Tour de Suisse 2019 Stages – Part 1

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In a previous post, I have described the area around Slivaplana, our first base camp for my Tour de Suisse 2019.

This post provides more details on the possible stages and alternatives I have in mind and which I will probably not ride.

Although not for lack of trying, but just because most of my trip ideas are insane, given that I would like to ride every day and I’m not a world tour pro rider…

Another factor is, that there are many climbs, most of them with at least two alternative routes to cycle them, and I have only so many days during either part of my Tour de Suisse.

So, each stage below is described including alternatives – if you’d rather not read all of that, just wait for my post stage reports later on 🙂

Climbs around Silvaplana
Passes in the Silvaplana area


TDS 2019 - Prologue
Prologue without the Malojapass

My Tour de Suisse 2019 will definitely start with a prologue including the San Bernardino and the Splügenpass.

The San Bernadino (2,065 m) will be climbed from the south – I will probably get on my bike in Lostallo, for a warm up before taking on the bulk of the climb, starting in Soazza.

From there, it’s 25 kilometers to the summit, with some 1,500 meters of elevation.

After that, it’s 20 kilometer, mostly downhill, to Splügen.

The Splügenpass (2,114 m) is 9 kilometers long from that end, with an elevation of just under 700 meters.

Total for this trip is 90 kilometers and 2,600 meters of D+.

Prologue with Malojapass

Another 30 kilometer downhill will then bring me to Chiavenna – depending on how I feel I may continue to the apartment in Silvaplana by bike, tackling the Malojapass (1,815 m) also.

The Maloja is quite unique in that it has only one side to climb – from its summit it’s basically a flat ride to Zernez, 50 kilometers further on.

But as including the Maloja would mean another 32 kilometers of climbing, with 1,500 meters of elevation again, the smarter option would probably be to get in the car after a stopover at the summit of the Splügen or after the downhill to Chiavenna.

This trip would be 134 kilometers long, with a staggering 4,350 meters of D+.

I might save getting back to Chiavenna to climb the Maloja for another day…

Stage 1

TDS 2019 - Stage 1 - Julier
Two sides of the Julierpass

As it runs by our apartment, I will start by tackling the Julierpass today.

From Silvaplana, the Julier (2,284 m) is just over 7 kilometers long, with 485 meters of elevation difference.

After the descend to Tiefencastel, I have the choice to create a round trip with the Albula, or return from there.

From Tiefencastel, the Julier is no less than 36 kilometers long, with 1,500 meters of elevation difference. The opening 4 kilometers and several other stretches are well over 8%.

This trip would be around 85 kilometers long, with 2,200 meters of D+.

TDS 2019 - Stage 1 - Julier and Albula
Round trip with Julier and Albula

Alternately, the round trip with the Albula is just over 100 kilometers, with 2,400 meters of elevation (D+).

Climbing the Albula (2,315 m) from Tiefencastel, is slightly harder than the Julier: shorter at 30 kilometers, but with more (1,550) meters of D+, offering several tough stretches at 10%.

Stage 2

Today’s stage will bring me the Flüelapass, but again, I have alternatives.

I can combine that with either the Albula or the Julier, depending on the choice I made yesterday.

TDS 2019 - Stage 2 - Fluela and Julier
Flüela and Julier

If I combine it with the Julier or Albula from Tiefencastel, I will start in / nearby Zernez and climb the Flüela from Susch first.

And if I already climbed the Albula from Tiefencastel yesterday, I will continue with the Julier from there.

Alternately, I could also start in / near Samedan and climb the Albula from La Punt first, followed by the Flüela from Davos.

The climb up the Flüela (2,383 m) is similar from either end: both from Susch and Davos, they are 13 kilometers long *.

But, as Susch is located at 1,420 meters and Davos at 1,560 meters, the one from Susch is a bit tougher at an average of 7.3% against 6.4% from Davos.

TDS 2019 - Stage 2 - Fluela and Albula
Flüela and Albula or the other way around

The Albula climb is 9 kilometers long from La Punt, but 6 of those are really tough at an average of nearly 10%.

The trip with the Flüela and Julier is around 108 kilometers, with 2,930 meters of D+.

The alternative with the Flüela and Albula is just over 95 kilometers from either starting point, but from Zernez this route has 2,750 meters of D+ and from Samedan 2,425 meters of D+.

* I could always just ride from Zernez to Davos and back, covering both ends of the Flüela – this would be around 55 kilometers, with 1,800 meters of D+, which actually sounds like my best plan so far…

Stage 3

I will either get on my bike in Silvaplana and head for Samedan, or get in the car first and head for Zernez.

What I will do (next), depends on how I feel…

Alternative 1: from Samedan

The long alternative from Samedan…

The easiest trip would be up and down the Bernina (2,328 m – 18.4 km, 608 D+), including the short sidestep to the Forcola di Livigno (2,315 m – 4 km, 275 D+).

Back and forth, that is a near 70 kilometer round trip, with 1,400 meters of elevation difference – perhaps not really a recovery, but relatively easy.

More epic would be to continue from the Forcola towards Livigno, climb the Eira (2,208 m – 6,4 km, 390 D+), Foscagno (2,291 m – 4.1 km, 270 D+) and then head for Bormio to get up the Stelvio.

The Forcola, Eira and Foscagno part of that I have done in 2011 – the Stelvio (2,758 m) from Bormio I have climbed three times too already, but that never gets boring.

This trip would be over 100 kilometers long, with 3,260 meters of elevation difference.

Even more epic is to extend that further by going down the Umbrail and up the Ofenpass from Santa Maria (2,143 m – 14 km, 780 D+) and to finish in Zernez adding another 160 meters of elevation difference passing Ova Spin.

That would be a 150 kilometer trip, with 4,300 meters of elevation difference…

Alternative 2: from Zernez

From Zernez, including the Umbrail / Stelvio.

There are two options, besides the above 150 km trip in the reverse direction.

I could tackle the Ofenpass from both ends in one ride.

From Zernez, this is a 21.6 kilometer long climb, with a net elevation gain of 855 meters.

But as there’s a 160 meter drop between Ova Spin and the train tunnel at Punt la Drossa, the actual D+ is 1,015 meters, or 4.7% and not 3.1%…

From Glorenza, the total climb is 28 kilometers, with 1,240 meters of D+ – back to Zernez – as mentioned above – there’s another 160 meters of D+ in the 5 kilometers to Ova Spin.

However, I do not really like this round trip – I’d probably cut the not very interesting 26 km back and forth between Santa Maria and Glorenza anyway.

With a total of then just over 70 kilometers and 1,900 meters of D+, it’s definitely not an easy trip, certainly not a recovery.

But once I get to Santa Maria, I will probably not be able to resist turning right to climb the Umbrail / Stelvio and return from there.

The Umbrail (2,501 m) is a tough climb from Santa Maria: 13.2 kilometers, with 1,126 D+ or an average of 8.5% – I know first hand from my attempt in 2011 just how hard that is.

Including the tough last 3 kilometers up the Stelvio, adding 250 meters of D+, choosing this option means a ride of just under 105 kilometers, with 3,340 meters of D+.

Did I mention that most of my trip ideas are insane?

Stage 4

Depending on the previous stages, I may actually plan a rest day in between this stage and stage 3.

This would give us the opportunity to ride the world famous Albula Railway.

Then for the next stage, there will be at least one trip including either end(s) of the Julier, Albula or Flüela left, so that will be my trip for the day.

For details on either alternative, see stages 1 and 2 above – after today, I will have cycled all three passes from both ends.

Stage 5

Long version with Stelvio and Ofen, finish in Zernez.

I’m not sure I will eventually do it, but I’m – secretly, don’t tell Paula – planning on throwing an all Italian stage in.

Which would be returning the favor that the Swiss got at the end of my Giro d’Italia 2015 🙂

I’d like to climb the Mortirolo (1,852 m) from Mazzo (12.5 km / 1,300 D+) and then the Gavia (2,621 m) from Ponte di Legno (17.5 km / 1,500 m D+).

Depending on the ride I did during stage 3, on whether or not I got up the Stelvio from Bormio, I may extend that with that climb, if I didn’t.

(* Little voice in my head: “Go nuts C. and then add the Ofenpass too!”)

Long version with the Foscagno and Bernina, ending in Samedan.

Or, just as mad, turn left in Bormio, climb the Foscagno / Eira.

(* Little voice in my head: “Go nuts C. and then add the Forcola / Bernina too!”)

The alternative over the Stelvio, extended with the Ofen, is 155 kilometers long, with 5,625 meters of D+.

And if I go all the way over the Foscagno and Bernina, it’s 160 kilometers, with 5,450 meters of elevation difference.

Like the longest version of stage 3, either alternative is probably more than I can handle, so don’t hold your breath…

Btw. just the route over the Mortirolo and Gavia, finishing in Bormio, is 88 kilometers, with 3,300 meters of D+.

End of week one

And that’ll be the end of this part of my Tour de Suisse.

We will move to Andermatt next, starting with an intermediate stage, which will be the reverse of my prologue.

Note: elevation, or D+, for the plotted courses is calculated by Strava – it usually does a shitty job at that, the actual D+ being lower in most cases. Still, I need some ballpark figures, right?

Silvaplana-Surlej, with lakes Lej da Champfèr, Lej da Silvaplana and some of the nearby mountains from the Bernina range.
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