Friday 13 July 2012

Italy Part 7: Hot, hot, hot.

The most excellent book "Mountain High" describes our opening pass of the day, Passo Fedaia, with a few choice quotes.

  • "probably the hardest climb in Italy" - Gilberto Simoni, 2 time Giro winner.
  • "definitely one of the hardest climbs [in professional cycling] - it's like someone's horribly steep driveway" - 1988 Giro winner Andy Hampsten.
  • "The Fedaia is compelling in the same way as a horror movie from which it's somehow hard to avert the eyes" - the author.

It has 3km where the gradient never dips below 12%, and it's 18% at worst.

Nasty, nasty climb.

Of course, if you go up the other direction, like we did - it's a frickin' awesome descent. I bottled out slightly at 85.73 kph, but I'm sure David saw at least 90kph. At the top of the pass, also known as the Marmolada (after the glacier by the pass) there is a stunning Dolomitine (is that a word?) lake. Here's me, looking a bit... European.

I apologise for the leg angle.

We ended the descent at Caprile where there was obviously another coffee stop. We were getting good at this - first ones down found the cafe, grabbed the best tables and lined up the waiter for a round of triple ristrettos. It was around 11:30 by now, and things were hotting up. Perfect - just in time for Passo Giau.

10km, and average of 9.1%, up to 2236m. That's half the story. Add in 30C+ temperatures, blazing sun, a lack of water, a surfeit of idiocy and five days of riding already in the legs and you have all the ingredients... for pain.

I started with just one full bottle, which I admit was slightly dumb. I wasn't riding hard - I couldn't - just grinding it out. I was even (whisper it) overtaken by three or four others. The official start of the climb is at Selva di Cadore, where I saw Christina. I mentioned that I was low on water, and she told me that the van was near. Cool, I thought, I'll get a top up when it comes past me.

A few km further on I was in water conservation mode, with no sign of the van.

A few more, and the van came straight past me. Oh, I guess he'll pull in ahead.

A few more, no van, almost out of water. Some nasty looking pipes at the side of the climb had trickles of liquid coming from them but I really wasn't sure if it was drinkable. I was cursing the van driver.

One more kilometre... and relief. A water fountain. Clear, cold, glorious life-giving mountain water. I glugged, slurped, doused and steamed. I filled one bottle - there were only a couple of km to go now - and carried on refreshed. Of course, it wasn't magic. My legs were still heavier than Slipknot.

Reader, I suffered.

Those last two kilometres were a struggle. If it hadn't been for the people ahead of me walking, I may have ground to a halt and crawled into a ditch. But walkers (with bikes) are an amazing incentive - I will not stop... I will not stop.

At the top I met the van. I met the others. I had another overpriced Coke in the cafe and soaked up the sunshine. Christina made it to the top and wandered over.

"Did you not want water from the van?"


"It was parked round the corner from where you spoke to me. You rode straight past it".

Doh. In all my confusion I'd completely failed to spot the slightly obvious team vehicle, trailer attached, on the right hand side of the road. Idiot. Still, nice weather vane on the top of the pass.

From Giau it was pretty much straight down to Cortina d'Ampezzo. 25 minutes to lose 1000m of elevation. I was starting to enjoy these descents more and more, and even getting less likely to crash.

At Cortina we regrouped at our hotel - the plan was to have lunch there, and continue to the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. We lounged:

We lazed:

We thought about the heat, the climb and the fact we were on holiday:

And you know what? The brave carried on to do the Tre Cime. The beautiful went for iced coffee in Cortina.


(We went here)

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