Tuesday 3 July 2012

Italy Part 3: Switzerland

Every trip to the Italian Alps and Dolomites needs to include a jaunt to at least one other country... just because you can. Switzerland is especially good for this because you'll discover that your money doesn't work any more, although given everything is three times the price of Italy that's probably a good thing.

We started our first real riding day as all good rides should - with a ferry ride across a millpond-still lake.

That's the ferry right there. The wobbly thing it's floating on is the lake.

After half an hour or so, which included replacing David's tyre, we arrived on the right hand side of Lake Como. The first 60km or so were flatish, so we let Massimo sit at the front and tow us all along. Well, what else are guides for?

We chugged along in the gradually increasing heat until we reached Chiavenna, which just happened to have the perfect combination of picturesque town square, ice-cold water fountain and shaded cafe. Espresso, Coke and bananas were taken on in preparation for our climb of the day - the Maloja Pass. This started as we left the town and only went one way - up. As it was the first climb with the full group (we now had the foursome from the Bath Cycling Club - Graham, John, Rob and Pete) I felt I'd actually try on this one. I set myself a wattage target with the aim of keeping it constant the whole way up. Soon the Bath CC crew were drifting behind me...

Clearly, it didn't last. I managed about 55 minutes - halfway up - before the sensible side of me reminded the excited puppy side of me that this was the first climb of a long week. I backed off slightly and the inevitable happened, with Bath CC coming past me after half an hour. Darn it.

It got harder at the top - we were now over the border and clearly the Swiss engineers enjoyed a steep switchback or two - so I paced myself to the summit at Maloja. Everyone was relaxing in the sunshine so I lay down on the grass, enjoying the rest right up until the point my leg started to cramp up. Oops. Stretch.

I wasn't the only one with cramp - Phill had suffered in the heat and called for the rescue van - and once we were all back together it was a short downhill spin to lunch, the usual picnic of local meats, cheeses and breads.

Thankfully it was more or less downhill to the hotel too - just past St. Moritz, in the hotel dominated village of Celerina. We hid the bikes in the bike hole, settled in to our rooms and did the normal post-ride activities: posting how awesome we were on Facebook, scraping off the oil marks on our legs and emptying our pockets of energy bar wrappers.

There were two things we had to do that night. Eating was the obvious one, to be followed by watching some football. We were English, our guides Italian, and fate had conspired to schedule England-Italy that night. It was a blessing we'd be watching in neutral Switzerland.

Dinner was pleasant enough although no-one really worked out what the chicken sausage wrapped in leaves was meant to be. It also managed to be almost completely without carbohydrates... a clever trick to play on hungry cyclists. The water was more expensive than the beer, and the cheapest bottle of wine was £50... which we declined.

Watching the football was less pleasant, at least for the English. When it went to extra time most of us made our excuses and left the bar we were in, with only Phill remaining to suffer the Italian celebrations when England lost on penalties.

As revenge, we took the little ring of off Massimo's bike. It was a shame he never used it though.

(I think this should give you the route. And this was yesterday's.)

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