I was told I had to ride it. It wasn’t possible to stay within a 90 minute drive of The Pass and not tackle it. It’s famous, apparently. Used in both directions on the Giro d’Italia on a regular basis. Passo dello Stelvio. Just the name causes sweats and breathing difficulties in pro and novice athletes alike.
But famous means steep, painful, gear grinding, lung bursting and energy sapping. Right?
And that’s just riding up at an easy pace. Although easy might also mean only pace possible. So intervals should hurt. Surely? Especially 8 times 5 minutes, with 800m of climb in 11km.
Driving the housecar up proved more eventful than riding up. We are four people; 2 rollerskiers, one MTB’er/skier, and me. The boys didn’t want to rollerski down after having made their way up. Wimps. Something about no brakes …
We drove up the top in the housecar while the others parked just below 2000m. It had been calculated, based on similar sessions in Norway, that each 5 minute rep should take us 1.1km up the mountain. Which worked well for the skiers. But I failed to take into account speed gains. I did however account for the ‘steeper than Kjølvegen’ gradient (my standard steep hill, to which all other hills are measured), which proved to be a walk in the park and definitely ‘not steeper than Kjølvegen’. And this was at altitude. I can’t account for how I felt today. Breathing fine. Legs, a little sore from strength yesterday evening but otherwise ok. The lack of oxygen at 2758m should have rendered me a puffing, wheezing, sweating mess after 8 reps. Only it didn’t.
HJ and I biked down to meet the others, a wonderful 17 minute freewheel, around 28 hairpin corners spread out down the gently sloping mountain pass. My brakes protested only a little, but they weren’t to be used for the next 90 minutes. In theory. Only I had to keep returning back down in the recovery as I knew I would make the top too soon, after just warming up!
I should have started 5km further down, but there are some dodgy-narrow-tunnels-with-barely-enough-space-for-one-car. That combined with scary Italian driving would probably result in ‘flat cyclist syndrome’. So I had to content myself with overtaking the same cyclist 8 times. After a few reps we started cheering each other on. He cheered my ascent as I passed, I cheered his when I was descending and had a bit more energy! We met at the top when I was taking a picture. A high five and he was on his way down the other side. The more famous side.
Stelvio was fun. I wish I had the chance to ride the full pass in both directions. But for now, it’s not relevant to make such an adventure. Next year; most definitely. We were lucky to be treated to sun for the most part, I’m sure rain would have dampened the day somewhat considerably.
The World Champs are now 3 weeks away. 3 weeks! I’m so excited now; time is dragging it’s heavy legs. There’s still more work to be done getting my legs into shape, but mentally I’m well recovered from Sweden. I look forward to seeing what I can produce from my body and mind at WOC. It could be epic, or just as easily diabolical! In 21 days the first results will be in; just make sure you’re watching …