The Haute Route Stelvio 2019 got underway this morning, with the international peloton heading out of the charming town of Bormio to take on the challenging course for Stage One, including the mighty Passo Stelvio. Rolling out of the first neutralised section, riders took the chance to wish their counterparts luck in the first duo-only event, whilst others got into formation and prepared to help each other up the first climb of the day.
A series of tunnels and switchbacks took riders up above Bormio via the Umbrail Pass, with the first signs of the early morning sunshine starting to appear through the mountain mist. As the climb rose out of the valley, the temperature dropped, giving riders the extra motivation to push a little harder to the summit in order to keep warm and to be greeted by a warm drink at the feed station at the top.
“I feel good, I paced myself, so I feel alright. There were some sections that were testing and I can definitely already feel the altitude up here but now it is perfect; the sun is out, and the scenery is beautiful. I am ready for the descent now, that is the best part, right? The gift of the climb,” said Philippe Cusimano from America before heading off to enjoy the long neutralised descent.
Crossing into Switzerland, the switchbacks gave riders views of both the Stelvio Pass above them and the alpine valley below which promised warmer temperatures.
Many riders chose to wait for their partners before the timing started again, working together through the valley before facing the mighty Stelvio climb above. Filled with motivation to tick off a climb steeped in Giro d’Italia history, riders were soon in their lowest gears as they wound their way up, ticking off each of the 48 hairpins towards the summit.
Professional cyclist, Tiesj Benoot enjoyed taking on the climbs with the other Haute Route Stelvio riders as part of his training: “I am staying in Livigno for two weeks for altitude training to prepare for my last races of the year. I saw the event online and I thought it would be great to do with my friend. For me it is like training, but it doesn’t feel like training at all and I enjoyed every minute of it today. This is a nice extra for me.”“On the first part of the Stelvio I lost my duo-partner, but I waited for him at the feed zone and we came together for the last part. I am already looking forward to tomorrow, I will see what my coach says but I would love to push a little harder on tomorrow’s stage,” he added.
25 kilometres later, riders crossed the finish line at the 2,758 metre summit. In the Men’s Duo competition for Stage one, ‘Equipe GDR Canaviais Comprarcasa Evora’ from Portugal finished first, with ‘Team of Two’ winning the Mixed Duo competition and ‘Your pace or mine?’ taking the lead for the Women’s Duo category by just over 4 minutes.
Irrespective of position, riders were quick to celebrate and congratulate their duo-partner and other riders as they crossed the finish line, before heading 100 metres back down the hill to take a look at the road they had just conquered.
“We are finally at the top of Stelvio! I am relieved but as usual, it was an absolutely exhilarating experience and it was just fantastic. This is the first time that I have rode on this side of the climb so it was an even more unforgettable experience,” said Armando De Sanna from Italy.
He added, “Now I plan to have a massage at the event village, enjoy a sauna at Bormio Terme and then relax. Tomorrow we have the Mortirolo which I have done a few times and it is going to be tough. I respect both the Stelvio and the Mortirolo a lot but I think the latter is definitely the toughest. Shorter but steeper and I am certainly looking forward to it.”