Monday 16 July 2012

Italy Part 8: It's all downhill from here

Of course, "here" just happened to be the top of the third pass of the day. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Rewind.

The previous entry on this blog ended with some people going for coffee, ice cream and beer in the sunshine whilst others went to do another mountain.

In some ways, there was a risk that the beer drinkers would regret their decision. Generally, when I've seen splits like this happen both sides insist that they'd made the right choice and had a truely excellent time. As we stumbled back to the hotel after our relaxing afternoon (damn, I may have given away which group I was in) we came across Tony outside the hotel.

"How was it?" we asked.

No words were needed. Sunken eyes, a 1000-yard stare, a mumble. A shake of the head. The odd distinguishable word: brutal, horrible, killer, ridiculous. Ah. This was from one of our top two climbers. There was little point asking the other one though, as he'd been drinking beer in town. Catching up with the others led to more shaking heads, tales of weaving across the road, rolling trackstands. They'd all made it though - chapeau.

That night there was a small matter of a football match (Italy - Germany, Euro 2012 semi-final) and Massimo had magically got us a table, in front of a TV, at a local Pizzeria. The atmosphere watching the game was intense and thankfully Italy won. We also had pizza.

It was much bigger than it looks.

Fast forward to the morning. Three passes to go.

  • Passo Falzarego, 15km long, to 2115m
  • Passo Valles, 20km from our low point to the top, at 2032m
  • Passo Rolle, a mere 6km to 1989m
Falzarego was dispatched with ruthless efficiency - excluding Phill who had to nip back to the hotel to pick up his heart-rate monitor strap. Call it ruthless inefficiency. Again, another blisteringly good descent.

Valles. Or, Passo Hateful, to give the English translation. The first section was merely hellishly hot - a fountain in a village square was a lifesaver. Two bottles emptied over the head then one filled for squirting on the climb, one filled for drinking. The middle section 10%+ for a few km was brutal. Everyone suffered, weaved over the road, ground out the revolutions to make achingly slow progress. As the gradient eased near the top we came out of the trees - so we had added sunshine to cope with.
Welcome relief. They sold ice cream. There was even a troll up there.

We had lunch, we dropped down the mountain like stones. The last climb started fairly high up, so it was more a bump in the road than anything noteworthy. And then... was all downhill from there.

In San Martino di Castrozza, our finishing town, they also sold ice cream. 

What else could we do?

The final scores: 576 kilometres of distance, 14697m of ascent. Lots of passes, lots of beer, lots of pizza, lots of ice cream. No crashes. Mission accomplished.

The trip was organised by Saddle Skedaddle - a custom version of their Dolomites itinery. I'd describe the trip as flawless and I'd highly recommend them.

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