Passo dello Stelvio (Bormio) Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

Passo dello Stelvio (Bormio)


Cycling Passo dello Stelvio Bike Climb: Super tough

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Climb Summary

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

 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).

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.

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

Last of 48 hairpins.

"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."  Wikipedia 

2758 meters - highest pass of any Grand Tour

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.

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.

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.








Fausto Coppi




Charly Gaul




Graziano Battistini




Lavendera Fuente




Francisco Galdos




Jean-Rene Bernaudeau



18 - cancelled

The Controversy




Marco Pantani




Ivan Parra




Thomas de Gendt




Nairo Quintana




Vincenzo Nibali


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 9 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


Classic side - Prato Allo Stelvio

The Roadway History of Stelvio:  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 - it is here that you will get Ricardo’s famous bratwurst and sauerkraut!!

   Bike climb of Passo dello Stelvio from Prato Allo Stelvio - photo of tornante 48 (hairpin 48)

Start from Prato side.

Cycling Stelvio from Prato - tornante (hairpin) #1 with bike below

Final Tornante

Cycling Passo dello Stelvio - bratwurst and food cart at the top

Hey, you still are 1,500 calories in the black!

Passo dello Stelvio pass sign at top of climb

This is one worth travelling to – it is a Must Do Bucket List Climb that words simply cannot describe – photos are a good, but not adequate substitute for doing this one yourself.

General history:  cycling weekly: 

“The Stelvio Pass featured in Tuesday’s stage 16 of the Giro d’Italia. Here’s a our quick guide to the iconic climb.

– 1825: Lo Passo dello Stelvio, or the Stelvio Pass opened because Austria’s Franz Joseph I wanted a way from Vienna to Milan. It remained open year-around through 1915. Workmen who lived in houses distributed on the road kept it clean. Now, and since the WWI, the pass remains closed in the winter.

– 2758: Elevation at pass. From Bormio the road switches back on itself 36 times. From the classic side, the one used in 1953, there are 48 times tornati or switchbacks.

– 1953: Organiser RCS Sport first used the pass. Fausto Coppi drop race leader Hugo Koblet on the climb and took the pink jersey in Bormio. He won the race the next day in Milan.

– 1975: The race finishes at the top of the pass. Spain’s Francisco Galdós won the stage and Italian Fausto Bertoglio took the overall title.

– 4: Number of times pass used as a stage finish. Graziano Battistini won in 1965, José Manuel Fuente in 1972, Francisco Galdós in 1975, Thomas De Gendt in 2012. With the four finishes included, the race visited the Passo dello Stelvio 11 times.

– 1967, 1984, 1988 & 2013: Pass cancelled due to snow.

– 2014: The organiser takes the race over the Stelvio and Gavia passes, the first time it included both in one stage.”


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”.

Steepest Gradients by Distance - from Prato Allo


Steepest kilometer starts at km 17.4 (9.4%)

Stelvio from Bormio

This is not “the famous side”, but let there be no doubt, Stelvio from Bormio is an absolute Must Do!  If your legs can manage it, there is possibly not greater out-and-back In the World!  We really mean that.  On its own, Passo dello Stelvio from Bormio is the 15th ranked road bike climb in Italy at a quite healthy 13.7 miles/22 kilometers, 4,950’/1,509m ascent at 6.8% average grade.  Throw in a Prato Backside and you end the day with 58.5 miles/94 kilometers, climbing 11,200’/3,415m.  Here is a MAP for this magnificent out-and-back.  It is clear, however, that this is the “unpopular” side, borne out by a comparison of the Strava Attempts comparatively: 9,371 for Prato versus 1,259 for Bormio as of 10/10/16.

O.k., there are not as many switchbacks (only 38 versus the world renowned and famous 48 of Stelvio from Prato), but, hey, how often do you encounter 38 switchbacks on one climb?  Correct - almost never!

Passo dello Stelvio bike climb from Stelvio - photo off hairpin (tornante) 38

Start in Bormio

While there are only 38 on the Bormio side compared to the famous 48 from Prato, this route is a “must do” - Do not travel to Stelvio and miss this side of the ascent.

Bormio is an incredible town and we believe we made a good choice staying there to stage for our 3 days in the Stelvio Area.  From Bormio, we are in striking distance of Passo Gavia and Passo Mortirolo, incredible must-do adventures on by their own right.  While Bormio is a town of only 4,000, it has every amenity you will need, even a high-end bike shop.  Of all things, I broke my seat (don’t ask!) during our 3 days there and to my surprise, there was a Trek store that had all manner of high end gear, equipment, tools, etc. that a serious cyclist would ever need.

We had planned this trip for over a year with Bormio/Stelvio as the figurative apex of the trip.  Stelvio had it all, the road history, Giro history, challenge and beauty like no other.  I remember clipping in and thinking, “Oh-my-gosh! I am really here - I am about to ride up Stelvio!” This was one of the greatest climbing days of my life and I hope that anyone reading this post has the opportunity to experience this once in a lifetime opportunity - as the Nike quote says “Just Do It!”

Road bike climb Passo dello Stelvio from Bormio - aerial drone photo of tornanti on stelvio from bormio 

As we ascended and ultimately looked back on the Bormio side Stelvio switchbacks, I commented “Those are the greatest set of switchbacks I have ever experienced.  On the way back down, after Stelvio from Prato, I did modify that lofty acclaim to “Those are the second greatest set of switchbacks I have ever experienced.”  Seriously - #1 and #2 in the same ride - are you kidding me?!!!!

Cycling Passo dello Stelvio - aerial drone photo of pass

The pass from the Bormio side.

Steepest Gradients by Distance - from Bormio


Steepest kilometer starts at km 18.8 (9.6%)

Cycling Passo dello Stelvio - PJAMM Cycling John Johnson and Bill Cappobianco at the Passo sign

    Bike climb Passo dello Stelvio - John Johnson PJAMM Cycling at pass sign with bicycle


Bike climb Passo dello Stelvio - John Johnson PJAMM Cycling at Bratwurst and food cart with bike at top of climb

There are NO shortages of photo opps on Stelvio!

There are 7 fantastic climbs within 20 miles of Bormio (Stelvio-Umbrail-Gavia-Mortirolo) - Link to Map of all 7 climbs