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Stelvio, cycling's magnificent monster
is back in the Giro

Tania Pecceddi
magnificent monster is back in the Giro

Three years after a torrid snowstorm wreaked havoc on the descending peloton, Italy’s cycling classic returned to one of its most fabled locations in 2017 and 2020. Yes, for the first time since the controversy-plagued 2014 race, the Passo dello Stelvio was back in the Giro d’Italia.

Considered among the greatest passes in the world, Passo dello Stelvio was designed by Italian engineer Carlo Donegani, and it took 2,500 men to build the Stelvio over five years. The pass opened in the 1820s as a way for Austria’s Franz Joseph I to travel from Vienna to Milan. Since World War One the pass remains closed in winter.

Not only is the route notorious in the world of cycling but its infamy has even spread into the world of literature. Several decades after it was built, literary translator F.A. Malleson speculated that Charles Dickens may have been talking about the Stelvio in his novel David Copperfield:

“I had found sublimity and wonder in the dread heights and precipices, in the roaring torrents, and the wastes of ice and snow.”

Straddling 49 kilometres of Swiss-Italian border and punctuated by lush green valleys and audacious climbs, this veritable ‘holy grail’ for cyclists features 48 hairpin turns on the Eastern face alone. With another 42 hairpins on the Bormio side and a summit of 2,758m, taking on Stelvio is not for the faint-hearted.

The pass, which is closed off for cyclists for one day in August, is the highest paved road in the Eastern Alps. Such is the volatility of the weather conditions at the summit any casual riders are advised to come prepared.

The historic town of Bormio played centre stage both times. Traditionally an alpine destination catering for skiers of all abilities, Bormio itself is a picturesque medieval town and represents something of a hub for adventurous cyclists, with enough challenging routes to give you a new ride each day of the week.

Restaurants and bars lend a welcoming atmosphere to the town’s nightlife – the perfect way to relax after testing yourself against the might of the Stelvio Pass.

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