One of the reasons that I decided not to blow myself up doing the other side of the Gavia on the previous day, was knowing what was coming today. We had an 85-mile transfer to Bolzano, starting out by going over the Stelvio. And as a measure of the difficulty of the trip, this was one of the less demanding days. (Yes, Stelvio day was the easy day.) Even so, the higher ups at Cinghiale Inc had reminded us several times that it would be a long day, and start with a tough climb.
If you’re racing up it, or have bad weather, the Stelvio can be a brutal, destructive climb. But if you’re just joyriding on a beautiful day, it’s “merely” challenging. The gradient out of Bormio isn’t too bad, for the most part. (Supposedly there is a sign advertising a section of 10 or 12% at one point, but I’ve managed never to see it–or to block it out if I did…) The many switchbacks offer brief moments of respite, and the views constantly spur one on. It’s pretty great!
This time around, I didn’t stop for many photos on the way up (see this post for more), but Ian and I did stop at the Mondrian door in our matching Mondrian-inspired jerseys!
It was about as perfect a day for riding a bicycle up a mountain as one could have asked for. It wasn’t even soul-killingly cold at the summit. ?!?!?
After watching the 2017 Giro d’Italia, I was a little nervous about descending the other side of the Stelvio for the first time. Even the pro’s took those hairpins s l o w l y . . . And they had the whole width of the (very narrow) road to work with.
It ended up being a non-issue, as I got stuck behind a VW van whose driver was even more alarmed than I was. There was enough oncoming traffic that I didn’t feel like taking an unnecessary risk to pass, just in case. The driver finally figured it out and pulled over to let the considerable accumulated peleton behind go past–once nearly at the bottom. Which actually was ok, because a couple hairpins later (that I didn’t feel the need to take that fast, VW van or no VW van), the road transitioned up into the open straight aways and easily swooping curves of the end of the descent.
That part was fun.
After another regrouping in Prato allo Stelvio, we set out on the part B of the day, with about as abrupt a change to our riding as if we had changed channels mid-show. We picked up a miracle of a bike path that took us over 50 scenic miles to Bolzano, winding through orchards and other such Italian picturesqueness, trending imperceptibly downwards. It was the kind of path you just effortlessly go fast on, the kind that tricks you into thinking you’re a fantastically talented cyclist.
Not only was the path a joy to ride (and an almost car-free route!), our 50 mile jaunt was just a small segment of a regional network that must span hundreds of miles. Go here and click “see map” to get a sense of it. If you wanted to have a fun, easy cycling vacation (recognizing that not everybody thinks suffering up a steep mountain sounds like a fun summer vacation) you could stay in the area and ride for days. It looks amazing.
And then there we were, in Bolzano. The climbing, descending, and path joyriding made Bormio seem like it must have been at least a couple days distant. It was a really fun day that, despite the dire warnings about difficulty and length, was actually quite chill and relaxing.
Which ended up being a good thing, given what was in store for us the next day. A ride that Cinghiale Inc studiously avoided going into detail on, until it was too late.
Day 4, Stelvio and Bolzano: 84.5 miles, 5350 feet (a veritably flat ride…)