out the current summit conditions for yourself by viewing the Stelvio webcam here.

This Giro has been dominated by the weather, with rain and snow almost as prevalent as the blazing sun and azure skies we expect to see in Italy at this time of year. As for snow at the top of the Stelvio? It’s a mountain pass that tops out at 2757 metres, so a little inclement weather is to be expected.
Stelvio ‘easy’ side in the sun

I’ve tackled the Stelvio from both the Bormio side (which this Giro was scheduled to ride) and the more famous (surely infamous?) ascent from Prato. The latter is definitely the harder of the two, one of the hardest, if not the hardest of the many climbs I tackled during The Breakaway. If you can only ever ride one Grand Tour climb I’d suggest aiming for this one. It’s an absolute brute, a bona fide legend. Reach the summit (weather and legs permitting) and you’ll have lifelong bragging rights.

So, here goes with a bit of bragging and a short extract from my Stelvio ascent for The Breakaway (don’t say I’m not good to you!):

How many hairpins?

I could feel the energy evaporating from within, certain my fate was but a matter of timing, unrelated to the effort I expended, sand slowly draining from the hourglass. Then the cold shakes set in. 

“I told you to hurry!” The fear shouted its final warning and once again I succumbed, made a dash toward the summit to counter the risk of never reaching it. 

At hairpin 5 I changed up a gear and heaved round the pedals in a manner that suggested I had excess energy to give — head down, the alarm ringing in my ears, teeth gritted against the pain. At 4 my quads were in agony; at 3 I felt twinges of cramp; 2 and my lungs burned from the effort; by hairpin 1 I didn’t care that the summit lay just ahead at the end of the long, steep, straight ramp. Managing the next pedal stroke was my only concern.


The Breakaway costs less than an inner tube and you don’t even need a Kindle to read it. Just download the free Kindle app and read it on your laptop, desktop, tablet or teapot. (I made that last one up.)