Riding up passo dello stelvio is no mean feat. Not only is it a non stop 25km climb, but there are 48 hairpin turns and an average gradient of 8%. That means you go 2km straight up.
So far, my fastest time up the climb is 1hr32min and I have also had some shockers. After a 140km ride, the legs are a bit used for the final climb to the top. It's not a climb for the faint hearted nor is it something that you can just go and do willy nilly. Well, so I thought...
Everyday, on our way down the mountain, we pass a constant stream of cyclists making their way up the climb. Not just the Lycra clad, praying-mantis looking road cyclists, but all different kinds.
There are people on touring bikes hauling up a trailer of luggage. Mountain bikers with a backpack that looks like it weighs as much as they do. People that are nearly bursting out of their Lycra and have a look of sheer pain on their face only 3km into it. People on town bikes that seem to have a gear allowing them to pedal as fast as they can but only move at 4kph. Families on mountain bikes using one hand to push their 10 year old child and the other to carry the picnic basket.
Just yesterday, at a water fountain 10km up, we ran into young German lady on holidays. For the last 9 days she had ridden her bike from Stuttgart with nothing but a backpack. And this morning, we saw possibly the most impressive couple yet. They were on the lower slopes of the climb, grimacing as they pedaled a tandem mountain bike up the mountain!
As we pass people, I can't help but think that some are just not going to make it, or if they do, it's going to take all day. After our ride and making our way back to the top, we often see the same people enjoying a coffee, prepping themselves for the cold descent back down.
Despite the plethora of different types of people making their way up passo dello stelvio, there is one type of cyclist that heavily out numbers the others. Middle-aged, slightly overweight Italian men wearing bike gear from the 80's and sporting a glamorous mustache are everywhere. Maybe they are ticking it off their bucket list or maybe it is some sort of rite of passage into senior years. Either way, there sure is a lot of them making the pilgrimage to the top. I wonder how many heart attacks there are each year on the side of the mountain?