Luke Evans is motorbike driver for top cycling photographer Graham Watson at the Giro d’Italia. Aside from piloting motorbikes, Luke is an author, freelance journalist and former editor of Cycle Sport magazine. Graham’s Giro photos can be seen in our gallery section.
May 31, Stage 20, Rouetta – Tirano 224km
I’ve seen some big climbs on this Giro but I reckon the Mortirolo is the hardest. We climbed it on today’s stage and the Gavia which preceded it was impressive enough. At 2,618 metres the Gavia is an epic climb and even in thick mist at the top, the deep snow banks let you know that to cycle up here is one hell of an achievement.
There’s a long tunnel near the summit and it had fog in it and was lit by one spectral lamp. All I could see were the blue flashing lights of the police vehicles and red tail lights. Not sure whether it was a vision of heaven or hell. The jagged peaks of the Dolomites tower above verdant near-vertical mountainsides. With low cloud swirling around it’s like Conan Doyle’s Lost World, where prehistoric monsters live on hidden plateaus.
But the Mortirolo is savage, and I would not want to ride up it. It’s shorter than the Gavia (16.5km) at 12.8km and lower too at 1854 metres. But look at the actual climbing: Gavia 1361: Mortirolo 1317. To get that close the Mortirolo has a stretch of 18 per cent and is 10.3 per cent average. It is narrow, just over a car width, with long gently curving uphill stretches that are brutally steep.
The fan on the motorbike was on much of the way up and heat was pouring off the 1100 cc motor. I could smell oil for the first time and I seriously worried about the clutch as we repeatedly pulled away at walking pace in front of the Contador – Ricco group.
The descent was bumpy, wet, gritty and shiny, oh, with some off-camber bends thrown in too. I didn’t see Pellizotti come past until the last moment. He missed us by a centimetre, my Belgian friend Guy gleefully told me as he also flashed by an his K75 BMW. Looks like I have some work to do on the descending.
PREVIOUS GIRO BLOGS
May 30: Stage 19, Legnano-Presola Monte Pora
May 29: Stage 18, Mendrisio-Varese
May 28: Stage 17, Sondrio-Locarno
May 27: Rest day
May 26: Stage 16, San Vigilio-Plan de Corones TT
May 25: Stage 15, Arabba-Passo Fedaia
May 24: Stage 14, Verona-Alpe di Pampeago
May 23: Stage 13, Modena-Cittadella
May 22: Stage 12, Forlin-Carpi
May 21: Stage 11, Urbino-Cesena
May 20: Stage 10, Pesaro-Urbino