Like this site? Help us to make it better.


Video: Mike Cotty rides the fearsome Passo di Mortirolo

Latest Col Collective film tackles one of the Giro d'Italia's signature climbs...

The latest video from Thee Col Collective sees Mike Cotty tackle an ascent that first appeared in the Giro d'Italia in 1990  and is now an eagerly anticipated of the race whenever it is included - the Passo di Mortirolo.

It's been in the race on 13 occasions, most recently in May this year when Luis Leon Sanchez  won on it on Stage 16, and on all bar three of those visits the climb has started from Mazzo di Valtellina, which is where Cotty begins his ascent.

Here's what he has to say about it.

Joining the provinces of Sondrio and Brescia in northern Italy, the Passo del Mortirolo is the Giro d’Italia’s answer to a mischievous and often snow covered Passo di Gavia. Following a particularly legendary crossing of the Gavia in 1988, race organisers set out to find a suitable lower altitude alternative to take its place.

Two years later and the Mortirolo was unleashed on the world for the first time, initially from the village of Edolo in the east. Descending down to Mazzo di Valtellina on a ridiculously steep road barely wider than a goat track saw countless crashes which got race officials thinking once more. Maybe it would be better to race up this way instead!? And that, as they say, is history and the true legend of the Mortirolo was born.

At 1,852m elevation and just shy of 12 kilometres from the official start line, finding your way out of Mazzo and onto the right road up the Mortirolo is a game in itself, often sapping precious energy that you know you'll need later before you even get going.

With little in the way of views its erratic gradient and multiple ramps up to 20% can feel overbearing, throw in a dense forest to add to the suffocation and it’s often as much a mental battle as it is a physical war at times.

It was on these very slopes in 1994 that the first glimpses of a young Marco Pantani were revealed, dropping the likes of Indurain, Belli, Bugno, Berzin, Gotti, Tonkov, Chiappucci et al on his way to stage victory.

Today on bend 11 a monument to the Italian climber acts as a reminder of triumph and tragedy to a lost talent and troubled soul of cycling. It’s only with 3 kilometres to go that the gradient dips to a more respectable 10% for any length of time, allowing you to savour the moment as the trees finally subside and the summit comes in to view.

There are plenty of longer and higher climbs in Europe but when attacked with vengeance the Mortirolo sits alongside the likes of the Monte Zoncolan and Alto de l’Angliru in its rebellious nature and difficulty. It’s for this reason that it is, and always will be, a true legend. 

Vital statistics

Start: Mazzo di Valtellina
Length: 11.4km
Summit: 1,852m
Elevation gain: 1,300m
Average gradient: 10.9%
Max gradient: 20% 
Ridden in July

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

Latest Comments