Tour de Suisse 2019 Stages – Part 1

Tour de Suisse Logo

In a previous post, I have described the area around Slivaplana, our first base camp for my Tour de Suisse 2019.

This post provides more details on the possible stages and alternatives I have in mind and which I will probably not ride.

Although not for lack of trying, but just because most of my trip ideas are insane, given that I would like to ride every day and I’m not a world tour pro rider…

Another factor is, that there are many climbs, most of them with at least two alternative routes to cycle them, and I have only so many days during either part of my Tour de Suisse.

So, each stage below is described including alternatives – if you’d rather not read all of that, just wait for my post stage reports later on ūüôā

Read moreTour de Suisse 2019 Stages – Part 1

Tour de Suisse 2019 Sketches – Part 1

Official (2019) Tour de Suisse Logo

Now that our short trip to sunny Egypt has ended and May is coming to a close, the start of my Tour de Suisse 2019 is only two months away.

Although I’m back to a regular – much less intense destructive than in 2018 – training routine, I’m still a long way from anything near my ‘normal’ form.

On average, my power numbers are 30 Watts lower than they used to be before my injuries forced me to take a 3-month break.

With the help of Pav from Direct Power Coaching, or Spokes Fit as they are now rebranded, I successfully rebooted, following two training plans.

During that reboot, I reconnected with Xert and I’m now using their ‘adaptive training advisor’ to get me further back on track. I’ll try and write a post on Xert in the near future.

Anyway, the apartments for the Tour de Suisse have been booked, Chesa Bellaval in Silvaplana and Casa Nacla in Sedrun/Surrein.

Both apartments are chosen based on their strategic location, while still staying within a more or less ‘sane’ budget for the tour.

From either place, a score of cols is available for me to break my legs on…

In this post, I’m covering part 1, the week in Silvaplana.

Read moreTour de Suisse 2019 Sketches – Part 1

Umbrail Pass

A little side-trip into Switzerland during the Giro of 2011: the Umbrail Pass, which connects to the Stelvio (from Bormio) just after its summit.

Report on that stage here.

UmbrailAt 2,501 meters it earns a top 10 spot in the list of highest paved passes in Europe and it is the highest paved pass in Switzerland.

Santa Maria

With an average grade of 8.5% it’s far from easy, but it’s a nice, steady climb, with beautiful views and it is not too busy with motorized traffic.

The steepest part is actually right at the start, where, after a series of hairpins, you will be rewarded with stunning views of the M√ľstair valley with Santa Maria in it.

The two kilometer unpaved section in the middle was actually not too bad, especially if it did not rain – probably it was more difficult in the descent, like during the Dreil√§ndergiro*. However, since a few years, the entire pass has been paved, so this problem does no longer exist…

Because of its open character, the wind may be an annoying factor in the upper part, were the road is fairly straight, almost “meandering” like a stream. Just past the summit, you’ll end up on the Stelvio – you can then climb the final, difficult, kilometers up to the summit of that (CBB), or descend to Bormio.

Note that including the remainder of the Stelvio will¬†increase the overall average grade to a staggering 9.4% over the full distance of 14.6 kilometers…


Obviously the climb from Bormio is better known for its more famous twin, the Stelvio.

Up to the summit of the Umbrail and the split for the remainder of the Stelvio at the old customs building, it’s 18.3 kilometers long at an average of 7.1%.

Not the easiest of climbs either…

A combination (loop) with the full length of the Stelvio – from either Prato or Bormio – is harder than it looks.

From Bormio you would first climb the Stelvio, descend to Prato and then circle around via Sluderno to Santa Maria for the Umbrail – this is the most obvious option.

Counterclockwise from Prato, with the Stelvio first and the descent to Bormio is also possible, but getting to Santa Maria that way is much more challenging.

You will first have to get over the Foscagno, take the bike-train through the tunnel Munt la Schera (now prohibited for cyclists) and then get over the Ofen pass.

Obviously, you could also just ascend the Stelvio from either side, descend the Umbrail to Santa Maria, turn round and get back up again ūüôā

Picture gallery on Google+

* Link to the German pages, as the English pages on the site of the Dreil√§ndergiro are often unavailable or outdated…

View of the Umbrail

Stelvio Pass

You see the pictures of the might Stelvio on the Internet – especially those from the Prato side of the climb – and you instantly feel the urge to get on your bicycle.

With its 2,758 meters it’s second on the list of Europe’s highest passes, after the Iseran – a few dead ends are higher, though they might not be cycle-able with a road bike, and I do not count the artificial loop around the Bonette (the Cime)…

Obviously, the Stelvio is included in a score of Gran Fondos, and you can also climb it on days when it’s closed to motorized traffic, like during the Mapei Day. The advantage of that is clear, but you will be sharing the road with thousands of other cyclists (or skaters, hand bikers, etc.).

Still, that is probably better than sharing it with motorized traffic – as with many of these famous passes, the Stelvio is a magnet to motorists and (wannabee) Formula 1 car drivers. It actually is frequently used as a test course for Ferrari, but when that happens, the road is closed to all other traffic…

Also when planning to climb the Stelvio, you’d do well to inform yourself about the weather conditions. I have experienced 30+ degrees in the valley on either side and close to zero degrees at the summit. It may even snow up there, any given day…

From Prato

Profile of the Stelvio from PratoIn 2008, I climbed up the Stelvio from this end for the first time – report on that trip here.

In 2015 I had a round trip up both ends consequetivley – report here.

Starting from Prato, the Stelvio Pass has a length of roughly 25 km and an altitude gain of just over 1,800 meters.

Both in 2008 and in 2015, I got on the bike at the Hotel Gasthof Stern in Prato.

The first eight kilometers to Trafoi are not too hard, although you’ll see – and feel – inclines¬†of 10%.

Shortly before Trafoi you pass through the first 2 hairpins – these are just after the tunnel / gallery between Gomagoi and Trafoi.

There are 48 in total from this end – the next 2 you encounter when leaving Trafoi, at Hotel Bellavista.

After that, you’ll cycle quite some distance through a reasonably sheltered – tree covered – area, changing between slightly winding sections and series of hairpins.

This pretty much goes on until “tornante” 32, from where the next kilometers and hairpin sections have a more open character. From hairpin 24, just before¬†hotel restaurant Franzensh√∂he in nr. 22, you finally get to look at the view of the remaining hairpins, winding up (far) above you…

From that point onward, until you reach the summit, you are rewarded with ever more breathtaking views, for which the Stelvio is known so well.

Once you reach the usually very crowded summit, you are “treated” with the smell of bratwurst – Bruno’s hot dog and “wurstel” trolley is the first thing you encounter.

If you want to have some good food, ride on to Albergo Genziana, just past the shopping array…

Video from the Col Collective

This video from the rebel himself is unsuited for minors, but the language is Dutch, with no subtitles – only for those who have the stomach should watch it…

From Bormio

Report on the 2011 trips here / Mapei Day here, Stelvio revisited 2015 here.

Profile of the Stelvio from BormioThere was a reason we booked a hotel near Bormio in 2011: the Gavia, Mortirolo and the Stelvio are around the corner!

Obviously, the same excuse was used in 2015, when we rented an apartment in the area…

On paper, the ascent from the south may look less challenging than the one from the north side – just over 21 kilometers and just over 1,500 altimeters.

But appearances are deceiving, because the percentages are almost equal and the last two, two and a half kilometers are demanding, devastating if the biting cold wind happens to be a strong head wind.

Also from Bormio, you can look forward to a beautiful climb, with similarly numbered hairpins, 40 in this case – number 40 you will find when you leave Bormio and see “BORMIO m 1225” on the wall.

The sign says 1256 s.l.m. because Bormio village is at 1225 and you have gained 31 meters up to that hairpin.

Passing Bagni di Bormio, you turn away from Bormio and when you’re some 6¬†kilometers and a couple¬†more hairpins in, you reach the series of short tunnels.

Luckily, the bike lights and reflectors for these Рsome of them were pitch dark Рare no longer necessary, because they are now (well) lit, albeit still narrow.

After you pass these tunnels, you’ll run into some¬†short, stinging, sections of 14, 15%.

However, you also have a stunning view on the most beautiful part of the climb, the series of 14 hairpins – 28 to 15 – snailing up along the rocks.

As you climb these, looking back will give you similar views to the ones found in the top half of the other side’s ascend.

After looking back one final time, you will be able to catch your breath a bit on the fairly straight and flatter passage towards the final part of the climb.

If you’re not faced with a head wind that is, because if you are, it’s not so much fun… Once you get past the chapel, you can already see the start of that “grand finale” in the distance.

Approaching the top of / split with the Umbrail, the grades go up to 10% again, but after that, it gets really tough when that becomes 12, 13, 14%.

This last part of the climb seems to go on forever and if you do get a head wind here, you’ll be extremely happy once you finally reach the summit…

Stelvio - no view at the summit
Sometimes, you will not get the “promised” views at the summit…

Pictures from both sides on my Google+ page and a video of the Bormio climb by the Col Collective here.

Giro d’Italia 2015 – Stage 11

Stelvio Times Two

As much I would like to have had another shot at the Mortirolo, either from Grosio or Mazzo, I prioritized the Stelvio, in particular the Prato side.

Since¬†Friday will be another tough day, I shall¬†use Thursday to recuperate – climbing up the Stelvio is not much of a recuperation, so today it was “Stelvio or bust”…

As we are located in Bormio, I had the choice to get over the Foscagno to Livigno, onwards to Switzerland and then over the Ofen pass to circle around to Prato on the other end of the Stelvio.

While I seriously considered that option, I eventually¬†decided to just get to Prato via the short route, i.e. over the Stelvio…

Read moreGiro d’Italia 2015 – Stage 11