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-It’s a long climb, a classic, has 48 switchbacks. Do you want to do it?
-Is it the Stelvio? Of course I want!

And the next morning, there we are. Unloading the bikes in Prato, at the base of one of the most famous mountain passes in the world. Me, Fabi that I got to know on the Trans Provence last year, and his friend Kerstin, XC racer and all around nice girl.

The air is cool and damp, the clouds are still hanging low in the valley where the road slowly climbs towards Passo Stelvio. 48 mythical switchbacks, a ton of belgians in Porsches and as near as it makes no difference 2000m of elevation separates us from the summit. Time to get cracking.

Kerstin going strong in switchback 47, or the second from the bottom.

Kerstin going strong in switchback 47, or the second from the bottom.

All shits and giggles. Around switchback 35 and with around 800m climbed.

All shits and giggles. Around switchback 35 and with about 800m climbed.

The climb is relentless, but never too steep. Winching away on my middle ring hour after hour we get closer and closer to our goal. The road climbs slowly through the forest, making its way up into the alpine, where stunning views of glaciers and big mountains greet us.

Glaciers makes Fabi do wheelies.

Glaciers makes Fabi do wheelies.

The road is beutiul, and thanks to the fairly mellow gradient I can fully enjoy the views. After what seems like (and also was) a very long time we are finally closing in on the pass.

100m to the summit!

100m to the summit!

And hey (almost) presto, we are there!

I'm probably the first to take this picture, don't you think?

I’m probably the first to take this picture, don’t you think?

Maybe the most beautiful piece of road I have ever seen.

Maybe the most beautiful piece of road I have ever seen.

We have lunch at restaurant Tibet, on the summit. Finally the bikes get to rest for a minute.

Me Five taking in the view.

Me Five taking in the view.

With lunch taken care of, and visibility conveniently gone, it’s time to hit the trail. We start off with a little bit of pushing in the whiteout.

GPS weather?

GPS weather?

There was a lot going on in this area during the First world war, people from both sides tried to kill each other in the mountains. Apparently the mountains themselves were also helping, if the information signs are to be believed.

War in the mountains, not only the enemy to be feared

War in the mountains, not only the enemy to be feared

The trail started to head downhill soon enough, and what a downhill. Loose and rocky high alpine riding, but seldom exposed or too steep.

It's not everyday you are chased by a german girl in the high alpine

It’s not everyday you are chased by a german girl in the high alpine

Flying out into the nothingness

Flying out into the nothingness

Kerstin and big clouds

Kerstin and big clouds

Sometimes there was a little hole in the clouds, hinting a magnificent backdrop of peaks and glaciers

Sometimes there was a little hole in the clouds, hinting a magnificent backdrop of peaks and glaciers

More chasing, and the moonscape was replaced by autumn colours

More chasing, and the moonscape was replaced by autumn colours

The riding in the woods was sublime.

The riding in the woods was sublime.

A number of tight switchbacks were more or less successfully navigated, no pictures taken to spare broken egos. More practice on the nose wheelie turns is needed, but at least I got some of them!

Enjoying the view, still a lot of elevation to go

Enjoying the view, still a lot of elevation to go

All in all a brilliant climb, a brilliant lunch and a brilliant descent. Unfortunately it got a bit late so we had to loose a few hundred meters of elevation on the road not to end up in darkness, but after a ride like this its still difficult to complain. Thanks Kerstin for company and good coaching, and thanks Fabi for having me, driving me around and translating all the german into something that can actually be understood. I will be back!