Sun, No Rain on Mortirolo and Stelvio

by Chikashi

The excellent news is that we had glorious weather in Valtellina this past weekend. I suppose that the bad news is that I did not have a chance to put my new rain jacket through the mill, for which I am eternally grateful because I think I would have cried if I had to ride up Passo dello Stelvio in the rain.

Sunday was the Granfondo Stelvio Santini. I entered the medium distance, which did not include Passo di Mortirolo. The long distance would have included both Mortirolo (from Tovo) and Stelvio (from Bormio). After having done the medium distance, I am in awe of everyone who completed the full monty. Chapeau to you all.

And to the mad pair that entered on a tandem, a dozen chapeaux to each of you. Nucking Futters.

Having arrived in Bormio on Saturday, I decided to go up Mortirolo (formally known as Passo della Foppa) after a late lunch. The approach from Mazzo is the infamous one, so I wanted to find out what all the fuss was about. I had a cursory look at the elevation profile and had seen quite a few red bits. However, I did not bother to look at the actual numbers, thinking, ‘At less than 13 km in length, that is about half of Bonette from Jausiers, so it can’t be that bad…’

Wrong. So wrong.


It was probably unwise to start at the foot of the climb in Mazzo without any warming up. And just after lunch.

By km 3, I could feel the porcini rising from my stomach, a proto-antiperistalsis in slow motion. By km 4, my legs felt like they had completely lost structural integrity.

As I approached the summit, I could feel the temperature dropping.


When I got to the top, I did not waste any time descending because it was just a wee bit too chilly. And, yes, I do need to replace the bar tapes…

Mortirolo aka Foppa

I had not done any research on the Stelvio Pass, except for looking at a few photographs here and there. Invariably, the photos were of the other approach, from the east rather than the approach from the west, from Bormio…


The mass start from Bormio was at 07:30, and I just kept at the rear. I have never been at an event where everyone is supposed to start at the same time, and I had no interest in being in the middle of a sprint start. That said, the first 12 km was with a pace car in order to prevent chaos.

Bormio @ start of Granfondo Stelvio Santini 2014


Shortly after we exited Bormio, there was a bit of a grande casino at a roundabout, with a few motorists, policemen and race marshals trying to figure out what to do with one another. It was unclear which way we were supposed to be heading but everyone just went straight ahead, through the second exit. As we exited the roundabout, an Englishman asked me whether we were going in the right direction. I told him that I’m not certain, and then he said, ‘I don’t want to end up in Motorola.’


By the time I figured out what he was on about, he was no longer nearby. To be fair, I still think Mortirolo sounds like something you get at a salumeria, so I shouldn’t be surprised that he had it confused with a telecom company…

The first 100 km was a bit more taxing than I had anticipated, so by the time we got back to Bormio to begin the ascent to Stelvio in the afternoon heat, I was actually ready to call it a day and have a beer with a proper meal. However, I had not come all the way to Valtellina to have lunch, so onwards and upwards… My calf looks stronger than it actually is…


One of the unfortunate things about these famous Alpine passes is that they are very popular with motorcyclists, many of whom have no idea what they are doing and have no respect for other road users. Stelvio, like Galibier and Bonette, is extremely popular with muppets on motorcycles. In contrast, Mortorilo is a very quiet pass with very few motorists and motorcyclists because, I believe, the road is too narrow to be interesting for them.


Nonetheless, it is understandable that Stelvio attracts many people, travelling by different means. I even saw a few people walking up…


Quite frankly, it’s a bitch of a climb, but it is well worth the effort. Of course, the entire experience is enhanced by the cheerful, gracious and helpful volunteers and police who were looking after our safety and well being.


Furthermore, the weather was just impeccable. Even though there was about 5 ft of snow remaining at the side of the road, I could see why so many have climbed these mountains in search of God.


However, it is a bit surreal to reach the summit to witness people skiing and snowboarding down the slope in June, in the northern hemisphere.


Exhausted and short on oxygen, I found it almost difficult to fully take in the view at first.


Just some observations on the hotel where we stayed: Hotel Genzianella in Bormio has an attractive web site. The property is well maintained, but the rooms do appear considerably nicer on the web site than in reality. Our room was perfectly adequate, but it was just that, adequate. The hotel is well designed to cater to cyclists and has a dedicated room in the cellar with wall mounted hooks, a couple of repair work stands, full set of tools and pressure washer hose. The room is accessible by using your room card key. Or with the hotel staff’s key, which on the first day I found left hanging in the lock of the door to the bike room, along with a full set of keys for all other areas of the hotel. I am guessing that there were bikes worth upwards of €150k in the room. I brought the keys to the front desk on the way up… The next day, the maid left her master card key in our room. It could have been a jackpot of a hotel stay for me, if only I had a huge lorry to take all my would-be loot.

Genzianella is conveniently located and well maintained. However, it is not as well appointed as it might appear on the web site, and the members of staff are a bit careless with security.


I had absolutely nothing left in the tank by the time I reached the summit. Except, of course, for taking the (obligatory) selfie, that is.


I put on a full set of winter kit for the freezing descent, and I went down slowly as I was a bit too exhausted to bomb down for a laugh albeit I was rather pleased that I had actually made it up Stelvio.

Accelerating and decelerating with Campagn#yolo