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.
|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.
June 17, 2013 at 7:45 pm
I tweeted yesterday how much I'm enjoying (and that's a euphemism) your book. I seem to be equally obsessed with cycling – although I am by no means the accomplished rider that you are.
I've just come back from Italy, where during our one-week Giro-watching/Italy-riding tour, we had plans to climb the Gavia, as well as San Pellegrino and Costalunga. Due to (or thanks to?) the weather, I was spared the agony that I would have otherwise suffered, as all those passes were closed and removed from the Giro route (or cancelled outright, as in the case of Gavia/Stelvio). I did climb “a mountain” (nothing famous), which did contribute to a 2300m climbing day, and crowned me Strava Queen of the Mountain for one significant segment. Yes, I actually take great pride in being the virtual queen of an Italian mountain…
More importantly – as I now avidly devour your book, those rides in Italy gave me a glimpse of the climbing, riding, and “living” experience you describe so well.
I don't often encounter people who are as consumed with cycling as I have become in recent years (I'm a huge fan of the sport), but it's always with great joy that I meet more and more of “us” crazy people. I can think of several friends who would enjoy your book (here in Canada and in the US), and I will gladly spread the word.
Please keep on riding, climbing and writing, you do a great job of all three 🙂
Regards from Toronto,
June 18, 2013 at 7:32 pm
Thanks so much for the comment and your Tweet. It means a lot to get positive feedback, especially so from someone who's also a bit bike crazy, like me.
I'm not so sure I am an accomplished rider, more that I am a cyclist who is lucky enough to have had the chance to ride so many of Europe's great climbs. I've been back over to Italy a couple of times since and finally got round to taking on the Gavia and the Mortirolo – and they were every bit as hard as to ride as I had feared they might be, but worth every bead of sweat (and there were many!).
It's a shame that your riding was curtailed by the weather. Hopefully you'll get another chance to take on those climbs. Congratulations, however, on being a Strava Regina della Montagna!
Appreciate you spreading the word. The Breakaway is a book close to my heart, in many ways, and to know that others value it too is truly satisfying. Hopefully it will inspire some other crazy souls to take their bikes over to Europe and tackle the Alps et al.