Passo dello Stelvio (Prato Allo Stelvio) Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

14.9
FIETS
16 mi
DISTANCE
6,041 ft
GAINED
7.2 %
AVG. GRADE

FULL CLIMB STATS

Page Contributor(s): Benjamin Wohlwend, Switzerland.

INTRO

Passo Stelvio is a legendary bike climb. 
What makes Stelvio one of the greatest climbs by bike in the world? (1) Its legendary 48 hairpins (tornanti), (2) its difficulty - ranked #44 in the world, (3) when included in the Giro d'Italia, as it often is, it is always the Cima Coppi (highest point in the Giro), and (4) its fame - it is one of the four most famous bike climbs in the world: World's Most Famous
Average grade is 7.2% with 78% of the climb in the 5-10% range.  The steepest 500 kilometers is 9.7% and steepest 2 kilometers 9.2%.  .  
 
See more details and tools regarding this climb's grade via the “Profile Tool” button.
Roadway:  Pristine.

Traffic:  Substantial - this is one of the most famous and popular roads in the world.  Traffic does drive at low speed - for nothing else because there is so much traffic as well as 48 hairpins. 

Parking:  When we rode from Prato Allo Stelvio, we spent a fair amount of time locating a parking spot in town.  Here is a Google Map - Parking for Prato Allo Stelvio to assist you.  On one occasion we stayed in Bormio and did the climb from there, then rode down to Prato Allo Stelvio and cycled back up.  Our other trip up the mountain was with SAG support.  
We finish this climb at high elevation, nearly 2,000 meters above where we started.  The conditions can be cold at the pass so consult the PJAMM "Full Forecast" feature for the time you expect to arrive at the finish to assess what clothing to bring on your ride. 
Before heading out on any cycling adventure check out our Things to Bring on a Cycling Trip and use our interactive check list to ensure you don't forget anything.
We like to stay in Bormio and ride the climb originating close to there (see PJAMM Bormio Climb Area page).  The Bormio area also has lots of vacation rental options.  The out-and-back of both the Bormio and Prato Allo Stelvio is 94 kilometers and 3,412 meters of climbing (Map).

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Difficulty: Strenuous
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Traffic
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Jun 24, 2021
difficulty: Strenuous
scenery: 5
traffic: 5
road: 5
Jun 24, 2021
scenery: 5
traffic: 5
road: 5
I climbed the Stelvio Pass from the Bormio side in Sept 2019. This was a must-do for me since it's often rated as the overall #1 climb in the world for several reasons. The incredible thing though, is on the day I did it I had the road to myself the entire way up (and down). Why? Couple weeks before I arrived (from CT) there was an avalanche, and the road repairs were not complete, thus the entire road still closed. At the bottom I hopped the gate and went. (I did not fly to Italy to get denied!) About a third of the way up I approached the area of the avalanche and saw the workers. One stopped me and told me to go down. I somehow convinced him to "look the other way" and he let me go. So to add to climbing this legendary mountain, I did it solo and with not a car nor rider all the way to the summit. Unreal! There's also a few short tunnels you ride through making it even that much more cool of a climb. The photo of me at the summit shows the road on the other side.
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CLIMB SUMMARY

Climbing Passo dello Stelvio by bike - hairpins (tornanti) as seen from the top of the climb

Cycling Passo Dello Stelvio, Prato

World Top 10 Epic Bike Climb.

Stelvio may offer the Greatest Switchback Views Anywhere - And here it is - one of the most famous cycling views of all time - immediately recognizable as the incomparable STELVIO.

Climbing Stelvio by bike from Prato alla Stelvio - aerial drone photo of tornanti (hairpins) leading to the pass, top of stelvio

Approach to the pass from Prato Allo (northern approach).

Hairpins 14 (bottom right) to Hairpin 1 (right top center).

Before heading to Italy on your cycling adventure, be sure to rely on our list of Things to Bring on a Cycling Trip, and use our interactive checklist to ensure you don't forget anything.

This is one of the greatest climbs in the world - an unparalleled jewel.  No more than has been written about it can be said - adjectives do not do justice to this extraordinary climb - it is truly in a class by itself.

views heading up the route, Italian alps

The ride up Passo dello Stelvio from Prato.

STELVIO IS ONE OF WORLD’S FOUR MOST FAMOUS BIKE CLIMBS

Alpe d'Huez,  Col du Tourmalet, Mont Ventoux, and Passo Dello Stelvio from Prato

The world’s four most famous bike climbs (in our opinion) are:

  • The undeniable front runner -- 29 summit finishes in the TdF (1952-2013; returning 2018).
  • Featured in the TdF than any other climb (79 times from 1910-2017).
  • #3 Passo dello Stelvio (top left)
  • Highest finish of any Grand Tour -- Featured in Giro 12 times (1953-2017).
  • Featured 17 times in the TdF between from 1951-2016 (11 summit finishes).

Passo dello Stelvio is in the Ortler Alps of Europe’s Alps Mountain Range.  The Ortler Alps were the scene of fierce battles during World War I as forces from both sides were dug into these mountains for much of the war. 

However, it’s ALL ABOUT THE SWITCHBACKS . . .

THE MOST FAMOUS HAIRPINS IN THE WORLD

Aerial drone of hairpins 24 to 1

The last 24 tornanti (Italian for “bends”) - turn 24 at bottom, turn 1 top left center.

Berghotel Franzenshöhe is bottom center of photo.

This magnificent roadway consists of a series of numbered switchbacks (“Tornante” as they are referred to in Italy), 48 in all (see Tornante slideshow, below), leading us up to the bustling summit.

aerial drone views of hairpins along the route

Upper photo: Looking down the mountain - Hairpins 8 (photo bottom) to 24 (photo top)

Photo bottom left:  Hairpins 42-35

Photo bottom right:  Hairpins 30-24

the final turn on the route

Ultimo tornante (last turn).

Photos of the Glorious Hairpins and Some Stelvio Facts

The pass was constructed in 1825 at the direction of Austria’s Franz Joseph I, who wanted a more direct route from Vienna to Milan.  

the first eight turns on the route

The first eight tornanti (turns 48-41).

The pass is 2758 meters.  There are 48 switchbacks coming from Prato (from the northeast) and 36 coming from Bormio (from the southwest).

More turns along the route

The pass was first included in the Giro d’Italia in 1953 and fittingly the great Fausto Coppi won the stage.

More turns along the route

As of 2019 the Giro d’Italia had featured Passo Stelvio in 12 races since its first appearance in 1953.  The pass will be included in the 2020 Giro after a two year absence.  The pass has been a stage finish four times in the Giro.  

Four times the Giro’s passage of Stelvio has been cancelled due to snow.

more turns along the route

Each year on the last Saturday of August, approximately 12,000 cyclists participate in Stelvio Bike Day.  On this day, all roads to the pass (from Bormio, Prato, and Santa Maria Val Mustair [Switzerland approach] are closed to motor vehicles). Most of the cyclists ride from Prato which is considered the classic approach to the pass.

More turns along the route

There was no sign for turn 9 in July 2017.

The pass is closed during the winter.  

More turns along the route

AT THE TOP

at the summit

Passo Dello Stelvio - 2760 meters.  The highest pass of any Grand Tour.

Three times we have climbed Passo Stelvio and three times we have had Ricardo’s awesome bratwurst and sauerkraut sandwiches - we highly recommend them.  

BIKE DAY

"It is the highest finish of any Grand Tour. The Giro d'Italia often crosses the Stelvio Pass (it was crossed by the Giro for the first time in 1953, when Coppi beat Koblet). The last winner on the pass was Dario Cataldo in 2014. Every year, the pass is closed to motor vehicles on one day in late August when about 8,000 cyclists ride on the Stelvio" (Stelvio Pass, Wikipedia).

Bike Day 2019

The pass on Bike Day 2019.

Stelvio Bike Day - contribution from Benjamin Wohlwend:

Perhaps the best way to experience the Stelvio is on Bike Day, an annual event on a Saturday at the end of August or the beginning of September. On this day, both the Stelvio and the Umbrail are closed to motorized traffic, giving you a chance to climb this icon without having to contest with motorcycles and sports cars. You won't have the road to yourself though as 10,000 or more cyclists will help you share this extraordinary cycling experience giving this event a distinct "Gran Fondo" feeling. Adding to this is a number of amenities that can't be expected on any given day: additional water fountains along the climb, professional photographers, and even the occasional bike service tent.

Bike day 2019

Bike Day 2019.

A pro tip for quick descenders to Prad: avoid the crowded Stelvio. Instead, continue on to the Umbrail Pass and into Switzerland, and complete the loop via Müstair, Taufers and Glurns.

TRAFFIC AND THE ROADWAY

Gorgeous views of bright pink wildflowers along the hillside looking out over sweeping mountainous views

Summer flowers

Berghotel Franzenshöhe at lower portion of photo - at hairpin 22 and km 19.2

Passo dello Stelvio is in the Ortler Alps of Europe’s Alps Mountain Range.  The Ortler Alps were the scene of fierce battles during World War I as forces from both sides were dug into these mountains for much of the war.

traffic jam along the narrow mountainous roadway

This is a very busy road.

Ride early morning and on weekdays for less traffic.

GIRO HISTORY

YEAR

STAGE

STAGE WINNER

COUNTRY

1953

20

Fausto Coppi

Italy

1961

20

Charly Gaul

Luxembourg

1965

20

Graziano Battistini

Italy

1972

17

Lavendera Fuente

Spain

1975

21

Francisco Galdos

Spain

1980

20

Jean-Rene Bernaudeau

France

1984

18 - cancelled

The Controversy

n/a

1994

15

Marco Pantani

Italy

2005

14

Ivan Parra

Columbia

2012

20

Thomas de Gendt

Belgium

2014

16

Nairo Quintana

Columbia

2017

16

Vincenzo Nibali

Spain

Note:  Pass was cancelled due to snow in 1967, 1984, 1988 & 2013.

Stelvio is the highest pass available to the Giro.  Thus, if Stelvio is included in the Giro it will necessarily be the Cima Coppi, which it has been on nine occasions since that designation was first established in honor of arguably the tours greatest participant of all time:

“The Cima Coppi is the title given to the highest peak in the yearly running of the Giro d'Italia, one of cycling's Grand Tour races. The mountain that is given this title each year awards more mountains classification points to the first rider than any of the other categorized mountains in the race.

The categorization was first introduced for the 1965 Giro d'Italia in honor of the late Fausto Coppi who won five editions of the Giro d'Italia and three mountain classification titles during his career. It was first announced on 22 April 1965 by then race director Vicenzo Torriani that the highest peak would award two times as many mountains classification points. Torriani thought of possibly awarding time bonuses to the first to summit the mountain; however, after many dissenting opinions, he opted to go award more mountains classification points.

The Cima Coppi changes from year to year, depending on the altitude profile of the Giro d'Italia, but the Cima Coppi par excellence is the Stelvio Pass, which at 2758 m is the highest point ever reached by the Giro. The Stelvio has been used in the 1972, 1975, 1980, 1994, 2005, 2012, 2014 and 2017 editions. It was also scheduled in 1965, 1988, and 2013, but in each case the course was modified due to weather conditions, with various effects on the Cima Coppi designation.”  
Wikipedia - Cima Coppi

 Haute Route writes:

The Stelvio is probably the most photographed and the most instantly recognisable climb in the world. The second highest paved pass in Europe, at 2,758m it is just 12m lower than the col de l’Iseran, in France. Even if you start from the easiest side you will have to climb almost 1,600m in 22 km, at an average gradient of 7.4%. What’s more, there is a ski station on the summit and it often snows, even in mid-summer!

That the Stelvio has become iconic with just 12 appearances in the Giro testifies to the legendary nature of the events that have taken place on its slopes. The Stelvio began creating legends from its very first appearance, in 1953. The great Hugo Koblet was in the leader’s jersey for 12 stages in a row, from Stage 8 until Stage 20. From Bolzano to Bormio, crossing the Passo dello Stelvio, this was the first time the Giro had ever been so high. Koblet was an excellent climber and everyone expected him to keep his lead. This was to reckon without the Campionissimo, or Champion of Champions. Coppi attacked Koblet 11km from the summit on the then unmade road and rode into history by winning the Giro for the fifth time. Coppi’s comment on reaching the summit was: “in the last few bends, I thought I was going to die”.