Having never ridden the Passo dello Stelvio, I, like many, have looked upon the iconic photos, switchback after switchback, and yearned to give it a go.
Naturally therefore, when I was invited to join Polartec and the Contador Fundacion for a weekend of training in Bormio to include the Santini Gran Fondo stelvio, I jumped at the chance.
Looking back, nothing can prepare you for the grandeur of the Stelvio. Thrown in the deep end, so to speak, the Santini Gran Fondo Stelvio was to be my introduction to this majestic mountain, a baptism of fire; not only was I attempting the Stelvio for the first time, but I, along with approximately 4000 others, would be tagging it onto the end of a leg sapping 116km loop from and to the Stelvio’s hometown of Bormio.
It’s safe to say that as well as an unforgettable experience, the ride up Stelvio was a learning curve on the bike. Here are some of the most important hints and tips we picked up along the way, in case you too want to head to the mountains and take on the Stelvio Pass – one of the most iconic climbs in cycling.
Preparation is key
Let’s face it, there’s not much opportunity for 21km at an average gradient of 8% in London. With this in mind, I did my best to replicate the effort at Athlete Lab London, a cycling centre that facilitates time-poor training and preparation for mountainous terrain.
Of course not everyone is based in the city, so for those of you lucky enough to do so, head towards your nearest hill and make good friends with it. Mix it up a bit. Whilst the Stelvio is typical of an Alpine climb with it’s long steady gradient, the Teglio that comes before it is much sharper and the only way up is to power through.
Kent, Devon, the lakes, all have hills of various gradients and lengths; use these to practice a mix of steady long rolling reps and high intensity efforts. You will be ready for the Passo dello Stelvio in no time.