Cycling in Switzerland: St. Gotthard Pass - From Airolo, via Tremola

Region: Canton of Ticino, Switzerland
Height: 2,106 metres
Altitude Gain: 932m
Length: 12.7 kilometres
Average gradient: 7.3%
Maximum Gradient: 11.4%

As I would soon learn, the route from its southern side, Airolo, is a different matter altogether”. 

It seems like an eternity since I wrote this sentence, the last few words of my most recent blog, way back in early September. Arriving back home in July from a three-week ride in Europe, followed by a walk with my wife Roz – around France’s Mont Blanc massif – I’ve since done little but concentrate on trying to finish my second book about my circumnavigation around the Iberian Peninsula. 

All but done, it’s time to reminisce about the Gotthard’s iconic route from Airolo. Regarded the Paris-Roubaix of the Alps, what makes the climb so tough is not just its 7.3% average gradient but its cobblestone tarmac along the old Tremola road. ‘An extraordinary noodle of 38 tightly bunched hairpins’, according to Daniel Friebe’s ‘Mountain High’, the tortuous approach towards the top of the pass is reminiscent of Italy’s Passo dello Stelvio from Trafoi. 

The Gotthard car tunnel behind the old Tremola Road.
The Tour de Suisse’ most popular Alpine climb, Saint Gotthard pass has made 39 appearances during the race’s 80-year history. While featuring in June this year, from Hospental, its most-recent venture up the pass from Airolo was in Stage 3 of 2015. 

One hundred and seventeen kilometres from Quinto to Olivone, it was won fairly ‘comfortably’ – if you could ever feel comfortable cycling up so many hairpins – by Slovak cyclist Peter Sagan.    

As for me, as difficult as it felt grinding up the wriggling lacets over the last 4 kilometres, it was one of those memorable cycling adventures. Like the Stelvio, Gotthard from Airolo, is worth every bit of time and distance – and don’t forget, money – it takes to get there.
Statue to the Gotthard Pass.
Books by Mark Krieger:

‘High Spain Drifter’ is available on Amazon , Barnes and Noble, Booktopia  and other online bookstores. 

‘Lycra, Lattes and the Long Way Round’ is available on Amazon, Book Depository, Barnes and Noble, Kobo Books

Both books are also available at local bookshops on the Mornington Peninsula: @ Rosebud Bookbarn and @ La Brocante


“When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments. Here was a machine of precision and balance for the convenience of man.”

                                Elizabeth Howard West

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