Welcome to day 5! After the massacre on the Stelvio yesterday, I have to admit I was more than mildly nervous about heading south to tackle the famed Mortirolo! Sure, it was a lot shorter, but steeper, so was going to be an interesting experiment.
Best to split today into 3 stanzas I think, worked for Star Wars and Lord of the Rings after all:
1. Stelvio reloaded
To escape the German stronghold that is Prato, we only had one way to go in the Clarsomobile – Over the Stelvio. Thus, its a good chance to put in some of the photos from yesterday that I missed due to super shit Wifi (in a flash crib now, so epic upload power).
Firstly, here is the view looking up towards a buffet of switchbacks, you can see them far off in the distance… Painfully far off:
What do you do when you get there? Make a tourist cock of yourself of course, here I am in full flight, not sure what I was celebrating? And yes, I know, my jersey doesn’t match my bike, Rapha made me do it:
Luckily, I was not alone in wanting to partake in cliche top of the Stelvio horse play (to be fair, he got 9th overall for the last 3km’s on Strava, so did have something to actually stand on a podium for – Respect):
The next task is to refuel and get some Rapha model shots in for the portfolio… My Italian is patchy, but I am pretty sure the waitress said “Total wanker”, given I had a Belgian jersey on, she may have been on to something:
Enough of yesterday – Back to today! Driving the Stelvio is almost as painful as riding it… Well, for Clarso at least, I just looked out the window, took photos and talked about bikes. Over the top of the Stelvio and down the other side and it become apparent VERY quickly that it was absolutely the right call to pull the pin early yesterday, as the side to Bormio seemed even more epic, with strong deja vu of the Galibier kicking in straight away:
Heading down towards Bormio and Clarso was feverish like a 13 year old kid that has just found dads playboy stash at the prospect of riding this side of the Stelvio and I had to agree, it was pretty amazing… and long… Maybe, er, another time (thank fuck we weren’t doing it). I did comment it would have been a car rescue if I had tried this yesterday! It was also laced with high speed DH sections and tunnels. Not to mention a lot of funky rock, Herr Doktor this one is for you and Clarso and I couldn’t work out how it all worked:
2. The Mortirolo madness
I am sorry everyone… I have lied. Yes, I didn’t mean to, but accidentally did yesterday. I said that the Stelvio was the hardest climb I have ever done. In some ways it was… But, I can confirm we have a new champion: The Mortirolo.
Yes, I know I sound like a Lance Asshat copy cat, but I can see why he made the comment about it being the hardest ever. How can I describe it? Well, its not long… its around 12km’s (half the Stelvio), and its not high, it only gains 1263m… But, fuck, its steeper than Emirates excess luggage charges (I haven’t forgotten mother F’s). It averages 11% and hits a high of 18% in sections.
Its hard to put that gradient into perspective, but if you live in Wellington, Moonshine (Steep side) is 8.2% and Paecock (Steep side) is 7.4%, both very short. Anyway, all you really need to know is its really fucking steep. Here was the most relaxing part of the day, the calm before the fisting:
No time to waste, we were into it with a 2 min warm up… Awesome. With one of us being a real man, we were climbing the beast from the REAL side, starting in Mazzo di Valtellina. Last time racing up this side was in the Giro in 2010, Ivan Basso on a Cannondale was first to the top, so history was looking good (I am not sure what for). The Mortirolo doesn’t muck around, it was straight into it and I was straight out the back, with Clarso smoothly gliding away from me like a shaved mountain goat coated in lubricant with an electric prodder switched to high and jammed into his… brain…
I just had to concentrate and hope my legs were better. Good news, they were, aided by the Gels I jammed in before we left. It took about 5 minutes and it was into stepping machine territory. Stepping machine? Yes… Its SO steep, the best tactic I could come up with was to ride my bike like a stepper machine in a gym. I ground through a 14% section that went on for KM’s and then hit the 18% ramp. I couldn’t believe that someone could A) make a road like this, B) have a Grand tour come up here and C) that I was riding it! WTF on all counts. It was as epic as advertised, not to mention VERY narrow!
About halfway up my nostrils detected a chase group… I looked back and saw a couple of skinny Italians hunting me. Right, its ON fuckers… In a strangely slow motion battle at 40 RPM and about 8kph they took about 15 minutes to finally bridge to me, the leader I named Super Mario and his ungainly side kick, Luigi. Epic originality. Here they are making contact:
The climbing was brutally hard, but oddly I was feeling good and importantly I was riding properly (unlike yesterday), so I decided to sit on these two for as long as I could. On and on we drove… In silence… Super Mario the leader gave me a few looks… No words were exchanged, but there was an unspoken agreement “for now, we ride together, then we will try and fuck each other”.
Luigi broke first… I was surprised… Super Mario allowed me to the front and had that moment of hesitation to wait for his friend, or carry on with the Rapha model… Mario chose to defend his honour and we increased our tempo, leaving Luigi melting like Lemon Gelato.
Towards the top it began to level out – Well, actually, no, as perverse as this sounds it was now only 9%, which felt easy… So strange. After epic 14% sections, it felt easy to ride what I would normally struggle on. In a moment, Mario was slowly going backwards. I went down a gear and in minutes I was alone, and flying (in relative terms). I powered away and decided to empty the tank, this felt GREAT! I was loving the Mortirolo even though I shouldn’t have… it was bizarre and I embraced the weirdness. I even had enough left to smash the last km and get a quick photo shoot in:
Ticked off and loving it! Whilst the climbing mojo wasn’t fully back, the (weird) enjoyment of it was. I had shown Super M and Luigi a clean set of Giro heels and I got a nod as they rolled in some time later. The view was quite handy as well:
And, just to prove we made it, some official sign love:
Some quick stats on the Mortirolo climb from Strava – Clarso did 1 hour 1 min up here, but here is my effort:
- 11% avg gradient
- 1,263m elevation gain
- 1 hour 14 minutes
- Average HR of 156 bpm (flogged)
- 237th out of 988 people that have ridden up Mortirolo and registered on Strava
Then, we had to go down… hmmm… I thought going up was tough, but going down was a freak zone. A narrow, busy, eye watering steepness and bumpy surface all added up to a nervous descent with shit brakes (again, sign me up for Disc brakes on road bikes). We stopped to pay our respect to Pantani at his monument 4km’s from the top:
Mortirolo tips – Its probably epic enough to do on its own. Don’t do it as a final climb on a long day. Turn up a little warmed up and fresh and look after your knees. I wouldn’t have made it up without compact gearing, even with a 34 x 27 I was doing about 40 rpm most of the time, its evil.
From here, it was road trip time down to Varese. We got to experience just how much Italians like tunnels and also, how much their truck drivers (well, one particular nutter) like to tail gate and use their horn, bizarre.
It was then time to say goodbye to the legend that is Clarso – Thanks for an awesome Italian leg of the Dirty Nomad World Cycling Tour, it was great doing some epic riding with you chief and good luck for the worlds prep!
3. Varese tour
So, I am now rolling solo in Varese for a few days, operating out of the nicest hotel I have seen in Europe in some time. I even managed to get out and have a look around town, its a nice place, but more on that tomorrow. Here are some opening shots to set the scene:
Tomorrow? Well, I have a ride mapped out around the north of Varese, but honesty call, I am shitting myself a bit at getting lost. I can no longer just follow Clarso around, so its time for me to bust out of the comfort zone and really explore.
If there is no post tomorrow it could mean that I am lost somewhere between Laveno and Luino, here is the ride I will be attempting to replicate:
Tomorrow’s report will therefore be either filled with pretty lake pictures (success) or non-existent (Not so successful). Time to test the Nomad part out… Ciao!