John Returns from His Cycle Tour of Italy’s Toughest Mountain Climbs
I’ve just returned from my annual cycle tour of the Italian Alps, where I completed a few of my favourite routes from the Giro D’Italia Grand Tour.
With a combined elevation of over 9,000m and some of the most stunning views in the world, there’s no better way to clear your head.
Above, I take a brief breather with the winding roads of Stelvio Pass behind me. At 2,757m above sea level, the Stelvio pass is the second highest paved mountain pass in the Alps.
The Stelvio Pass has been the Cima Coppi (highest point in the Giro D’Italia) nine times. The title Cima Coppi was named in honour of the great Italian mountain cyclist Fausto Coppi.
Closer to home, the Stelvio Pass was picked by Jeremy Clarkson as Top Gear’s “greatest driving road in the world” for its 47 hairpin bends – though I think I’ll be sticking to my bike.
Next was the Mortirolo Pass, a 12km ride from Mazzo di Valtellina with a height gain on 1300m and a peak gradient of 18%. Another Giro D’Italia favourite, this pass is one of the most challenging in the world.
It certainly took everything I had to complete this beautiful route, and even Lance Armstrong said that it was the hardest climb he had ever ridden.
Completing my Giro D’Italia tour was the Gavia Pass, a legendary mountain pass with a 2621m elevation, designated Cima Coppi seven times.
If you ever wondered why I enjoy cycling in the Alps so much, the view above says it all.
To get me in the mood for the challenges ahead, I read ‘Kings of Pain’ by Phillipe Brunel, just republished by Rapha.
It contains great stories from cycling legends such as Eddy Merckx, Jacques Anquetil, Tom Simpson, Fausto Coppi, Raymond Poulider and Bernard Hinault; cycling warriors who epitomised my favourite sport.
If you’re going to be tackling the Alps yourself, I can’t recommend a better book to inspire your journey.