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Pirate's climb
  • Italy
  • 1.852m
  • 11.4km

About the Climb

Shared by: Like Mike

There are three routes up the Passo di Mortirolo (1.852m), but the fearsome ascent from Mazzo di Valtellina is claimed to be the ‘official’ route. Once you have climbed the Mortiroilo from this side everything seems to be flat. This is an extremely heavy climb, and is well known from the Giro d’Italia.

Michele Scarponi, who was going to be leading man for his team Astana, just died a few weeks before the start of the 100th edition of the Giro d’Italia. His team decided to start with 8 riders instead of the usual 9 as a tribute to him. The Giro d’Italia cannot possibly forget a big champion, friend and a fantastic person like Scarponi. He was the overall winner in the Giro back in 2011. Therefore, the organization assigned the climb of the Mortirolo in stage 16 to him “Salita Scarponi”. In 2010, it was the springboard to Michele’s last stage victory at the Giro d’Italia at Aprica. He was ahead of Ivan Basso and Vincenzo Nibali. Great gesture from the organization, to honor the former champion. The spectators love this climb while the pro’s fight against an average gradient close to 11% over a distance of close to 12km.

You feel like moving in slow motion, but remember clicking out of your pedals will result in quite a battle to get on the bike again

A steep wall in the village Mazzo brings you straight into the climb. From here the road winds up very quickly. The heaviest part of the climb begins at kilometer three and continues for about five kilometers. Here you will find short pieces that hit gradients of 20%, with averages per kilometer of more than 15%. You feel like moving in slow motion, but remember clicking out of your pedals will result in quite a battle to get on the bike again.

It’s a terrible climb… it’s perfect for a mountain bike

Once you reach the Pantani Monument, it does get easier. This is after 8 kilometers! It was in the Giro d’Italia of 1994, when the first rider over the summit was the 24-year-old Marco Pantani, that day is marked with a memorial to him on the climb. Nice to know, he was riding with 39×22. Choosing the right gearing is of paramount importance. Lance Armstrong once said “It’s a terrible climb… it’s perfect for a mountain bike’’. You can give yourself a bit of encouragement knowing that the worst is behind you once you reached the monument.

You can also start the climb via Aprica. It’s mainly flat, the average gradient is 2.8%, having a couple of short steep climbs to test your legs. The steepest section is close to a 10%. In total the climb is 25.1 long and the hardest part is done after 10 kilometers. From that point on, it’s about 2% all the way to the top. This road is not used frequently, so it can be a nice and quite ride.

If you would like to start the climb via Monno, it’s not as notorious as via Mazzo, but still got some seriously tough sections. Every bit of descent is immediately punished with a steeper section. The remaining kilometer just before reaching the summit, you will ride through San Giacomo, just before entering this village a sign says 11 hairpin bends. Probably, in the past or so, a goat path got paved. For anyone who like some steep hairpin bends can enjoy themselves all the way.

Video of the climb

Climbs in the area

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