If you’re the type of cyclist that wants first-hand experience of one of the sport’s most legendary climbs and aren’t afraid of pushing your limits, then riding the Mortirolo from Mazzo di Valtellina should certainly be on your list. The linking road between Valtellina and neighbouring Valcamonica, this climb starts in Mazzo at an elevation of 552 metres and finishes 12.4 km further up the road at an elevation of 1,852 metres. With an average gradient of 10.5% and ramps of 20%-plus at times, it is considered one of the hardest climbs in cycling.
The hardest stretch, which can bring even the toughest riders to a standstill, comes at approximately 4 km once you’ve passed the church dedicated to San Matteo. Here’s where Marco Pantani launched his decisive attack in 1994, leaving Miguel Indurain in his wake and cementing his place in the history books as one of cycling’s greatest ever climbers.
On the Giro d’Italia’s first-ever ascent of the Mortirolo, the Venezuelan rider Leonardo Sierra was first to the top of the pass and proceeded to catapult his way downhill to ensure he’d be first across the finish line in Aprica. Throughout the 1990s, the Mortirolo was the stage for many legendary battles between Franco Chioccioli, Gianni Bugno and Claudio Chiappucci, and later between Paolo Savoldelli, Ivan Gotti and Gilberto Simoni. Most recently, Ivan Basso (2010) and Alberto Contador (2015) have proven their dominance.