Lombardy

THE ASCENTS OF THE 100TH GIRO: THE MORTIROLO PASS FROM THE MONNO SIDE

Start

Monno (BS)

Finish

Passo del Mortirolo (SO)

Distance

12km

Total vertical climb

1.000 metri

Maximum altitude

1.852 metri

Maximum gradient

16%

Medium gradient

7,5%

On 23rd May 2017, the 16th-stage pack of the centenary Giro didn’t only have the Stelvio on either side but also had to tackle the less famous slope of the Mortirolo pass – the Monno mountainside of Brescia – scaled only once in the past by the riders in 1990. Interestingly enough, it was the first time the famous cycling race reached the top of this Alpine Pass.

 

Known by most simply as the Mortirolo, the Foppa Pass (1,852 m) is one of the toughest ascents in Europe: 12 km of extraordinarily steep climb with gradients that are practically impossible at times (20%).

So far nothing new then; it is said that when some cycling enthusiasts hear the Montirolo mentioned, there is an intake of breath and they bow their heads in awe.

But there’s a but. A mountain Pass can always be reached from either of two slopes and the Montirolo is no exception. It can be climbed from Mazzo – the Valtellina side, or from Monno – the Brescia side.

In cycling terms, the most celebrated and feared is without doubt the first one, if for no other reason, it is inextricably linked to Pantani the legend who won big time there in 1994 when he was only 24 years old and still had the odd hair on his pate. This was the place he showed the world he would become the greatest climber of all time.

This ascent has been scaled as many as 12 times in the recent history of the Giro, frequently acting as a backdrop for memorable feats and astounding reversals of fate.

 

The other Mortirolo pass

Given its reputation, it seems strange that the Giro decided to take on the Mortirolo for the first time from the other side…the Monno side.

It only happened the once in 1990 before the 16th stage (23rd May) of the centenary 2017 edition came around. The riders had to face the Stelvio and Umbrail (the Swiss side of the Stelvio Pass) after having ridden up the Mortirolo from the Monno side. For the record, that stage was won by Vincenzo Nibali.

 

The climb

The ascent starts near Edolo and continues for 12 km with reasonable gradients, but still around 7-8%, with a rise of 16% and then luckily a long plateau.

Considered to be more doable than the Mazzo climb, it is, in any case, a 5-star ascent.

From Edolo the first stretch begins straightaway with 2 km at 8% up to Monno where things get serious and the gradient goes up to 10%. After a while the road seems to concede a moment of respite, but it is only an illusion because shortly after that it starts to wind sharply up at 9-10%, and goes on like that for 5 km.

An almost flat stretch allows the peloton to catch their breath slightly before the last wall leading up to the Pass. And this is the hardest part: 2 km of hairpin bends between 10% and 14%, even topping out at 16%. The level run-up to the Montirolo hotel comes as a moment of immense relief.

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