Giro d’Italia 2020 Report

Last time up the StelvioSo, how did I fare this Giro d’Italia 2020, compared to what I had in mind beforehand?

Well, I choked on the Mortirolo (from Mazzo) again and – barely – made it up the Bernina, all the way from Tirano.

The difference with last year being, that this did not happen during the same stage and that the Mortirolo was just as hot, but the Bernina was the coldest of all.

But, I kinda, sorta, had my revenge on the Mortirolo, as I was on its summit no less than four times, once twice during the same stage.

I also ended up on the Stelvio summit three times, during my prologue and as finishes for stages 7 and 9.

And, I was able to complete the Maratona dles Dolomites, which had been on my to-do/wish list, since I first visited the Dolomites in 2011.

Not surprisingly, that stage (6) also came with the highest elevation difference (D+) of all stages: almost 4,250 meters.

Giro d’Italia 2020 – Overview

Let’s start with a summary of all stages, with links to the Strava recordings:

DateStageTimeDistD+ 
8/4/2020Epilogue: Bernina2:51:1733.741,922
8/3/2020Stage 9: Stelvio2:05:1120.921,574
8/2/2020Stage 8: Foscagno & Livigno3:55:5676.371,834
8/1/2020Stage 7: Solda & Stelvio4:01:3450.072,645
7/31/2020Stage 6: Maratona dles Dolomites7:21:36135.474,241
7/30/2020Stage 5: Passo delle Erbe3:09:4750.191,912
7/29/2020Stage 4: Mortirolo & Mortirolo3:20:1246.472,006
7/28/2020Stage 3: Campo Carlo Mango & Tonale4:32:5181.42,163
7/27/2020Stage 2: Gavia & Mortirolo5:19:3483.582,674
7/26/2020Stage 1: Aprica, Mortirolo & Tonale5:47:29123.712,589
7/25/2020Prologue: Stelvio via Umbrail & Gavia4:54:3286.962,852
Totals47:19:59788.8826,412

As you can see, there’s no rest for the wicked, but I did build in some ‘easier’ days and forfeited the planned ascend of the Julier as the final of the epilogue of my Giro d’Italia 2020.

Together with calling it a day at the summit of the Stelvio after stage 7, those were the most sensible decisions I took. Both of them were taken because it was just too cold and too (slippery) wet to descend safely.

Other than that, I stubbornly ignored most of Paula’s pleas to stop torturing myself, but I did give in a bit sometimes, forfeiting a descend or a transfer.

While descending may seem – and arguably often is – less demanding than ascending, if you have any experience with it, you know that it is sometimes even harder.

Let alone when it’s freezing cold and raining…

Also, while I didn’t get a cyclist nodule (PNI) this year, like I did at the start of my Tour de Suisse 2019, I did develop a nasty boil, my first ever, which caused increasing back problems, as I was sitting uncomfortably awkward on my new bike.

My self-confidence that I could handle a new bike just before a Grand Tour, bit me in the ass pretty hard too. As it turned out, the stem was too short (by about 3 cm), so that didn’t help a lot either.

I replaced it before stage 2, but by then, I was already fighting a lost battle.

Anyway, despite all that, I managed to cycle just about everything I had in mind, albeit that I had to scrap some parts of it…

Prologue – Stelvio via Umbrail & Gavia

Giro d'Italia 2020 - PrologueAs usual, the transfer from our stop over hotel at the (in)famous Highline 179* to the start of my prologue, took ‘a little’ longer than anticipated.

So by the time we got to Val Müstair, where I got on my bike for a warming up towards Santa Maria for the Umbrail, the temperature had already risen to a healthy 30 degrees.

Luckily, clouds appeared and the temperature dropped steadily to more bearable temperatures during the climb and by the time I got to the summit, moving on to the connecting Stelvio summit, it was down to a comfortable 15 degrees or so.

After a break at Genziana’s, I descended towards Bormio, where I started the climb up the Gavia.

Where the Umbrail had only been climbed once before, and before all of it was asphalted, the Gavia was on my list a couple of times before, so I knew what I was in for.

The final run ‘around the corner’, towards the summit, was as cold as it has always been and I was happy to arrive at Rifugio Bonetta for a hot chocolate drink.

I then descended towards Ponte di Legno, where we settled into our hotel.

Stage 1 – Aprica, Mortirolo & Tonale

Giro d'Italia - Stage 1 - First MortiroloI got on my bike in front of the hotel and headed (down) towards Edolo, to first tackle the climb up to Aprica from there.

This is arguably the easier ascend, so it was a good warm up for the Mortirolo.

However, from Aprica, this is nowhere near as difficult as any of the classic ascends up the Mortirolo, but it is a lot longer.

I think what I eventually ended up doing, is the last one mentioned on the CyclingCols page, although I diverted by finishing Aprica first, which only adds another ~4 kilometers to it.

After a stop at the Albergo, I descended to Monno and further on to Edolo again, to tackle the full length of the Tonale from there.

By the time I got to the hairpins near our hotel, the rising temperatures and the fatigue were taking their toll, so it was quite a struggle to get up the rest of the Tonale.

Another stop at the summit and a fast descend later, we got back at the hotel close to 7 pm, after nearly 6 hours on the bike.

Stage 2 – Gavia & Mortirolo

Giro d'Italia - Stage 2 - on the GaviaIf you think I’d learned my lesson after stage 1 – as if I haven’t already had numerous Grand Tours in which I made the same mistakes – I decided to get up and over the Gavia from our hotel, to move on to Grosio for the Mortirolo from there.

The latter I had only seen twice as a descend, so I was curious how it would compare to the one from Mazzo as a climb.

However, as there was sign stating that the road was closed and we couldn’t figure out where and if it was impossible to get up that end by car so Paula could stay with me, so I didn’t dare to take the chance and moved on to Mazzo.

Giro d'Italia 2020 - Stage 2
A much needed photo op break at the Pantani monument

As if the Gavia and the 50 kilometers between its summit, down to Bormio and on to eventually Mazzo, hadn’t done enough damage, the temperature had by now also reached 30+ degrees.

Yes, most of the ‘in between’ was downhill, but both down the Gavia and particularly in the valley towards Mazzo, I was facing, often strong, headwinds.

At any rate, this re-encounter with the Mortirolo turned out to be as big a deception as last year and I may actually never** do it again.

And, I did not descend towards Monno again…

Stage 3 – Campo Carlo Mango & Tonale

Giro d'Italia - Stage 3 - on the scorching hot TonaleAs I didn’t want to push my luck, I agreed to a transfer by car to a starting point close to Dimaro.

I got on my bike near Pollizzano to get to the bottom of the climb up the Campo Carlo Mango. This is only 15 kilometers long, but half of it is not very easy and the temperature was close to 30 degrees again.

The name Carlo Magno probably doesn’t ring a bell, but it’s close to the more famous Madonna di Campiglio, to which I descended for lunch.

Madonna di Campiglio is a nice ski resort, where it was quite busy with (probably) hikers. While we were there, the temperature went up to over 35 degrees, so the (short) way back up to Campo Carlo Magno wasn’t an easy one.

Back in Dimaro, I started the ascend of the Tonale from that end. The CyclingCols page doesn’t list it from Dimaro, but only from Pejo Terme, i.e. Cusiano/Fucine, close to where I started earlier.

From Dimaro, the climb is not much shorter than from Edolo and it was scorching hot, heat emanating from everywhere: sun full frontal on my head, bouncing off the asphalt and from the rock walls on my right.

So, I was happy when the temperature started to drop during the last 5 km or so. Probably because of the more open character of the terrain and the brisk head wind, which other than that, wasn’t very helpful either.

Another flying descend to Ponte di Legno brought us back to the hotel – I decided that I would construct a few shorter stages, as I figured I’d probably be dead before even moving to Corvara…

Stage 4 – Mortirolo & Mortirolo

Giro d'Italia - Stage 4 - Mortirolo from MonnoObviously, as has been the case during most of my Grand Tours, I had forgotten half of the reasons I would be doing shorter stages the next morning.

So, I did transfer by car to somewhere near the road up to Monno, and the Mortirolo from that end is arguably the easier way up.

But the plan was to get down the Grosio, to see if the road was or wasn’t closed and then see how to proceed. That would probably have been the climb to Aprica via Santa Cristina or something.

However, the road wasn’t closed today, although it was clearly ‘under construction’ for a stretch, so I turned around once in Grosio and – finally – got the Mortirolo from there on the ‘been there, done that’ list, albeit barely.

With temperatures around 30 degrees again, I seriously started to doubt I would make it – it’s the ascend dubbed ‘from Tiolo’ on the CyclingCols page.

Giro d'Italia - Stage 4 - Mortirolo from GrosioBy the time I was halfway up and the next steep sections started, I needed to take 30-second breaks every 5 minutes or so and I was consuming a (500 ml) bottle with a Precision Hydration 1000 tab every kilometer…

I did – once again – not descend to Monno and so, while this stage was just over 46 kilometers long, it most likely had the most D+ per kilometer.

I should probably not/never include two Mortirolo’s in my short stages.

Stage 5 – Passo delle Erbe

After a couple of long looks in the mirror the night before, drifting off in a coma a couple of times, I eventually decided to ‘only’ go for the west side of the Passo delle Erbe.

I considered several alternatives, including the Mendola towards Bolzano by bike, side-stepping up to Val Martello after a car transfer over the Stelvio, the Full Monty of the Gardena from Ponte di Gardena, or something starting south of Canazei.

But other than the Mendola, most of those were impractical or would require even more time in the car and the Gardena has already been ticked off, so we drove to Bressanone.

As I’m easily confused, I wasn’t sure which alternative to take from there. I mean, I was looking for the ‘easier’ way up, so the second alternative on the CyclingCols page, but I didn’t know where to start, or which sign(s) to follow.

Giro d'Italia - Stage 5 - Passo delle ErbeIn the end, it didn’t turn out to be all that difficult, so I found my way, but – and I know I keep repeating myself – the temperature was again over 30 degrees, touching on 35, so also this ‘easier’ alternative was a hard ride.

After Valcrocce, it got a bit easier, with a sort of undulating second half, but I always dread the ‘in between’ downhill sections, as you will have to make up for the altitude drop afterwards.

At the summit, we had a bite and I did remember that the descend would come with a stinging uphill section after Antermoia, as I had cycled in the reverse direction back in 2015 already.

I cycled along the more or less flat road towards Pederoa to make it an even 50 kilometers for the stage and threw the bike in the car well before the bottom hair pins of the Campolongo, just before Pedraces.

Yes, I remembered those too, from when we transferred by car to Piccolino in 2015 🙂

So, I was all fresh for the upcoming Maratona tomorrow, after these two short stages, right?

Stage 6 – Maratona dles Dolomites

The Queen Stage of Giro d’Italia 2020, or an Imminent, maybe Apocalyptic, Bust?

I honestly didn’t know which way it would go when I got on my bike around 9 am, for the first ascend of the Campolongo.

I ‘promised’ myself I would do the smart thing after completing the Sella Ronda and take it from there. It looked I would be in for another hot day, so I wasn’t putting any money on anything…

However, that Sella Ronda – the Campolongo, the Pordoi, ‘piece de resistance’ for the clockwise loop, the Sella and the Gardena – actually went better than I hoped for, so I immediately continued with the second ascend of the Campolongo and descended to Arabba for a lunch break.

By now, the temperature had gone up (way) past 35 degrees, so I was a little concerned about the impeding doom of the Giau under those conditions.

The Colle Santa Lucia (the second alternative) is not even listed as a climb in the Maratona course, but from Arabba to Codalonga wasn’t really a recovery stretch for sure.

About half way up the Giau, clouds were appearing and the temperature dropped, so it didn’t turn into the Waterloo I had feared and which I experienced on the Bernina last year.

After the following climb up the Falzarego/Valparola and the descend to La Villa, I even took on the steep but short Mür dl Giat, which at the end of a Maratona is certain to blow up your legs, but obviously no match for the likes of a Mortirolo.

And the final kilometers were almost like a celebration, imagining hordes of enthusiastic fans along the road, before I arrived back in Corvara.

My Giro’s Queen Stage it had become then…

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Stage 7 – Solda & Stelvio

As it turned out, Val Martello was closed***, so I decided to ride the alternative stage on our way back to Ponte di Legno.

Yes, this is not the short route and as it turned out, it was even less short, which we only discovered half way up the Gavia, but anyway.

Also yes, this is probably not what most would call a rest or recovery day, after the likes of a Maratona and I can assure you: I agree. But I did so only after I completed this stage.

Well, actually, I regretted taking the Solda fork already when I was less than 3 kilometers in.

Giro d'Italia - Stage 7When I got on the bike a few clicks outside of Prato, it was an unhealthy 37 degrees, which only got marginally better, all the way up to Solda.

We had lunch there, on a hot – 30 degrees at close to 2,000 meters! – and surprisingly busy terrace; also here, a lot of (probably) hikers around, many of them taking the cable car to, or returning from, higher altitudes.

After returning down to Gomagoi, I started the bulk of the Stelvio from there.

This was now (only) my third ascend up from this end, but it holds no surprises. Which doesn’t make it easier, especially not if you are ‘a little tired’, like I was.Giro d'Italia - Stage 7

Luckily, the temperature started to drop the higher I got, but by the time I passed the Hotel Franzenshöhe at hairpin 22, it started to look like it would rain soon.

I only had a little rain even closer to the summit though, but once we arrived there, it was clear that all hell had broken lose on the other side and everybody was hastily closing their shop.

We did have a coffee at Genziana’s after which it was unclear if the road to Bormio was open at all, because of an earlier landslide. We’d find out at the Umbrail split…

The landslide had been cleared and the road was open, so we could go down – and also this time I forfeited the descend on my bike – but although there was no indication in Bormio, we found that the Gavia was closed on the other end.

So far for the usefulness of the ‘pass open’ sign – I mean, it was open, but you couldn’t go down the other end, which was exactly what we needed to do.

Only in Santa Caterina was there a sign that the pass summit was open, but that the Ponte di Legno descend was not, so we had to turn around and take the long road, via Tirano, Aprica and Edolo, back to our hotel.

Stage 8 – Foscagno & Livigno

Giro d'Italia - Stage 8With the Gavia being and remaining closed from our end, we had to get around the same long way to Bormio, for stages 8 and 9.

I was looking for alternatives in our area, but I really had set my mind on the Foscagno and another Stelvio from Bormio.

Why on earth I wanted the Foscagno and Livigno, I will never know.

I rode that same route back in 2011 and I seemed to remember it was a nice route, other than the annoying wind on the ‘Forcola’.

However, the only reason I eventually found that made it worth getting up the Foscagno again, was because Annemiek van Vleuten’s favorite hotel is near its summit.

Other than that, the Foscagno is not a particularly attractive climb, although it has some great views when leaving the valley past Valdidentro.

I later learned I missed Annemiek by a couple of days, as she was there a few days later.

I remembered the down- and uphill to the Passo Eira in between the descend towards Livigno, so that didn’t surprise me.

On the upside, Paula filled up the tank with diesel at .78 Euro / liter in Livigno, so that was another good thing 🙂Giro d'Italia - Stage 8

The climb up the Forcola di Livigno was actually not as bad as I remembered, also because there wasn’t as much wind.

This time, I did not get up to the Bernina summit. First of all, the weather was not very good – it had changed for the worse since we came back from Corvara – but I also had the Bernina already planned for my final stage.

The descend down to Poschiavo was probably one of the fastest I had during my Giro d’Italia 2020, like it was in 2015. I then pedaled on a bit, until Paula catched up and I put the bike in the car, just at the end of the lake.

Stage 9 – Stelvio

Giro d'Italia - Stage 9I wanted to get up the Bormio end of the Stelvio once more, but it was an experience similar to my Mapei Day in 2011, with not very good weather.

As an extension, I had the climb to Aprica via Santa Cristina planned (again) for later, but the weather turned so bad, I didn’t do it.

So, since this stage eventually turned out to be not much more than a leisure ride up the Stelvio and the shortest of my Giro d’Italia 2020, I was a little pissed that we spent more hours in the car than I did on the bike.

However, as Paula was tirelessly doing all the driving and was taking care of me while I cycled and was shooting pictures under the same (both) hot and icy cold, rainy, conditions, I had no reason to complain.

Stage 10 / Epilogue – Bernina

Giro d'Italia - Stage 10I hesitated long about taking on the full length of the Bernina. After all, from Tirano, it is a formidable 33.3 kilometers to its summit.

Granted, there is relatively easy ~10 km stretch along the Lago di Poschiavo, but the first 6.5 and final 15.5 kilometers are tough as nails.

Unfortunately, adding to the fatigue and the change in(to) rainy weather, there now also was a strong and cold head wind, which kept beating me most of the route.

Closer to the summit and especially the final 5 to 6 kilometers, this became so bad, that Paula repeatedly – and despite her knowing better – begged me to get into the car.

Fuck that motto ‘Aut non tentaris, aut perfice‘, but I didn’t and I made it.

The only – and only sensible – thing I did, was to call an end to my Giro once I got there; descending to Samedan, limping along to Silvaplana to get another wet and cold beating up the Julier, let alone that I would even consider going the 36 km down that one as planned, would have been utterly stupid.

Had I been going up the Julier, I again would have missed Annemiek by a few days

The End

So yes, there seems to be a limit to my stupidity. I kinda pride myself for my ‘per avere molta grinta’, but I more often curse at myself because of it.

Once again, I utterly enjoyed beating myself up, still being able to take in much of the overwhelming landscape and enjoy the incredible views.

As long as I can do it, I will continue to do it, but it is clear that, as I grow older – this Giro was actually an unexpected 60th birthday gift – it becomes increasingly harder to maintain that image of having a lot of grit.

Then again, the market for electrical race or mountain bikes is still evolving and will probably become more appealing to me.

When the time comes 🙂

Oh, and as mentioned above, my most noticeable achievement of this Giro d’Italia 2020, was completing the Maratona.

If any vinegar-pissing nitwit suggests I actually didn’t, because I didn’t start in La Villa and therefore cycled a few km less, I will hunt you down and throw you off a cliff myself.

With that, thank you for reading – feel free to comment or ask anything, but don’t get outside the boundaries of the cycling realm.


* In case you’re wondering: yes, despite my vertigo, I did cross the bloody thing, but I may have pooped my pants and I did not look down, although I managed to shoot a few pictures/selfies…

** Of course I will, given the opportunity – stupid is as stupid does, right?

*** I didn’t go to the trouble of finding out how closed, where or for what, as I wouldn’t go there without Paula in the car anyway, we just noticed the sign at the bottom.

Final Giro 2020 pic on the Bernina

Freezing cold Bernina summit finish of my Giro – you can tell how cold by the look on my half frozen face 🙂