Lance on the Mortirolo: This makes me feel a lot better.

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Anonymous's picture


Contacted by La Gazzetta dello Sport, Armstrong commented of the 12.8km, 10.3% climb (of the Mortirolo): “It’s an awful ascent, perfect for a mountain bike. On the steepest sections I pushed a 39x27 gear and even then it was tough. It’s the hardest climb I’ve ever ridden. How long did it take? That wasn’t important

Anonymous's picture
David Schlichting (not verified)
Lance on Passo di Montirolo

I rode this a few years ago. To compound matters, somehow the Mavic support vehicle did not show up to carry my panniers! But this is one steep climb on a road slightly wider than your basic driveway, and one of the steepest climbs in the region. If I understand the complete article, and Lance rode over from Saint Moritz, he already had a nice little climb on the Berninapass followed by a very steep twisting descent into Italy. And we think our training rides are tough!

Anonymous's picture
Richard Rosenthal (not verified)
My lumbering climb up the Mortirolo (granted at age 62)

No, I believe Lance did not bike over from St. Moritz.

Here's an outtake from a piece I wrote of my 2002 trip from Zurich to Nice.


The following day my deftness with foreign languages was on display again. Marco Pantani holds the record for the dreaded Mortirolo, said by Moreno Argentin to be the most difficult climb the pro peloton races. It has grades at 18%. Pantani’s record for the 11 Km.: 44 mins. I figured I could do it in 2 h 15 min. And I would have were it not for the Mercedes-Benz that came barrelling down the middle of the narrow, narrow, road, driving me into the ditch alongside it.

Well, the fact is, I’m no more deft at handling a bike than I am at handling foreign languages. I fled into the gutter and jumped off my bike rather than try to ride the steep incline on what little roadway the driver left me. As he roared past me, I roared at him, “Schmuck!”

Then it occurred to me, since northern Italy is favored by German vacationers and the man was driving a German car, it’s not unlikley he was German. In German, “schmuck” means “jewel.” No kidding. So this putz is still wondering why I’m calling him a jewel instead of railing at him for pushing me off the road.

I’m a man of few principles. One of them is, once I start a climb, I won’t stop except for water or to take a picture. (It’s remarkable how many—and, increasingly, how many more—perfectly ordinary vistas seem to require my photographing them. But here I was, off my bike for no reason other than safety...and quite liking the rest...or having difficulty motivating myself to do what I wasn’t sure I could. Pantani be damned: I did absolutely nothing—there wasn’t even a vista— for some of the most rewarding ten minutes of my trip. The clock wasn’t reason enough to remount and continue until rested.

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