What Italian does not feel his heart leap in his chest at the sight of the Alps, and who does not feel the same emotion as one who reaches the seashore for the first time? For do not these mountains form the boundary and stronghold of Italy?
Alps and their highest passes - some of them above 2500m - have provided fame or infamy for cyclists over the past hundred years during Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and many other professional races.
Cycling fans use to write the names of their favorite champions on the asphalt of Giro and Tour ascents, right where the champions have written the history of our favorite sport. The names of these Alpine mountain passes might be daunting to some: Stelvio, Mortirolo, Gavia, Foscagno, Cancano, Colle delle Finestre, Sestriere in Italy; Galibier, Izoard, Alpe d'Huez, Croix de Fer in France, to name a few.
We want to ride together you where legends like Fausto Coppi, Charly Gaul, Gino Bartali, Louison Bobet, Felice Gimondi, Raymond Poulidor, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Greg LeMond, Miguel Indurain, Marco Pantani, Alberto Contador, Vincenzo Nibali, Chris Froome wrote unforgettable pages in the history of cycling.These hall-of-fame names explain why Alps are on the bucket list of committed cyclists from around the world.
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Because it's not just cycling
Yes, Mortirolo is really unforgettable. Our legs can't actually forget that Hors Catergorie ascent. It's one of the toughest climbs in Europe and one of the most famous. A brutal stretch where cyclists from everywhere catch up with one goal: just getting to top, no matter the climbing time! Come with us to discover why it is great accomplishment!
For sure is one we don't get tired of. 48 unforgettable hairpins and 2750m for a climb that - since decades - challenges either pro or simply committed cyclists from around the world. But if we consider Stelvio a challenge, let's keep in mind that the guy in this photo - Fausto Coppi - and his fellow racers rode up an unpaved Stelvio with 15kg bike and a ridiculous gearing. That's one reason why we call 'legendary' these climbs!
It's usual among those who did the climb up Stelvio to ask other riders which of the two Italian sides (from Bormio, Lombardy) or Prato allo Stelvio (Trentino) is their favorite. We don't tell you what we like best, it would be the beginning of a debate that doesn't take anywhere. And we don't want either mention that we use to climb up there also from the Swiss side: so it'd be a bizarre three-face medal!
It is easy: from late spring to summer. The travel window for these high mountains is very narrow, just before June and until the beginning of September.
Towards the extremities, the weather is less stable. So we use to organize our trips inside the 'safe' window, as the weather is more stable. Facing bad weather on a mountain ride is not pleasant: it means a drop in temperature of several degrees, and if you are on the Stelvio at 2700 metres when it happens... well, let's put it this way: it's no fun.
Some days with rain can happen in the core of the good season, but if you go towards the beginning or end of the season, the possibility of a long bad weather increases dramatically, making, not just a single day, but the whole trip an epic experience, but one that you would never want to make.
The Alps are large and encompass areas that Italian cyclists are used to dividing into very different areas: we call the mountains in the western belt, enclosed mostly in Lombardy, Piedmont and Valle d'Aosta, the Alps, while the Dolomites are further east and in the territory of Trentino and Veneto.
The two areas are considered very different in many respects, socially, economically, touristically and in terms of language. But cycling is also very different. Generalising, the Alps make us imagine very long climbs: starting from around 1000m, one reaches very high altitudes, such as the Stelvio (2750m) or the Gavia (2650m).
Therefore, doing more than one climb a day is not for everyone. The Dolomites have shorter, but constantly steep (the 9% rule) climbs. A famous area for cycling is Valtellina and its main town is Bormio. We often use it as a base for our weeks in the Alps.
Asphalt is as good as mountain asphalt can be. The frost of winter slowly damages the asphalt. There is nothing critical. Repaving takes place quite often.
Traffic must be taken into account, especially when travelling up some iconic climbs like the Stelvio, which is very popular with motorists and motorcyclists, or when riding from Bormio to Livigno.
Via Vittorio Emanuele, 43
Quartu Sant'Elena, Cagliari