If you had a heard of elephants and a good sized army and were headed for Rome, just how would you get over the Alps?? In recent decades opinion has settled on the Petit St. Bernard. For me, the Petit St. Bernard is one of the MOST fun climbs; for I love switchbacks, and the petit st Bernard has a zillion of them on both sides. Now, the Stilfserjoch/Stelvio Pass in Italy has 50 hairpins, but that pass has an arrogance and haughtiness to it that puts me off. Whereas the Petit St. Bernard begins in a most pleasant French town and ends in a most pleasant Italian one. In between, as you wind up the switches, the forest gets thinner and thinner. The final approach to the pass is after a small town at the summit that is infamous for being completely shuttered up every time i pass by. Past the town the road becomes a narrow paved pathway for a mile or so until the top.
The descent is equally memorable for me. One particular afternoon I was descending the Italian side, which is very steep; and very very hot. The road was hot in the late afternoon sun, and I was riding my brakes to much--even though i was pumping them, my rims got super hot. BLAM...my front tire exploded (the tube, actually...taking the tire with it). This so upset a local dog, sitting in front of a roadside villa, that he came out and bit me! A few minutes later an italian motorcycle gang came by, fully clad in mutlicolored leathers, and stopped to make sure I was Ok. I was, and indeed got back on the bike a few minutes later.
I much admire the skill of racing cyclists who are able to whiz down hills are great speed, combining balance, skill, and sheer nerve! But i fall short of calling their art a sport. After all...they are followed by legions of wagons, equipment, spare parts..bah!!!