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The Stelvio, one of a trio of legendary passes together with the Gavia and Mortirolo

Legedndary. That is the only way to describe the Stelvio, Gavia and Mortirolo Passes. Follow in the tracks of champions like Coppi and Pantani and you too could become one of the greats.

The Stelvio. One of the most scenic mountain roads in the world. With its 88 turns, tunnels and breathtaking views, it has to be seen to be believed. The pass has achieved near-mythical status in the world of cycling as the all time Cima Coppi (the highest point on the Giro d’Italia route each year).

The Stelvio and the Giro d’Italia

Do you know where the term ‘Cima Coppi’ originated? 1953 saw the first appearance of the Stelvio Pass in the Giro d’Italia. The climb to 2,758m with sheer walls of snow at either side of the road seemed impossible. But victory was just around the corner; Fausto Coppi won the pink jersey and his fifth (and final) Giro. The stage went down in history as an incredible feat of cycling.

A little like the 1988 race, that saw the Gavia as the highest point at 2,652m. In 1960 the Gavia had already seen some nail-biting moments when Massignan got three punctures on the downhill stretch. But it was in 1988 under thick falling snow that history was made. Competing for the title were the Dutch Van der Velde and the American Hampsten (who went on to win). At the top of the pass it was -4°C, snowing, with zero visibility and the road was still unpaved in places. Many athletes dropped out, while others who did make it to the finish line showed early signs of frostbite.

That was on the 5th of June. Six years later in 1994, on the very same date, the world discovered Marco Pantani; who that day on the Mortirolo Pass earned his place both in the pantheon of great climbers and the history of Italian cycling. Pantani powered up the hardest uphill stretch and passed the peak alone. Berzin, the holder of the pink jersey, as well as formidable competition in the form of Indurain and Chiappucci tried to keep up, but eventually had to bow to the king of the hill.

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