Stelvio - The Alpine Italian Job - Part 2

This is the second part of the story of my cycling climb to Stelvio - my Alpine Italian Job.
Read Part 1 here

The final 10k - the mountain fights back
Wet, cold and sideways rain
Start of the last hairpins, still wet but feeling great
After i rode up the set of hairpins, the mountain decided to make things difficult. It became freezing -  cold wind pushed the rain drops sideways and hit me like tiny cold pins. The bad weather and having 10 more kilometers of climb puts a real dent in morale. It was time to fight the alpine adversary with some alpine tools. I stopped for a great bite of Lindt chocolate, drank a lot of water and got into rain gear. The road ahead flattened a little so I pushed harder, got warmer and felt much better. I rode the rest of the storm enjoying the view and passing some of the riders that passed me at the start of the climb. Stelvio loves consistency, not pushing :). In the final 5k, Stelvio welcomes you with the final 14 hairpin turns. Chance to rest in the flatter bends, enjoy the view and even talk to some of the riders. On the final hairpins, i stopped for some photos, and met a father and son from Australia riding Stelvio together. The father is 65, and doing nicely up Stelvio on a Colnago C59. I hope to be able to repeat this when I am 65.

Photo opportunity on hairpin 8

Passo dello Stelvio - 2758 meters above sea level
Had to stop at every sign and take a photo :)
At hairpin 3 the mountain changed it's mind. In matter of meters, the rain stopped, and the sun came out. I rode the final bends as slow as I could, looking around like every other tourist reaching Stelvio and stopping at every possible sign to take a photo. The 'wow' moment came when i passed the summit and looked at majestic clouds that hid the northern side of Stelvio towards Prato, and the Alps beyond. I had climbed on an Alpine summit, a vertical climb of 1535 meters. Again, like any other tourist I took photos of everything and anything.

Shops, people, bikes - Stelvio shopping
Stelvio was crowded! Shops and cafes line the road on both sides, people are shopping, taking photos, even hiking up to the peaks around the pass. Dozens of Colnagos, Williers, Canyons, Bianchis resting on every available wall, and nobody even thinking about 'borrowing' one. I parked my Trek next to a bunch of Willier Zero 9, but had it in full view while I drank the celebratory cappuccino.
The view north from Stelvio towards Prato

Downhill back and crushed plans for Gavia
No rush - Every cyclist stops on the descent
After a good rest, it was time to ride back down. I put on every spare layer of clothes i carried with me and took off. After 5 hairpins, i rode into the freezing wind once more. I had to spin in a low gear just to keep my legs warm on the descent without adding more speed through the hairpins. The rain welcomed me back from the 5th kilometre, and kept up till the 15th kilometre of the descent.
I tried to ride fast, I even reached 65km/h on a straight patch of road, but it wasn't the right way to go. You can't go fast the first time you descend Stelvio, you use your brakes and enjoy the view.

The weather got warmer as I approached Bormio, and I got to greet the riders that were just starting their ascent to Stelvio, like me a couple hours earlier.

No chance to go on
The rain clouds I passed on my descent from Stelvio
Things looked great as I approached Bormio, it was 2:30 in the afternoon and I started planning for a second climb up to Gavia. Unfortunately, the Alps disagreed. As soon as I turned the last hairpin of my descent (no.40) the rain started again. It was strong, cold and it came from Gavia, which was completely engulfed in clouds. The rain didn't let up, so I had no chance to face the second alpine mountain on a bike. I tried spinning around Bormio for 30 minutes hoping for better weather, but no luck. In the end, I returned the bike and got to my car to head home.

The rain coming from Gavia
The expected peak - Mortirolo by car again 
My return drive took me back over Mortirolo. This time with an added bonus: the clouds that engulfed Gavia decided to think bigger - The entire 15 kilometres climb was in near zero visibility.

Climbing the alpine Italian job was an intense experience, and I did it in the way it was meant to be ridden - in cold and rain. When you are cycling in the Alps you have more than one adversary. You fight the climb, but much more, you fight the mountain. I would love to come back and ride Stelvio again and go to Gavia and even Mortirolo. Hopefully with my son, just like the Australian father-son team.
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About Bozidar Spirovski

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