Overview: 80 kilometres; 4:20 hrs duration; 1900m Vertical
We awoke today to dry roads, but overcast skies. A quick look out the window put a pep n the step of all of the tourists. A pep that was tempered by the prospect of one of the most fearsome climbs on the planet – Passo di Mortirolo.
The name may mean little to some, but to Italian and international road cyclists, this is an epic event. The climb is arduous, and tests even the most accomplished cyclist’s endurance. Over the last thirty years, it has been a “theatre” of serious races and cycling duels to the bitter end. Baptised the Pirate’s climb, after Marco Pantani, it leads up to a sculpture that commemorates his untimely passing.
We would have two groups tackling the Mortirolo from two directions. The ‘Hard’ climb and the ‘Hard – Hard’ climb. After a sumptuous breakfast and ride brief our riders decided on which climb they would tackle. The “Hard’ route was approx 14km @ 8.2% (max at 15%). This is the more picturesque and provides and amazing panorama of the Valtellina valley. The ‘Hard Hard’ route would be 11.3km @ 11%. Well we did say it was ‘Hard Hard’!
We rolled out of Bormio and headed down the valley. Our route down the valley would take us down the old valley road, dotted with some seriously old towns. Life seems in slow motion here and no one is in a hurry. It’s a Bormio thing. Keep it low stress and you will live longer. A couple of brief stops on our way down to our first group’s turn off at Grosio to tackle the Hard route.
A quick chat with the second group and the Hard route group headed off to tackle Passo di Mortirolo. Our ‘Hard Hard’ group descended a further 5kms down the valley to Mazzo di Valtellina to tackle this beast of a climb. The Hard Hard group split immediately and sensibly rode their own pace. The Hard group split into two distinct groups, and the sweating and heaving appeared from kilometre zero.
The Hard group worked hard and were given a few brief moments of respite when the road would flatten out for a few pedal strokes. The Hard Hard group had no such luxury with the first 8kms seeing nothing much below 12%. The two roads intersected at ‘Tornati 8’ with 3kms to the summit. This last 3kms was at a much more sensible 9% average gradient.
Everyone achieved the end goal of reaching the summit. In fact, it couldn’t have been timed better with everyone arriving within about 15mins of each other. High fives, refuel, photos and jokes a plenty. A quick addition of layers and it was time to descend back to Grosio and the valley below. Don’t forget this is still a long descent and steep, so the tourists were reminded of the challenges of such a descent. Potholes, steep gradients, tight switchbacks and of course fatigue.
Everyone made it down and we went in search of coffee. Just five mins up the road we found a restaurant, but the kitchen was closing. Some sweet talking by Guide David and we could still get 10 cuppas. They really hit the spot as everyone regaled tales of the climb. Who’s was tougher and who worked hardest. At the end of the day and 8% climb can be just as hard as an 11% climb, it just depends how hard you go! So lets call it about even.
Now we had the 20km ride back to Bormio, where we would still climb 500m, so no picnic. Where would could we took the local bike path and kept ourselves free of the stress of the open road. It worked a treat. Our tourists were very happy to see Bormio, come into view as they new they were home after a long hard day. A big spread of food was on hand for our refuel. The tourists will sleep well tonight.