The great Fausto Coppi in full climbing flow
My wife and I spent last week with friends on a skiing holiday in the Ialian Dolomites, a possible subject of blog posts to come. As a cyclist, however, one of the highlights for me was travelling up the Passo Pordoi on a coach trip to another ski area - cycling wasn't feasible (ski holiday, no bike!)and the climb looked like it would have done me in anyway! The reason for my interest? The Passo Pordoi is often included as one of the major climbs in the Giro d'Italia, Italian cycling's equivalent of the Tour de France.
Where Le Tour's Alpe d'Huez , one of Le Tour's major climbs every year, has 21 hairpin bends in the climb, the Passo Pordoi has 27 hairpins in a seemingly endless succession up the mountainside:
View of the top hairpins and summit of the Passo Pordoi, seen from the Sass Pordoi cable car station.
A photo of the marker for the 27th and final hairpin on the Passo Pordoi climb, taken through the coach window. The coach driver's crucifix for luck (top left) seems somehow appropriate!
The Pordoi Pass entered cycling history in the Giro d'Italia as a result of the racing rivalry between Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi and has been the highest crossing of the Giro d'Italia 13 times since 1965, when the "Cima Coppi" was founded. The highest point of each Giro d’Italia is called the ‘Cima Coppi’ – symbolically named for Fausto Coppi, arguably the greatest bike racer Italy has ever produced (the bartaliani, fans of his great rival Gino Bartali, would doubtless disagree!). The first rider over the top wins the prize for that year, but to the Italian fans, the Cima Coppi is a prize of much greater significance. Pez Cycling news produced an interesting article on the background to the Cima Coppi here.
The last crossing of the Giro over Passo Pordoi took place in 2002, led by Mexican rider Perez Cuapio.
The Pordoi Pass has been stage finish of the Giro d'Italia several times:
- 06-06-1990 stage 16, won by the French Charly Mottet
- 12-06-1991 stage 17, won by Franco Chioccioli
- 07-06-1996 stage 20, won by Enrico Zaina
- 01-06-2001 stage 13, won by Julia Perez Cuapio.
The local Pordoi hotels also have a webpage here with some great scrolling photos of the history of Pordoi in the Giro. I also found this great photo by Graham Watson on the web, showing the Giro climbing up the Passo Pordoi in 2002.
Finally, although I wasn't able to visit it (although we were up and walking aorund the Pass summit later in the week on the way up to the Sass Pordoi cable car), the local community erected a statue in memory of Fausto Coppi somewhere up on the Pass summit. Here's a photo from wikipedia:
Fausto Coppi: 'Il Campionissimo', 'Champion of Champions'