Granfondo Stelvio Santini Report by Paul Platt
The week before the Granfondo the pros went through the same part of Italy and a stage of the Giro that finished on the Gavia Pass was changed due to the risk of avalanches. This got me concerned and monitoring the Stelvio Pass. This was the reason I signed up. The long route I was entered in also had the Mortirolo pass which has a fearsome reputation with Lance Armstrong calling it the hardest climb he has faced. I watched the giro go up this and wondered if I had bit off more than I could handle and thought about changing to the medium then on the Wednesday before we travelled they confirmed the Stelvio was still full of snow and the road still closed.
The week before I went Ian Stewart serviced my bike (Thanks Ian) and suggested I swapped my 28 cassette to a 30 for the climbs. Having done Fred Whitton two weeks earlier on a 28 and etape du tour two years earlier with similar 10k and 18k climbs over mountains thought I would still with what I had…mainly due to the fact my other wheels had a 28 on also. More on this later..
Myself, my brother in law set off to Italy Friday morning in high spirits and excited for the challenge. We arrived just South of Strasbourg on Friday and went out for Pizza and drinks. Saturday morning early start and through Switzerland, this is when we started to realise why snow had kept Stelvio pass closed. Two passes in Switzerland where closed and we had to detour via a tunnel and car transporter. This got us in to Bormio around 15:00. Straight off to the expo to register. One of the rules of entry is you are given a Santini cycle top which has to be worn in the event. Me being a short arse ordered small….panic I couldn’t even zip it up 😂😂😂. I had to change it to a LARGE!! The Italians like their kits skin tight! From the expo we decided to climb some of Stelvio while we was there. We weren’t the only ones with the same idea. I got about 11km up the climb, took some photos and decided to not continue the further 11km and be fresh for the event.
Morning of the race…
Up at 5:30am for hotel breakfast, ready and roll to the start. The race started at 7 and I crossed the line about 7:15. The cut off in Bormio was 14:15 before the last 14km and the 11km climb of Cancano to the finish. 7hrs to do the 88ish miles. Sounds easy or so I thought.
First 25ish miles where mainly downhill and was averaging 28mph without any effort. The temperature started at 8c and by 9am was about 18c. I had a skin on and had to remove this on the first small climb. The first real climb came “Teligo”. It’s just under 6km at average 8.3%. I went up this with very little difficulty although it was getting hotter. The descent was lovely. Then there was a long section which brought you to a food station just before Mortirolo at 49miles. I was speaking to people on the ride and it seemed not many where doing the Mortirolo due to not wanting to miss the cut off. I arrived at the food station at 10am. I thought 2hrs up Mortirolo and still 2 hours to get to Bormio which was roughly 20miles away. What I hadn’t realised was how much Mortirolo would take out of me and from the bottom the final 40km was ALL up hill.
The Mortirolo is 11.4km, average of 10.5% and max 23%. First 5km was hard work but progressing. I then started to get cramp. I kept battling through. The cramp went. Brilliant. Around 7km it was getting harder and I was having to go into the red due to the 28 cassette to get to the hairpin and get any few seconds of rest bite I could. 9.4km in and it ramped up to 23%, I decided to hit it hard and then the guy in front unclipped right in front of me, I couldn’t get round him, I will be honest if I would have got up the 22% so far in to the climb I very much doubt it. That was it I was off, too steep to get back on until the next hairpin and then jumped on and got through the next 1.5k and I was at the top. I was broken!! I needed a 10min rest before decending the mountain, I didn’t fancy trying 6mile of mountain decending without a clear mind. At the bottom I went into the food station and then 5 mins later was off on the final 40k uphill to the end. I got to Bormio at 14:10 wow that was close. Mortirolo and the around 30km climb to Bormio with the now 28c weather had put me in a dark place. I started the Cancano climb and at a drinks station looked up….all I could see was switch back after switch back up the mountain to some towers about 4 mile away which I knew was near the finish. For the first time in any event including marathons, ultras, Ironman’s and other events I was VERY close to quitting. I knew it was only 4 mile away but I could get my head around how I could climb that last section of the mountain. I sat having a drink next to a Columbian. With my broken Spanish I said “muy difícil” and “estoy no bien”…translating this is very difficult and I am not good. He laughed and then he said in English “I think I am finished”. We agreed we where finished and then I said “shall we try a few switch backs together”. He surprisingly said “yes”. So we set off and then on the switch backs I felt better. I came in the finish and I had completed. What an event. It tested me to my limits!! I road back down the mountain and on to the hotel to have a few drinks.