Passo dello Stelvio (2758 m) and Passo Gavia (2621 m)
Our day began with breakfast and Timb requesting a bowl for his Coco Pops. The hotelier promptly provided a rather large antique bowl, which was possibly a bed-pan. Timb then proceeded to slowly fill the bowl with the entire box of Coco Pops, then stated matter-of-factly “I’m not even very hungry”. I nearly spat out my coffee.
The first leg of today’s 146 km ride was a 50 km stretch of cycle path. This kicked off with a short section of hairpins leaving Merano followed by 50 kms of gentle incline to an early supermarket lunch in Prato.
Two monster climbs were on today’s itinerary, including our highest pass of the tour, the Passo dello Stelvio, or Stilfserjoch as it’s known in Südtirol. The Italians in this region speak German because their ancestors were Austrian, if that makes sense?
Stelvio is one of the most famous passes of the Alps and often features in the Giro d’Italia. There are 48 hairpin bends on this side of the climb, with the lower half forested and the final 10 km and 23 turns above the treeline. On a nice day like today, the summit of very busy with cyclists, motorcyclists, and tourists milling around the gift ships, hotels and bars. We all got up OK and tucked into a second lunch on the summit before descending 25 km to Bormio.
Next up was the Passo Gavia. Starting from Bormio, the climb is 25.6 km long with a vertical ascent of 1,404 meters. Just having climbed Stelvio made this one pretty tough.
After descending 1,500 m to Ponte de Legno we found a hotel best described as ‘having lots of character’, the proprietor was great though - and after providing us with beer, he led our group across the town to his brother-in-law’s pizzeria where we had one of the best meals of the trip.