Passo dello Stelvio

She is called the Queen of the Alps, and that is entirely justified. The Passo dello Stelvio (2760 meters) is the second highest asphalted mountain pass in the Alps, majestically located in the Stelvio National Park. For riders who reach the top there is not only eternal fame, but also sensational views of the Ortler massif with the Madatsch glacier and the Ortler itself. All around peaks with eternal snow and below the valley of Valle di Trafoi. There are signs that all people in the Bronze Age (3000 to 800 BC) crossed the Stelvio, but it was not until the early 19th century a road was built. Then the Habsburg monarchy at the end of the Neapolitan   war the Italian province of Lombardy received as compensation for lost area, wanted emperor Ferdinand I   a road connection between Tyrol and the new region (with Milan), not least for military reasons. It took the backs of 2,500 workers for five years, but as early as 1825 the 49-kilometer long road, which climbs 3,400 meters, could be opened.
The mountain attracted alpinists, artists, writers, tourists, skiers and cyclists of course. Certainly since Fausto Coppi struck in the penultimate stage of the 1953 Giro. It was the first time that the cycling caravan climbed 'the roof of the round'. Coppi considered pink jersey wearer Hugo Koblet too strong and thought he had no chance for the final victory until the Swiss made a blunder. Absolutely unnecessary, Koblet jumped after the escaped Nino Defilippis, a rider from Turin. Hugo Koblet overestimated his powers and was later overtaken and left behind by the old Campionissimo Coppi, who drove enthusiastically into the Stelvio. At the finish he had a 3 minute 28 lead. That was enough to win his fifth Giro the next day. That and the storming of the Stelvio was one of the last major performances of the legendary Coppi. In the history of the Tour of Italy, the Stelvio was only climbed ten times, but in almost all cases the mountain caused decisive shifts in the ranking. Like in 1980 when an Italian combine wanted to prevent at all costs that Bernard Hinault won their Giro. He was driven and on the morning of the ascent of the Stelvio he was number 2 in the top ten surrounded by seven Italians, including leader Panizza, Battaglin, Moser and Saronni. Clever as he was, the Frenchman sent three teammates with him on the first escape, and when he himself dragged himself hard between walls of snow, one after the other released Italian. The pink sweater also had to fit in the hairpin bend 34 (out of 48!).

For a moment, Wladimiro Panizza had no eye for the grassy mountain pastures, the stream that flows through the valley, the gnarled and crooked spruce along the road and the view of 2189 meters, when all hairpin bends can be seen at a glance. The Italian definitively lost the 1980 Giro and saw only black snow.

On the descent of the Stelvio, Hinault joined his teammate Jean-Réné Bernaudeau, who had a reputation as a descender. In the sinking to Bormio, Bernaudeau rode like a madman according to Hinault: "He didn't even use his brakes in the tunnels, the fool!" They won minutes. It won Bernaudeau the stage victory, Hinault his first of three Girozeges. The road across the Stelvio was kept passable by snow creators (of flesh and blood) a hundred years ago, since 1959 the mountain pass is closed from the end of October to the beginning of May. And even then it happens that the Stelvio is still removed from the Giro schedule due to heavy snowfall (or bad weather), such as in 1988, 1991 and 2013. That also happened in 1984, but then other matters played a role. The Italians were terrified that another Frenchman was going to win the Giro and canceled the climb, officially because the Stelvio was impassable due to snow.

With photos of the top where there was hardly any snow, Fignon showed that this was nonsense. The Italians just didn't want him, a good climber, to put darling Francesco Moser at an unbridgeable backlog. The organization was unrelenting and in the time trial a few days later Moser won the Giro. In the final ranking he had more than a minute ahead of Laurent Fignon. The inclusion of the mythical mountain in the course of the Tour of Italy remains a risk because of the altitude and snowfall in the spring. But if the Passo dello Stelvio is climbed by the pros, it is always a memorable day, just as it is for the brave amateurs and enthusiasts who dare to climb. "The highest blessing for a touring cyclist," a friend once said. (He was very well trained, I have to say that.) - Wiped Idzenga

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