Tomorrow the Giro d’Italia will start at Rovetta in Val Seriana for the second last leg.
It’s a mountainous leg – and what mountains! – with the Gavia pass as the cima Coppi (Coppi peak) of the 91st Giro d’Italia, and also the Mortirolo pass.
The Coppi peak refers to Italy’s great champion, Fausto Coppi, and is the highest altitude reached by riders during the Giro.
It changes from year to year but is traditionally recognised as being the Passo dello Stelvio at 2758 metres.
The Passo del Gavia (Gavia Pass), is a “sacred monster” for the riders of the Giro d’Italia, and represents a now legendary ascent.
The first leg passed through here in 1960, and on June 5 in 1988 the race passed through a snap snow storm making for a gruelling leg up the unsealed road.
The road actually goes up an old mule track which has been re-worked with local materials to make is more passable.
After the Gavia pass, the Giro will go on to the feared and grim Passo del Mortirolo.
Here the importance is not so much the altitude as the slope.
It’s one of the hardest ascents in Europe and a much loved destination by cyclists wanting the challenge, with Lance Armstrong once saying it’s the hardest climb he’s ever attempted.
5 km long with a height difference of 1300 metres.
The average slope is more than 10 percent, with sections even up to 18 percent.
Between the third and the ninth kilometre, the slope never falls below 11 percent.
The best professionals ride it in less than 45 minutes: Ivan Gotti took 43 minutes and 10 seconds in the 1997 Giro.
These two alpine passes will excite fans while the arrival in Tirano will declare the true winner of the 2008 Giro.