Stelvio Bike Day
For one day maybe the greatest road in the world is reserved just for cyclists.
Held each year at the beginning of September the Stelvio Bike Day allows riders to tackle the imperious Stelvio pass free from motorized traffic. And it’s not just the two famous sides of the pass, from Bormio and Prato dello Stelvio that are closed but also the Umbrail Pass which joins the southern flank shortly before the summit. You will be amongst over 10,000 riders who will all be on their own personal journey to conquer, one, two, or even all three ascents of this formidable mountain.
For those who choose just one, it has to be the climb from Prato dello Stelvio and its famous 48 hairpins, a challenge which is at the top of every rider’s bucket list. Rising to an altitude of 2,760 metres, though maybe the greatest monument to road building on earth, this is a serious undertaking for any rider but the reward of reaching the top is priceless.
Mortirolo, Cancano, and the Gavia
The Stelvio is not the only famous climb in the Bormio area, and is also not the only one with a dedicated traffic-free day to take advantage off. You can fit all these into the same visit! Kicking off the climb-fest is the notorious Mortirolo, closed to traffic on the Thursday leading up to the Stelvio Bike Day. This is followed by the much more sedate Laghi di Cancano climb on Friday, which featured in the finale of the 18th stage of the 2020 Giro. Last but not least is the massive Gavia, a pass made famous by the race winning ride under heavy snowfall by Andy Hampsten in the 1988 Giro.
Your route depends on your start town and how brave you feel on the day. The ‘easiest’ ascent starts in Bormio and travels north to climb for 20 kilometres to gain 1,480 metres of altitude by the time you arrive at the summit. The classic ascent is to be found on the north side though starting from Prato dello Stelvio and during its 25 kilometres, you will climb 1,847 metres passing through an astonishing 48 hairpin bends up one of the hardest roads to tackle in the world.
If you start this side and want to turn your ride into a loop then this can be achieved by riding over the top then down the connecting Umbrail Pass into the Munster valley then back to Prato all Stelvio. Of course, if you really want a challenge you can set yourself the task of riding and descending all three climbs, but this is not a challenge to be approached lightly!
There are a total of 7 options up to the Passo Mortirolo, but the most famous (and most soul destroying) is the one from Mazzo. With its 12 km at an average of more than 10% and sections at over 17%, the Mortirolo will be a true test of your legs and your gearing.
Laghi di Cancano
The only paved route up to the "Laghi" is the 9 km one from Bormio. At a relatively civilized 7% average gradient, it is a welcome break from the other behemoths in the area. The latter part of the climb follows a sequence of tight switchbacks that can be viewed from the Torri di Fraele at the top.
Comparably epic in length and meters climbed to the Stelvio, the Passo Gavia has two options for getting to the top, directly from Bormio, or via Ponte di Legno. Of the two, the 19 km and 1450 m of vertical ascent from Ponte di Legno is the harder and more famous, with a 7.4% average gradient and what can best be described as a goat track leading to the summit at 2616 m. There is also a rather dimly lit tunnel you will pass through on this side, so make sure you have at least a tail light on board to remain visible to others.
The ascent of the Gavia from the Bormio side is definitely not easy, but it is longer and less steep with only a 5.7% average gradient over 25 km. The middle section after the ski village of Santa Caterina is where things get real, easing off again as you approach the spectacularly desolate landscape near the passo.
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