Triplo Stelvio

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CONTENTS - by Terry Mck­all

As­cend­ing the iconic climb three times in a row

Sun­rise is still an hour away, at min­i­mum, when our ride leader, An­drea Gen­nari, mo­tions to our group to turn off our lights. Soon af­ter, we’re climb­ing Italy’s le­gendary Stelvio Pass en­tirely by moon­light.

We are in the early kilo­me­tres of the Triplo Stelvio, an event chal­leng­ing rid­ers to climb each of the three sides of Stelvio Pass in one day. The pre-dawn start has given us empty roads. Since leav­ing our ho­tel in Bormio, we have been passed by a sin­gle car. Aside from the Triplo Stelvio sup­port van, only one other ve­hi­cle will po­litely glide by us in the dark be­fore we reach our first sum­mit.

In the cool early-sum­mer morn­ing air, oc­ca­sional con­ver­sa­tions drift off into pe­ri­ods of quiet as we each fo­cus on the climb­ing, pac­ing, and then tak­ing in the ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing alone on this iconic moun­tain. Our small group of six, rep­re­sent­ing four con­ti­nents, is part of a larger group of just 25 rid­ers tak­ing part in the Triplo Stelvio. For now, we have the road to our­selves.

Gen­nari breaks the si­lence. Smil­ing, he turns to us and points up the road: “We have rab­bits.” Far up the road ahead of us, we can see lit­tle clus­ters of red and white lights zig-zag­ging steadily through the dark. It’s an­other group work­ing its way back and forth across a se­ries of steep switch­backs.

The stag­gered start is planned so that all 25 of us reach the sum­mit to­gether at dawn. Triplo Stelvio’s or­ga­nizer, Cecilia Men­des, has been clear since ev­ery­one ar­rived that this is not a race, but a chal­lenge that we are all work­ing to ac­com­plish. With roughly 5,000 m of climb­ing sched­uled for the 130-km ride, her warn­ing that “just to ride is chal­lenge enough” proves quite ac­cu­rate.

We have a sense of our com­mon goal in­stead of com­pe­ti­tion. As the pre-dawn light be­gins to il­lu­mi­nate the ridge­lines sur­round­ing us, and as we col­lect rid­ers into our group, ev­ery­one is sup­port­ive and en­cour­ag­ing de­spite the ef­fort of the climb.

The group ar­rives at the top of the pass with per­fect tim­ing. As we crest the last pitch, we’re greeted by the sun­rise’s golden light. Triplo Stelvio’s event staff hand out our jack­ets and warm clothes. Espresso waits inside the small café at the sum­mit.

Lay­ered up and caf­feinated, we start de­scend­ing the iconic 48 switch­backs of Stelvio’s more fa­mous ap­proach from the north­east. De­scend­ing the quiet roads in the soft dawn light is sub­lime.

We still have two more climbs to go. Each re­veals a dis­tinct per­son­al­ity of the moun­tain dur­ing the course of the day. For now, though, the speed is free and all thought of climb­ing is pushed aside as we fo­cus on find­ing the per­fect line through the next cor­ner.

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