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to­wards Gösch­enen, the road dives into the Schöl­lenen Gorge, a pre­cip­i­tous cleft where the Teufels­brücke (Devil’s Bridge) leaps across the rush­ing Reuss. Leg­end has it that con­struc­tion of the orig­i­nal bridge was so tough that the Devil of­fered to com­plete it in exchange for the soul of the first be­ing to cross it. The lo­cals agreed but chased a goat across the fin­ished bridge, an­ger­ing the Devil, who re­turned to de­stroy it, only to be thwarted by a woman bran­dish­ing a cross.

At Gösch­enen, the mo­tor­way and rail­way emerge from the St Got­thard tun­nel and run along­side the route as far as Wassen, where your turn north­west onto the first ramps of the Susten Pass. At al­most 18km, this is the long­est as­cent on the route. It’s con­sis­tently de­mand­ing and, par­tic­u­larly over the fi­nal half-dozen kilo­me­tres, breath­tak­ing in both senses of the word.

Peak per­for­mance

Af­ter the long drop from the top of the St Got­thard, it’s a shock for the legs to be climb­ing again, and quite steeply too, on the road out of Wassen. But this is quite dif­fer­ent moun­tain scenery to the St Got­thard. Track­ing up the north­ern flank of the val­ley above the waters of the Meien­reuss, it fol­lows a straight course run­ning di­rectly to­wards the Wen­del­horn and the Fünffin­ger­stöck, with its five jagged peaks.

The head of the pass is vis­i­ble from some dis­tance away, which can be daunt­ing be­cause progress to­wards it is not rapid – but the scenery is fab­u­lous, with more peaks and glaciers ap­pear­ing. Beyond 2,000m, the road switches south­west to­wards the Stein Glacier and soon reaches the short tun­nel at the sum­mit that leads through into the can­ton of Berne and on to the close-to-30km des­cent into In­nertkirchen.

Built over seven years up to 1945, the Susten Pass was the first in Switzer­land cre­ated purely for road traf­fic rather than fol­low­ing a long-es­tab­lished trad­ing and travel route. Thanks to this, it’s beau­ti­fully sur­faced and engi­neered. Af­ter a few hair­pins just below the sum­mit, it flows like a gi­ant slalom course down the moun­tain. There are long straights and most of the cor­ners are so well cam­bered that the brakes need merely a touch. Pro­fes­sion­als have been known to achieve speeds in ex­cess of 110km/h on these slopes (bear in mind that’s on closed roads).

The route con­tin­ues to­wards Meirin­gen, veer­ing left be­fore the town to­wards the Grosse Schei­degg. This is an­other long and quite gru­elling climb, so it could well be time for a break. Just a few me­tres up the climb, there’s an ideal spot for a rest in the form of the Re­ichen­bach Falls. Renowned as the lo­ca­tion of the fi­nal con­fronta­tion be­tween Sherlock Holmes and his arch­en­emy, Pro­fes­sor Mo­ri­arty, the falls have a com­bined drop of 250m, the awe-in­spir­ing plunge of the Up­per Re­ichen­bach alone ac­count­ing for more than a third of that.

Sound of si­lence

Back in the sad­dle, the nar­row road climbs along­side the cas­cad­ing River Re­ichen­bach through thick wood­land and past oc­ca­sional farms. Thanks to a bar on all mo­tor traf­fic ex­cept postal and farm ve­hi­cles, it is won­der­fully quiet. The lack of traf­fic does mean the road sur­face is not as well main­tained as the Susten’s, but this isn’t a crit­i­cal is­sue go­ing up­wards.

As you emerge from the trees and onto an eas­ier gra­di­ent, the Sch­warzen­wal­dalp is dead ahead, its lower peak half-con­ceal­ing the up­per part of the moun­tain as the Rosen­laui Glacier hangs over its shoul­der. The road steps to a slightly higher level and passes the Ho­tel Rosen­laui, be­fore kick­ing up again for the fi­nal run to the sum­mit. Much of the next 7km is wickedly steep.

Af­ter one fi­nal wooded sec­tion, the route ventures into lush moun­tain mead­ows, run­ning par­al­lel to the course of the Re­ichen­bach to­wards the cliffs on the south of the val­ley. Ap­proach­ing the sum­mit, the peaks on the other side of the pass loom into view, in­clud­ing the Eiger, its in­fa­mous North Face al­most per­ma­nently in shadow.

Once over the top of the Grosse Schei­degg, the route down is steep but short. Within half an hour you can be sip­ping a beer in a Grindel­wald café and mak­ing a start on re­plen­ish­ing your carb lev­els, all while tak­ing in one of the most world’s most cel­e­brated moun­tain vis­tas.

Ul­ti­mate Etapes: Ride Europe’s Great­est Cy­cling Stages by Peter Cossins (RRP £20, Au­rum Press) is out now

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