Day 3- The big one. Passo Mortirolo and Passo Gavia.
Two of the 'big boys' in Italy in one day. Mortirolo, the juiced up Lance Armstrong famously said this was 'the toughest climb' he had ever done. Everyone was understandably a bit nervous about this; but equally excited to be climbing one of the Giro d'Italia's most legendary climbs. First of all you have a long descent from Bormio early in the morning to the base of Mortirolo. It was an early start with purple skies as we watched the sun rise.
We arrived at the base knowing one thing for certain, this would be a tough one. Knowing what was coming I decided to take this climb a bit easy and enjoy it. It's one I have seen on TV for years so I wanted to lap up the moment so to speak. It still didn't make it an easy one. The climb largely starts in the forests; snaking its way skywards and eventually clearing into a valley before the final few steep turns until the top.
We started the climb from Grosio, The actual climb to the summit starts at Grosio and is 14.8 kilometres long at an average of 8.3% (height gain: 1222 m). Some of the turns kick in at 15% plus so it's definitely a lung burster.
Upon reaching the top there was a short 200m roll down to our first cafe stop. What a stop this was with beautiful views.
The remaining descent was fast towards the base of Passo Gavia. The temperature had really ramped up in the latter half of the morning through to lunch. There was concerns that climbing this big one could be a crippler. It was, for different reasons. The climb really starts at Stadolina, riding along a mix of A roads and through cobbled towns.
As we climbed, it started to become noticeable that the temperature was decreasing, the skies became overcast and the heavens opened. 2600 odd meters in the rain were going to be tough.
The rain came, and came and came, along with the thunder. Gavia itself is a steep long climb, with worsening road surfaces as you get up higher and higher making getting out the saddle slippy at points.
As you reach closer to the summit, the roads open up and the elements start to hit you from all points. Climbs like this often seem like you are cycling to the gates of hell at points when the rain hurts as it hits your arms, the body steaming as you are sweating but soaked through to the skin. You know the moment you stop you will start to feel the cold instantly. You've just got to keep ploughing. Still that sense of achievement is priceless. Reaching the top, cheering your mates in, the hot chocolate, laughs and sense of 'what just happened?' make it worth it. One of the toughest climbs and days in the saddle.
The Descent back to Bormio,
It can be summed up very quickly. Sharp turns, bad road surfaces, glaciers, a cold snap that runs through your body. It was a case of layer up and hold on. (You can't help but admire the rural nature of this climb compared to any others in Italy. It really is its own beauty and the beast.)
One more day (well half a day.) Enough for one more climb in the morning.