Transcontinental Race: Stelvio Pass, third time mucky

How can you defile this sacred ground?

by themartincox   August 21, 2014  

Think of the great trilogies: Star Wars, the Godfather, Police Academy. In each instance the third is considered the worst. Obviously, Police Academy didn't stop at three. It's only with the addition of mountains that things get better. I give you Lord of The Rings as the standard.

But it's not just the mountains which make it better, although they do help. It's the suffering of Frodo Baggins. It's the love of all that's decent. And, of course, it's a hefty dose of rule 5. Are we still using those rules?

So. Wednesday the 20th brought me to Pratto Stelvio at the Base of the great and glorious mountain pass. You can read about my rekindled love for the mighty pass here. However, whilst climbing I couldn't help notice the inordinate amount of cycling-specific litter at the roadside. I'm going to assume that cigarette butts aren't ours. But energy Gels and pastes, well, they are. This made me sad, sadder than I could express from a phone keyboard.

So, with time on my hands I decided to do my bit, and in a Frodo-esque battle against the evils of our passion I resolved to climb this beautiful mountain again later that day – all 26km of it, at an average gradient of 11% and complete with its 48 hairpin bends – but this time to pick up every bit of cycling trash I could find.

This was no beautiful cinematic experience. There was no Mavic support car with photographers and soigneurs in attendance. This was raw, brutal struggling, a single person suffering on a cold mountainside for something they believed in. I hate litter: I always have and always will, whether it's a fag butt, a newspaper or a gel wrapper. It's not needed and it shows a complete lack of respect. If you can carry it up the hill, you can damn well carry it back down again. It's 5 grams in your pocket. Get a grip.

This is The Stelvio pass, people. The Stelvio, the mountain you pin up on your wall, the one you have as your desktop background and say, 'one day'. Would you go on a date with the person of your dreams and spit on the floor? Show some respect for where you are, whether it be for the heritage or the fact that it's mother nature at her most beautiful. Dropping litter negates every aspect of your ride. You are robbed of your epicness, of your glory, your suffering means naught. Not one jot. You are an asshole, a douche bag, a parasite and a plague on the sport, a blight on the amazing surroundings in which you find yourself. I could use more words, but I don't want this to be blocked by your work filters.

And we wonder why the New Forest doesn't want mass rides? If we will do this to one of the sacred hallows of cycling, what will we do in our own back yard?

Rant over.

The mountain is a little more beautiful this morning. I hurt like never before, but in doing so cemented my love for this climb, for the bends and inclines, for the views and the toll its climbing takes.

It rained for the last 10km. It was dark and misty, and I was totally alone for hours on end. And it was beautiful, quite simply the most beautiful ride of my life. I hung on with emergency Werthers for the last few km, unable to ride for more than 100 metres without pausing through exertion, spent and absolutely on the rivet.

And the mountain rewarded me with sleep like no other, with the knowledge that I had spent my day climbing over 50km, and with the deep profound peace that I had suffered but brought a little good to the world.

I've got to say a massive thanks to the Hotel Albergo Folgore who put me up last night, and who manned the checkpoint for the transcontinental race: they are true friends of cycling and 'got' the crazy mission I had set myself. Even sending out a car at 10pm to check on me to make sure I was still alive! When you visit the Stelvio – and you must – pop over the summit and visit the Folgore, the welcome is as warm as the log fire.

Thanks also to Assos and the Official Assos Outlet, for kitting me out for the race, but also for providing me with weather proofing to allow me to spend hours grinding up a mountain and keeping dry the whole time.

18 user comments

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good for you. there are some filthy barstewards who ride bikes.

posted by paddyirish [43 posts]
21st August 2014 - 15:23


Three times up the Stelvio. Applause Surprise Silly

Hat well and truly doffed. Especially with the litter picking. Dropping gel wrappers etc is utterly unforgiveable. I mean, for most of us our jersey is going in the wash after the ride. What is the problem with the last trace of gel or a few crumbs from your home made flapjack? "Bio wrappers" (from bananas etc) are less of a problem- unless it's winter.

posted by Al__S [886 posts]
21st August 2014 - 15:34


paddyirish wrote:
good for you. there are some filthy barstewards who ride bikes.

+1 from me
But it is not just 'us', I do a fair bit of running and gel wrappers seem to find their way onto popular running routes as well. My solution is to pick up one piece and put it with my other rubbish. This is no hardship to anyone, whilst this may seem pointless on the basis that there are a lot more of 'us' than 'them' (dirty, irresponsible people) it should help to solve the problem.
I accept that it is more difficult to do on a bike but it can still be done with little hardship.

posted by SideBurn [913 posts]
21st August 2014 - 15:36


Good lord, you deserved a good night's kip after that. Surprise Applause

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice...

posted by notfastenough [3723 posts]
21st August 2014 - 15:52


Great post, Stelvio is definitely on my to-do list.

Chapeau for you clean up efforts as well. Great thing to do, and I imagine having to stop-start up the pass is a nightmare

posted by DaveJH [4 posts]
21st August 2014 - 16:19


I am very impressed with your own endeavour and the hotel's consideration. Chapeau to the both of you.

posted by smiley_boy2501 [40 posts]
21st August 2014 - 18:01


Riding up 2 times is one thing, but stopping to pick up gel wrappers, that's something else.

That sleep must have been best ever, very well done!

London2Paris24: 450km, 24 hours, 5th-6th July 2014

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koko56's picture

posted by koko56 [335 posts]
21st August 2014 - 20:35

1 Like

I never used those rules in the first place, but I'm probably in the minority. Litter is a true bane, so well done. And crazy missions are some of the best.

Sam Walker's picture

posted by Sam Walker [82 posts]
22nd August 2014 - 4:54


Very, very well done Martin. Thanks for writing about this. If just one cycling litterbug reads this and decides to mend their foul ways then your efforts were worth it. Chapeau.

posted by Bhachgen [107 posts]
22nd August 2014 - 8:31


When I'm climbing I daren't stop for fear of not being able to clip in again - not sure how you managed that?

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice...

posted by notfastenough [3723 posts]
22nd August 2014 - 9:12

1 Like

Well done and I think what you did is commendable. However, I think the pro's have a lot of responsibility to shoulder here. Anyone who watches cycling just sees pro after pro ditching wrappers and gel packets on the road, not exactly a good example. Maybe if they started putting them in their pockets and a domestique collected all the rubbish it would set a good example, might help raise awareness and make people think twice.

Everyone wants to be a pro, very few make it, don't be a douch, take your rubbish home or eat bananas!

Ride more more, eat more, be happy Smile

posted by benjaminamer [1 posts]
23rd August 2014 - 8:51


Good on you, let's hope a few people will take a long hard look at themselves and feel more than just a little guilty.

don simon's picture

posted by don simon [589 posts]
23rd August 2014 - 13:03

1 Like

Superb effort Martin.

Shocking that there was so much, as the day before the "Haute Route Dolomites " had run a time trial up there:

Unless everything you picked up had been dropped on the morning of the Wednesday, then it's a shame that the HR organisers hadn't cleared up after themselves.

posted by TimB34 [19 posts]
25th August 2014 - 9:45


Clipping in and out constantly, at times every few metres was a bloody pain! At times you might go a couple of hundred metres between bits, at others just a few.

Really the only troubling part was the lack of rhythm, the slow speed meant that the climb was super easy Wink

posted by themartincox [494 posts]
26th August 2014 - 11:30

1 Like

I am in awe. I think I could ride up Stelvio, once, maybe, on my own terms and at my own pace. Three times, in the Transcontinental race... inconceivable...

The rubbish seems to be the bane of every popular cycle route, little shiny gel packets, tubes, CO2 cylinders, way too many people just chuck it without a care. Some do care. thank you.

ajft's picture

posted by ajft [11 posts]
29th August 2014 - 9:49


Agree with everything said about littering etc, ignorant and unnecessary.

Sorry Tim, I have to leap to the defence of the Haute Route organisers though. I did the event with them; every ride briefing included reminders on littering, threats of penalties if caught littering, every rider was given a frame mounted bag to store their litter, they had anti-litter amabassadors riding with us and giving us reminder stickers… this is one of the many things the organisers took very seriously. I've never seen such a thoughtful and practical approach to the problem in my experience of organised events.

Having said all that, there were 400+ people … sadly there are bound to be some who don't take as much care as the rest Angry

posted by oberwilian [1 posts]
15th September 2014 - 19:36


Italians, eh!

posted by DrJDog [269 posts]
19th September 2014 - 17:21


I did the 48 hairpins of the Stelvio this year . . . . . on a motorcycle, but was too busy trying to avoid hundreds of road race cyclists hurtling downhill towards me, to notice the litter. I can't understand why people can't keep their litter with them. Well done for your efforts Martin. Applause

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posted by Reggie Plate [55 posts]
25th November 2014 - 20:11

1 Like