St. Gotthard Pass

Better known to motorists than it is to cyclists, the St. Gotthard Pass nowadays is either a whimsical detour or where car-bound passengers end up after a wrong turning before the 16.9-kilometre tunnel of the same name. One of three engineering marvels facilitating access over or through the Gotthard massif.

What truly distinguishes the Gotthard from any other legendary mountain pass, is the old cobbled road or Tremolastrasse through the Val Tremola or Trembling Valley from Airolo. An extraordinary noodle of 38 tightly bunched hairpins, this is the only route permitted for cyclists on the southern side and the winding can be compared to climbs like that of the Stelvio from Trafoi.

With its history, importance and being one of the most unusual stretches of mountain road anywhere in the Alps the Gotthard Pass is a truly iconic cycling climb.

The Climb in Detail

“With a tunnel of the same name now fully operational, the St. Gotthard Pass is a joy to pedal over, devoid of most cars and one of the most unusual stretches of mountain road anywhere in the Alps - Mountian High"


The Ascents

The St. Gotthard Pass can be climbed from the towns of Andermatt and Hospental in the northern Swiss canton of Uri and from Airolo to the south in the canton of Ticino. Both routes have a similar average gradient but the route from Airolo is slightly longer. From the southern side you will also find a harsher maximum gradient at 11.4% and this is also the way to ride the distinguished and unusual cobbles of Tremola you must ascend from Airolo.  


The history

The pass's history is both captivating and illustrious, more so than that of almost any other climb in the Alps. From the Gotthard being used by pack mules in the late 760s to 1230, when the Holy Roman Empire upgraded what was by then a vital access route to its territories. In 1832, the Gotthard became the carriage road now referred to as the ancienne route or ‘old road’ over the pass. The Gotthard’s strategic position between the Germanic and Latin halves of Europe placed it at the centre of wars and epic journeys. In 1403, the Gotthard was at the centre of a bitter and bloody power struggle between Milan and the canton of Uri.

Its place in cycling history

Although the Tour of Switzerland has climbed the Gotthard more than any other mountain, and often from Hospental, it has not been used in the larger grand tours unlike some of Switzerland's other main mountains. It has though been the scene of some of cycling’s fiercest battles by its best riders. 

"Le Tremola - 38 sexy haipins, and they are cobbled. Not your Roubaix cobbles, but your well kept Swiss cobbles" - Cycling Alps

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