Sunday, 17 June 2012

Italy Day 4–Mortirolo

Wednesday dawned sunny and fairly warm.  We decided to head to the Mortirolo.

First was a 20 mile, 800m drop down the valley to town of Grosotto.  It was a very pleasant ride following the old SS38 road, most of the traffic going through the tunnels of the new road. Italy 007Italy 015Italy 018

Eventually we reached the bottom of the climb.  Of the three routes up the Mortirolo, this is the hardest.  It was the route up in this year’s Giro, although I don’t think they went all the way to the top.

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In total there are 33 hairpin bends, all conveniently numbered.  Each house or farm on the way up also has its altitude on their name plate so you know exactly where you are, there’s no kidding yourself you’re nearly there.

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Part way up is a tribute to Marco Pantani, apologies for the poor picture, it was taken on the move and my camera was a bit sweaty.

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At this point my average speed had dropped from 5-6mph to 2-3 mph.  Some of the sections were brutally steep, only achievable after the respite of a flattish bend.

Eventually, after 1hr 45mins of climbing, I got to the top, in one go, no stopping.  I was knackered.Italy 028

Ian was next up a few minutes later.  He and the others had stopped to regroup a couple of times, to pick up the slower riders.

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followed by Graham and Jemima

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Alison, who got a mexican wave from some Dutch riders,

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and Karl and Chris.

We were all quite proud of ourselves.

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We dropped down the other side slightly to a Cafe where Jemima “inhaled” a plate of spaghetti, there is no other word to describe how quickly she cleared her plate.  We were still cold and tired and the weather looked like it was closing on the mountains to the north, so rather than do the Gavia as well, we set of back over the top and down to Grosio.

This was a fast switchback descent, lots of gravel in the corners, but great fun.  I raced some Dutch guys down, but after one too many hairy corners let the faster one go.  The views on the way down were stunning.

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After a long drag back up from the valley to Bormio, we arrived back at the hotel weary but satisfied.

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54 miles

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Italy Day 3–Spa

Bormio is the site of a natural hot spring and has three spa/baths.  The weather today was truly awful so we headed for the Bagni Nuovi.

It was brilliant.  The first level contained several saunas, steam rooms, plunge pools and hydrotherapy pools.  Then there was the grotto area that had a number of interesting treatments, like a pair of elliptical pools that you walked through, one containing warm water, one cold.  Its supposed to be good for your circulation and certainly made our tired legs feel better.  There was also a big outdoor area with mud baths, hot tubs, more saunas, a swimming pool and much more.  My particular favourite was a eucalyptus shower followed by a sauna in a converted summer house, though the windows of which you could watch restarts and other birds.

We managed to spend 6 or 7 hours there.

Italy Day 2–Gavia

The forecast wasn’t great but  it turned very warm and sunny as we got ready.  At the last minute i swapped my rain jacket for my gillet, but did thankfully shove the jacket in my saddlebag.

The ride today was a straight out and back to the top of the Gavia.  Pretty much climbing for 25K from Bormio via Santa Caterina to the top of the Gavia and back down.  From Bormio to Sanata Caterina was about 13K an 600m of climbing.  I passed a guy on an old 5 speed carrying a bag on his back and a large carrier bag slung on the handlebars.  As we approached one of the steeper sections, this guy shot back past me.  Should I chase or let him go?  I chose to let him go, the humiliation of being overtaken would have been compounded exponentially if I failed to catch him.  This became the “Tim Diamond Challenge” whereby old people on unsuitable bikes would be pitted against me in races.  Very funny Karl, ha ha!

When we arrived in Santa Caterina the weather on the mountain tops had started to change, but didn’t look too bad.

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We set off up the remaining 13K and 800m of climbing.  Although I set off first, I was quickly overhauled by the stronger guys on the first few hairpins.  I settled into a steady tempo, 6-8 mph on the flatter bits, 4-5 on the steeper.

As I got higher, it started to rain.  Karl,Ian, Chris and Graham were waiting at about the 12mile mark.  I shouted to them that there was still 3 miles to go, Karl shouted back “and 500m climbing”.  I carried on, Ian shouted that he’d come and join me so I eased for a bit, but he never materialized.  The rain turned to sleet as we cleared the tree line.  I debated stopping to put on my rain jacket but figured I was warm enough and already wet.  I’d press on.  Then it started snowing.  The road pitched up even steeper for a bit. 

Eventually the Refuge came into view and I could get some warmth.

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Ian and Chris showed up soon after, equally wet and cold.  Then the others trickled in.

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There was a family at the refuge with two small children.   The father had told them that maybe with the snow, Santa would arrive.  Sure enough, he did!

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We waited til the snow cleared before setting off on the 15 mile, 45mph down hill back to Bormio.Italy 011

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Another short day, only 31/5 miles, but another Giro pass ticked off.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Italy Day 1

Karl, Alison, Ian and I flew out to northern Italy on Saturday.  The flight out was fairly uneventful, Ian was actually ready to go Saturday morning when I came to pick him up.  We flew to Bergamo airport, arriving to a hot and sweaty Italy with 4 bike bags and luggage.  We eventually got hire cars sorted, shuttle bus to car hire place and bikes stashed by 7 o’clock local time and were ready for the three hour plus drive north to the Alps.  Karl had a sat nav, so we planned to follow him.  Unfortunately it was playing up and we had a few interesting moments through the Bergamo suburbs in rush hour before getting on to the right road for Bormio.  It was a beautiful road in places, but soon got dark and we couldn’t really see Lake Como or the Alps as we approached.  Eventually we got to Bormio at about half ten and met up with Graham, Jemima and Chris.  The Hotel Genzianella is an Italy Bike Hotel, catering very well for cyclists of all types and is thoroughly recommended.

Bormio is at the foot of the Stelvio and close to any number of the great Giro climbs.  The plan was to build up over the week to the Stelvio, hopefully from the northern 49 hairpin side.  The weather forecast for the week is not good, rain, heavy showers, thunder storms.  Temps are near those at home – 12 – 18 degrees.  We’ll see where we get to.

Day one was planned as an easy break in day.  It was tipping it down when we got up, so we had a leisurely breakfast and set about un-bagging and preparing the bikes.  It was still tipping down when we’d finished and we decided to take an hour’s rain check.  By half ten, it had eased a bit and we set out in light drizzle to do the Torre di Fraele.  This is a 22 mile loop up to a ruined fort at which point the road turns to gravel.  There are 18 hairpins on the climb which takes you from 1215m at Bormio up to 1885m at the castle.  Beyond there, the dirt road rises up further to Lago di Cancano and Lago di San Giacomo.  The rain eased as we started climbing.  I’d plotted a route for Karl’s GPS using bikehike but the Google maps weren’t as accurate as they could be and we took a few wrong turns.  Eventually we started climbing.  Graham asked if this was the start of the hairpins.  I pointed ahead and said no!

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The climb was ok, the hairpins were about 500m apart and the slopes not too bad.  It was bitter at the top and combined with the soaking from earlier, we all got quite cold.  There was a sign on the dirt road saying there were several cafes further up so we headed on.  The first was closed, as was the second.  Karl headed up to a third, which was open.  We had a traditional pasta, potato and cabbage concoction with cheese sauce.  It was delicious and just what we needed, together with the thickest, chocolatiest hot chocolate I’ve ever had.  Too soon we back out into the now watery sunshine.  The views of the surrounding peaks were spectacular.

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We were soon down into the valley and the relative warmth.

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Not a long day, 22 1/2 miles, but rewarding considering the weather. 

Evening meal:

Tuna & bean salad

Green and white tagliatelli and duck sauce

Fish soup