The little Roubaix of the Alps, as someone called it, is located in Switzerland.
A 13 km climb, almost all cobbles; 900 metres of altitude gain and a hint of times gone by.
This is the old road of the Val Tremola; simply “La Tremola” for enthusiasts.
Built by the Swiss in the early 1800s, on what was before only a narrow mule track, it is a masterpiece of road engineering which links Airolo (Canton Ticino) to the Gotthard Pass.
An incredible porphyry snake that climbs sinuously in 24 hairpin bends, up to 2,091 metres of the Gotthard Hospice.
Cycling in the mountains on pavé is unusual and unsettling, a strange feeling for those who are not used to it, but the charm of this climb lies in those cobbles that run under the wheels, making us literally “shake” in the saddle.
Just a little discomfort that can certainly not overshadow the charm of a unique and spectacular climb, which no cycling enthusiast should miss out on.
Practically at the sole disposal of cyclists – considering motorised traffic is virtually all confined to the nearby motorway, the old Val Tremola road still largely features its original pavé surface, which despite everything is in excellent condition.
Departure is from the Airolo town centre in the direction of the Pass, but be careful not to be misled by signs that indicate the motorway. If necessary, ask for directions, so as not to risk finding yourself in difficulty on a stretch closed to bicycles.
After two kilometres, keep right at a crossroads and take the valley road. The first pavé sections begin immediately, but the most spectacular (and hardest) section only starts after 5 kilometres, when the pavé surface becomes regular and uniform and the road starts to climb in a series of narrow and tight hairpin bends.
The regular gradient, always around 7%, ensures quick altitude gain, but there are also some harder stretches where the gradient reaches 12%.
Much effort is required up to the pass, also because in the last kilometre an additional difficulty is represented by the strong side wind.
If you so wish, you can ride back down along the same route, but if you do not feel like facing the pavé downhill, the only alternative is to ride down the other side of the Gotthard and return to Airolo across two other spectacular – but very hard – passes – the Furka and Nufenen: an anti-clockwise loop of about 100 km and more than 3,000 m of altitude gain.
1159 m (Airolo)
2091 m (Gotthard Pass)