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.
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 Müstair 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 Dreiländergiro*. 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…
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 🙂
Picture gallery on Google+
* Link to the German pages, as the English pages on the site of the Dreiländergiro are often outdated…