What a great name for a town. We are in the Southern Bohemian region of the Czech Republic and spending a full day in this historic town, centred around its castle, which is a UNESCO World heritage site.
The town’s name Cesky means Bohemian, and differentiates it from Moravsky Krumlov (South Moravia).
The castle commenced construction around 1240 by a local noble family.
Most of the town’s structures are Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque.
The photo below shows the extensive length of the castle complex, from the tower to the very left of the picture….and that is only part of it.
We walked up to the top of the tower, to the viewing platform. Great view of town and the third and fourth pictures show more of the castle.
One aspect I found really sad is the bear enclosure. The castle has had a history of bear keeping for 3 plus centuries, but this bear was pacing up and down. There are two parts to the enclosure, and the second part has water and vegetation. Sad way to live. I read that her partner, Hubert, died many years ago. Hubert had been born in captivity there in the 1990’s.
We visited a very weird art exhibition in the rooms underneath the castle. All of this ‘stuff’ was for sale. A lot of it verged on the macabre and you would think David Walsh would love it at MONA.
I also found a dungeon!
More views from various parts of the castle, as well as the extensive castle gardens.
Heading back to the tourism throng, you cannot help but to notice the proliferation of selfie sticks and posing going on. Cracks me up, and I do cackle. They can spend a significant amount of time taking these photos, checking, re checking, re taking until satisfied.
Tony found a shop and museum that intrigued him.
I found this sign inside another shop. Australian and Czech product all in one!
I do not believe I granted my IP rights for this replica?!?
I liked this door.
I love the way they create these ‘bricks’. Very effective.
We found the old Monastery and gardens.
We wandered around the river area. Rafting is a popular activity.
Then we found this….look who has reserved parking directly outside!
A few final pictures of this great little town.
We’re itching to get pedalling. Whilst it is good for your body to not pedal each and every day, particularly whilst we both have colds, we do not do this tourist role very well.
We have scheduled three days more riding, weather permitting. Stay tuned for our final few days.
Early morning start to head off to Aosta for our final Giro ride…a shorter ride that was to include a long climb of around 28 km to arrive in Cervinia, very close to the Swiss border, and not that far from the French border either.
Two of Italy Bike Tours great team getting ready…Stephano and Roberto.
Riders getting ready….
I can’t forget Marco, another Team Italy Bike Tour member. He does not ride, but organises!
After a 10 km warm up we peel off to climb up Cervinia. Not as steep as Finestre (thank goodness) but a lot longer. 28 km of climbing is a long climb.
As is my preference with long climbs, I do it on my own…trying to maintain a consistent pace, cadence and wattage.
Looking at the climbing graph you can see it is a solid climb, starting at just under 500 metres above sea level, heading to just under 2000 metres, with 4 slight reprieves on the upward journey….small, but welcomed.
The temperature was in the high twenties and I sweated, necessitating a quick water bottle fill at a small Italian village..walking into a bar asking for some tap water.
Again, there were thousands of cyclists on the roads, some in small groups including one team wearing blue that had a strong cyclist with their hands across the shoulders of the second cyclist helping push them up the hill.
Electric bikes…there were a few of those. One lady went last me a few times motor whirring, and then she would stop…
An Italian rider asked me where Clive was?? ( I was wearing Italy Bike Tour kit, and Clive is the IBT owner). I told him ‘somewhere between the bottom and top’….but not riding! He laughed. I saw this guy a few times as he pulled over and was chatting away to people.
The higher you climbed, the temperature dropped, but the spectator excitement rose as you were cheered, had horns blared at you, and one couple rang their cow bells. Yes, gimme more cow bells!
More alcohol was being consumed and I was offered a glass of wine…and a sausage….there is a direct correlation between noise levels and alcohol!
Passing through the 25, 20, 15, 10 km banners they finally went 9,8 and so on until the 2 km mark , where they then drop by 100 metre increments…nice feeling!
I had been suffering painful stomach cramps the last 5 km or so and was keen to get to the bathroom!!
Down the finishing shute I was astounded by the beauty of the area. Cervinia is a valley of mountains, with the Matterhorn looming in front.
I could not get to the finishing line due to it being blocked by security forces some 200 metres out so that was it. Stop the Garmin! Time to soak up the atmosphere and find a bathroom!
Alas, I needed to pack my bike up first, ready for the flight to Rome….then…..bathroom and then this…
Cervinia is an awesome village, skiing and rock climbing mecca. You could see people skiing high up.
After the race we wander around, finding gelato…and then the Wymper bar, dedicated to Wymper an English man who was the first to climb the Matterhorn.
Outside the skies were darkening, and then BANG! Thunder rolling around the valley and we all try to hotfoot it back to the sanctuary of our hotel, making it just before the rain bucketed down. Others were not so fortunate.
We stayed in Cervinia until about 10 pm, having a meal at the hotel just metres from the finishing line.
Late night as we arrived into Torino to prepare for a 4 am alarm to transfer to Rome and the Giro finale.
I awoke to this view at nearly 1900 metres in beautiful Jafferau, close to the French border.
Hotel Jafferau is right on the finish line of the days Giro..the race that will cover Colle Della Finestre ( that I climbed the previous day for a new ascent record), and a climb that we will do this morning from the town of Bardonecchia.
Some views as we get our bikes ready to ride.
We ride down the descent into the town, passing many cyclists and walkers heading up for vantage viewpoints for the Giro’s last climb and finish line. Some have camped overnight, and others are busy writing words of support for their favourite riders on the road.
A bunch of us go for a little extra 10 km ride directly towards the French border, passing through Melezet.
Back into Bardonecchia for a quick coffee, I am keen to complete the climb sooner than later given the number of people meandering up the narrow road. On the way to a cafe, there is a cycle museum displaying some old bikes.
The streets are decorated…
Again I took no photos on the climb…it is a solid shorter climb of over 7 km.
It is a climb where there really is no respite. The temperature is really warm at around 29-30 degrees, and I am sweating.
I plug away, again using my power meter to sit on a wattage and not over extend.
There are people who cheer and encourage, some offering cups of wine, and a sausage!
I ride over fresh paint work with the artists still painting.
I need to call out to many walkers who meander all over the place without any thought of anyone else. It is really hard when you are climbing to meander around them, hoping they won’t suddenly veer.
However my biggest shout is reserved for a bunch of male cyclists descending towards me, hogging the whole road. I call out to them but they don’t fall into line until I shout something far ruder, but universally understood! They moved then!
Back at the top there is now heavy security in place and lots of obstacles..shower, change and a group of us sit and watch the race unfold on tv.
What a race. Froome had made his solo breakaway and we were all really keen to watch him, and the other riders climb Colle Delle Finestre, particularly the dirt section.
Froome handled it better than me 😂 and it certainly seemed to have dried out a lot more in the 24 hours. Other riders slipped and slithered at times, with the Maglia Rosa Simon Yates battling.
Once Froome hit the bottom of the climb we all went to find our positions…mine being up a bank…and this was my view as he heads to the finish line 50 metres away.
Quickly Froome is lost in that mass.
Now there are a lot of people up this slippery bank. I have my feet jammed against a tree to hold me, and there is this large Colombian man adjacent. He has come just to watch the Giro. He knows all the Columbian riders by sight, and there seem to be quite a few from his cheers.
Some of the police below me…
Many riders have crossed the line but we wait for the Maglia Rosa, Simon Yates, out of respect as the tour was just 3 days too long for him. He has lost over 30 minutes to Froome. We all felt for him climbing Fenestre knowing he was to lost the prized GC jersey.
Back to the hotel past the convoy of team cars. It was very subdued outside the Australian team car. Sad day for the Aussie team, but I guess realistically they were not surprised. Froome had to attack today, as he did with Zoncolon. Yates is young and hopefully he will get a major win in the near future with Australia’s only Giro/TDF/Vuelts team.
Many of the riders came past on the walk back and headed to the gondola for their trip back down the ‘hill’. It was a battle for them to get to the gondola.
Was this Froome’s mode of transport? Certainly he would not have had to ride back down or nor did he catch the gondola. So either a team car or chopper.
Tomorrow is Cervinia…another decent climb to over 2000 metres over 28km of climbing, but not as steep as the last few climbs.
I cannot sleep and I am writing this at 3.30am! Must try a bit harder!
Big day! As you can see from the headline I was pumped, adrenaline charged….I wrote that headline just after uploading my photographs last night, still riding a surge of strong feelings at having achieved something big for me…it is now the next morning and I have slept, but have decided to keep the over the top title as it represents how I felt at that particular point.
First things first….
Dinner last night…I was charmed by this gorgeous young lad, the son of our former pro rider ( Vuelta stage winner) Daniele, with a visit to his his papa for the evening.
In the morning we left Lake Iseo (I will be back there’s too) and headed to Milan to watch the race start, surrounded by the team buses ( riders inside) heading up the highway and into the streets of Milan.
It was a very warming morning for a change, warm enough for a sleeveless dress! Rain was forecast for later in the day though.
It was pure chaos around the race start with so many spectators lining the area from the team buses to the stage where the riders present themselves to sign their names on the board.
Se tried to watch the riders head up to the stage along the road…
That was not easy either, as you can see.
However I got a much better vantage viewing spot for the race start. Here they are still under a controlled start, following the Race Directors car out of Milan, allowing chit chat between riders.
In the picture below we have the Maglia Rosa, Simon Yates…and a yet to be identified rider seemingly smiling at my camera?
We then hot footed it over to where the Giro competes the following day, with incredible mountains around us. The nerves start to tingle, as I was very nervous and uptight.
Todays challenge was to climb Colle Delle Finestre, a mountain regarded by many pro riders as the third hardest Giro climb in Italy. It is located in the Piedmont region of Italy, close to the French border.
The climb starts at around 500 metres above sea level, and finishes over 2100 metres, so potentially my largest single ascent in one climb. My record was 1550 metres or so, in a single climb ( versus total climbing for a ride which includes all the ups).
The climb is about 17 km long and averages 10 percent. We were told that there are no flattish areas to recover, and that the last 7 plus km is ‘gravel’). Oh it just keeps getting better! Groan…… However, there is an upside in that the road has been closed already for the Giro ( due to the ‘gravel’ section, as apparently the local council have been working on the road). Sounds promising?
We started off with a warm up ride over reasonably flatish roads, a great idea so our legs and nubs are warmed up. I leave my warmer gear ( for the descent) in the van.
We converge at the bottom of the climb, but the van has not arrived with my backpack. This rattles me, as the descent will be cold. Daniele waits for the van promising to bring my riding backpack up on HIS back. Ok, nicely played Sharron 😊💪🚴
I sit with Roberto and we chit chat our way through 32 hairpins in the early sections….
We chat about life in general. I have a power meter on this bike and in the first 4 or so km I was riding above my FTP ( functional threshold power), pushing 210-220 Watts. Roberto suggests I drop it back to 165-185 watts, as it is a tough unforgiving climb. I follow his suggestion and go down one gear and spin more.
With 7 km to go we are at the ‘gravel’ section. I think that word is lost in translation. There is no gravel in sight, but slushy mud and patches of compacted mud is in plentiful supply….and I have to ride in this crap at 10 percent?
It is enough of a challenge on bitumen to climb km after km at that grade let alone unsealed.
It is soft and slippery, and I try to identify drier sections. Thankfully not many riders are descending and there are no cars.
There are sections of compacted gravel, at last!
I take no photos climbing but the wow factor view wise is huge. I did not want to stop for two reasons. Firstly, cooling down and more importantly recleating.
My ears keep blocking and I keep trying to yawn and clear them.
Roberto had a puncture 30m ahead of me…he told me not to stop, but I did for seconds just to see if he needed my help with his tyre …as if! 😂😂 He gives me a push and off I go.
Just over two km to go and a few hundred metres of climbing left and I know that I will do this.
Am I hurting? Oh yeah! My back is badly cramping and my legs are hurting, but I push on trying to follow Roberto’s instructions of not thinking about my back and concentrating on my legs.
I am pumped! I know that I have achieved something that many others can’t and I feel a lot of gratitude and a little emotion!
Daniele arrived before me ( surprise, surprise) and I throw on all my warm gear ( long leggings, arm warmers, jacket, snood, long fingered gloves).
It is really fresh at the top, but I grab a few photos. There is bitumen on the other side, but whilst it was planned for us to descend that way, we can’t due to a landslide further on preventing us turning towards our accomodation. So we need to descend down the unsealed road.
The mud, and looking down part of the climb. The snow is banked up over 2 metres on the side for a number of km.
The descent is slow, riding the brakes…don’t want to spin out and over the edge!
I take the opportunity to stop a few times on the descent and take photos.
Finally I hit the bitumen and speed up and really enjoy myself!
Here is my climbing graph…nasty! 1676 m of my days total of 1749 m is one climb only. This is not something you can do in Tasmania, there are no climbs possible that provide the same ascent. One of the great ‘benefits’ Europe provides cyclists.
We arrive at our accomodation in Jafferau late… nearly 9 pm, so it’s going to be a very late night once we shower and eat.
I don’t get to bed until just before midnight…a four course meal was served!
So I achieved something today I did not think I could! Awesome!
Last minute look at Lake Garda just before departing….
I love Lake Garda. I’ll be back!
We headed to a vineyard as each of the Giro celebrates Franciacorte as each year the Giro travels through a different wine area. We learned about their winemaking, with most partaking in samples…not me, as given my rib, no way was I riding with alcohol in my blood stream.
We then departed on our bikes heading to the race finish at Lake Iseo. Nice ride. When we arrived we decided to do extra and do a previous Giro climb of about 8 km.
Great views on the way up but I was not stopping…I just kept plugging away…turning at the top and then descending I stopped where a number of riders were taking photographs overlooking Lake Iseo.
Back at our base camp we ate again….I really was not hungry…despite the course only being metres away, a group of us walked down to the finish line to check town out.
Found this beautiful old motor bike…
Another house well decked out….
Some guys I recognised…
Found the shores of Lake Iseo…
Found gelato…this is Erin. I am adopting her! She and Hannah would get on great!
I liked this warning sign…
Loved this ladies shoes, ideal for riding a scooter…?
The winners champagne is all ready on the podium…
Then the rain came down ….after such beautiful weather all day…
Rain bucketed down…I got soaked…given the weather I just watched the metres out from the finish…,.woosh……
Our leader Daniele would be happy, his good friend and former teammate Viviani won. I think it is about the fourth stage win at the Giro for him.
Tomorrow our plans are in disarray due to the earthquake and road landslip…so,the Giro is to be rerouted…us too….final details being nutted out as we speak.
Poor wifi again, and so far I have been unable to transfer my ride photos from my phone to iPad. Never mind..here goes….
Yesterday at the Giro was time trial day in the streets of Rovereto, some 17 km or so from Torbole, Lake Garda.
Many of us selected to go on a morning leg loosener down a valley, on a cycle path, behind Torbole which was pleasant.
Upon returning we joined the rest of the riders to head to,the time trial. turn left out of the garage was a nasty 10 percent climb for over one km. I was so glad my legs and lungs were warmed up.
I did this same climb 2 years ago with cold legs..not nice.
Beautiful views from the top of the short climb. My photo for this is still stuck on my phone, but two years ago I took this one part way up ( as I stopped). Yesterday I did the 1km, 10 percent without stopping.
In Rovereto we were in a structure outside a local pub adjacent to the course, where we sat and ate and had a few drinks.
Wandering up to the finish line and back. This is the view looking up towards the finishing line.
This building was adjacent to our viewing room.
Trying to get photos of fast moving cyclists is hard with my camera, but patiently I tried. I got a few others from my vantage position.
These two guys peeked my curiosity…
Then there was the race…
This guy I gave a good cheer to initially thinking it was Kiwi George Bennett, but got my Bennett’s all muddled up…this is Sam Bennet…the Irishman ( I think…..)
This guy got my loudest voice though….Aussie, Aussie, Aussie….Rohan Dennis who was the ultimate winner, resplendent in his very tight BMC skin suit. I could hear some of my fellow riders singing Waltzing Matilda a little further on.
Down to the top two riders on General Classification…
Big cheers in the crowd for this guy…the maglia rosa’s arrival certainly stirred emotion in the crowds….Simon Yates powered past, very pained face, giving it all.
Today we head to Lake Iseo…hopefully better wifi at that hotel!!
Easy day as we transferred nearly 300 km from Sappada to Torbole, Lake Garda. a beautiful drive with views of the Dolomites. I admit, I would much rather be riding than sitting in a car. I do find that frustrating.
The first half was through areas ridden last week including Muhlbach, stopping at San Lorenzo for coffee. San Lorenzo was the town where last Sunday we witnessed the Oompa Loompahs outside the church ( per video in the blog). Today, the Piazza was very quiet, although mid morning, there were a few blokes sitting around drinking wine.
With the lack of people around, I found something I had not noted last week. A small obelisk with an interesting history.
Arriving into Torbole was nice. Tony and I were here less than 2 years ago, en route via bikes from London to Venice. Two years ago the sun shined.
Today it was overcast, light drizzle.
As we have some tough climbing days later this week today’s ride was just rolling the legs over as we rode around one side of the lake. Easy as, riding some 20 km along a busy road, many cyclists in the area for tomorrow’s Giro time trial.
Returning included a steep but short climb through a village, descending into a tourist mecca along the lake. The total ride was only around 43 km.
Some views from the ride.
A cycle track is being constructed to circumnavigate Lake Garda. When completed, it will be 160 km in length. That is now on my bucket list as a nice day from Torbole, hopefully in a gloriously sunny day!
The plan today was to do three of the days Giro climbs, and be back in Sappada to watch the finish live.
It was a cool out of the village with all gear on. At the bottom we stripped off to climb. It was a solid climb too.
At the top of the Pass, clothes back on. This was to be the order of the day…clothes on, clothes off. Joe commented that he felt like a stripper!
The views today were magnificent. The weather varied from sunny to drizzly.
The climbs were stiff, varying from 5-7 percent on the last one, to 13-14 percent on the first.
Riding back into Sappada i was passed by a Velo Tour van…ah ha…more Tasmanians.
Velo Tours is operated by Kim and Kerry Stubbs. I was on the Board of Triathlon Tasmania with Kerry, and both on the organisation group for two Australian All Schools Triathlon Championships held in Devonport.
So I focused on following the van, waving as much as I could and I did manage a quick hi to Kim as she tried to find somewhere to park.
Time to wander around Sappada. People are amazing with the efforts they put into the Giro theme.
The weather could not make up its mind whether to rain or shine. After wandering around the finishing line area, a number of us watched the race unfold on tv.
It was a funny feeling watching the last 35 or so km as we had ridden the same route only hours earlier….”hey, that is where Luke got his flat tyre…”. They certainly make the hill climbs look far easier than they are for mere mortals.
With 6.2 km to go the feeling from all was that Yates was going to win, but curiosity with both Domoulin and Froome..we all ventured outside (our hotel was directly on the finishing route).
We found our vantage points and waited….
Then a very happy Simon Yates, foot down, screamed up to the finishing line for a well deserved win, increasing his hold on the maglia rosa.
We all cheered on the riders, and then I noticed Kim Stubbs on the other side of the road, complete with a blow up kangaroo. I went with her back to where Kerry was.
Three Tasmanians now found…will there be more??
A nice dinner at a local restaurant. I sat next to Daniele, who continues to enthral with tales from the pro life. He also has his own clothing label (cycling)…note to self to look up.
The Dolomites looked majestic as we say goodbye to Sappada.
Yes it is in capitals, yes I am shouting it. What a beast,
To be honest, before booking this trip, I had never heard of it…you hear a lot about classic climbs like Stelvio, Alpe d’huez and so on, but all the riders rate Zoncolon as much harder.
Two times Zoncolon Giro stage winner Gilberto Simoni described it as a ‘slow execution’.
Here is the climbing graph.
I have done longer climbs, I have climbed to higher altitudes, and I have climbed a greater ascent ( measured from base above sea level to above sea level) but I have never done such a steep, shorter climb….with really really nasty percentages.
I needed to think….I carry knee, back and asthma issues, but the one that most people currently are unaware of is that the sore rib I have spoken of, is actually a fractured rib. So for over two weeks I have been riding with a fractured rib.
I am on pain medication at night ( as lying in bed hurts most). Coughing, sneezing, bending, twisting all hurt, but greatly improved.
Breathing very deeply hurts…so climbing has been harder for me ( not that I am a great climber anyway), but this is an added impost.
I cannot risk another fall on my rib at the moment.
I analysed the climb data above, km by km. Red is hard! That is over 10 percent and this climb has patches around 22-24 percent. Throw in thousands of people walking and cycling up to watch, wet roads, tour motor bikes and cars, alcohol (as many walkers are the drinking revellers) a narrow road and you have one almighty task ahead of you.
We were transferred via van to a rising starting poi T some 2 and a half hours away from Asolo. Great views of the Dolomites as we closed in.
We rode 20 km to the start of the mountain climb in Osalo.
My decision was to ride to ‘the wall’ and take it from there. I got past the wall for a bit, it started to pour with rain and the a motor car was up my clacker and impatient. There was no room for me and the car, so I had to decleat to let it past, and I could not recleat in what was 18 percent there.
So I walked then…very hard too… joining Chris (a lady rider in our group from the USA). It was great to sit with her and get to know her. She is very inspiring growing up in a variety of USA national parks ( dad was a ranger). She became a teacher, then worked as a park ranger in Yosemite, a lawyer and now a judge. We had a great chat, chilling on the mountain, waiting, waiting , waiting.
Here is Chris chilling…
Sitting on a hill for so many hours you see lots of people, many walking and pushing their bikes up the mountain for vantage viewing points. At our position there was a man running and giving people a push. He gave a girl a push and she made a noise..I looked across and realised I knew her…Josie Dow, who swam with my children in Tasmania, and now,living in London!
I called out her name, she looked and smiled! It was great to see her after so many years, but how crazy is that? Here I am, in Italy, up a dirty monster of a climb, and I see someone from yesteryear!
When the weather started to close in more, Chris and I had a chat about the descent. We knew it was going to be horrific with so many thousands of people descending at once..bikes, walking and many alcohol fuelled.
The riders were still at least half an hour away and we decided to descend a few km down..we crawled down to about 4 km point ( meaning 6 km from the top of the mountain)..
We dumped our bikes with a few others and scrambled up a grassy knoll but not before another Chris photo.
This was our view whilst we waited…
Then the leading riders ride up this beast…
Seconds later, here is Froome, with the maglia Rosa two places behind ( Simon Yates) and Tom Dumoulin a further two back.
We needed to wait for all the riders to come through before completely descending. The ride down was pretty horrible really. Mass of humanity with walkers just spreading themselves out over the entire road, having to try to identify opportunities to move between the walkers, who all seemed to have opened umbrellas with those pointy bits at cyclists face level.
So history will show that Chris Froome won. For me, great experience and I am glad I stayed upright!
I have heaps more photos but the internet at this hotel is awful. I have spent around 3 hours trying to get this blog done, with consistent drop outs. I’m giving up! I have to get ready for breakfast and the next ride….grrrr
I awoke to beautiful weather in Asolo. A lovely breakfast, but my idea of a BIG coffee differs somewhat to the lady barista! 😂
Luke, Peter and I were dropped off into the Piazza Maggiore in Asolo to have a wander around. The town has significant Roman heritage.
We decided to walk to Il Rocco….way up high on the hill overlooking Asolo, the Veneto and the Dolomites.
Once at the top this is the main entrance. Closed for renovations.
Walking back down there are numerous olive trees on the flats and slopes.
Back in the Piazza Maggiore looking up the the convent, you can see the old fortification high above.
This fountain is a central piece in the Piazza Maggiore with water from an old Roman aqueduct.
I love quirky gargoyles and building details including the wood panelling under this buildings eaves, and the metal dragon.
After a quick lunch it was onto the bikes to ride off to Giro.
The weather was perfect and we followed Daniele as he weaved around various roads and villages.
Stopping for a quick drink and catchup after the first hill…
We were able to do the Giro hill climb…only 3 km but packed with cyclists of all shapes, sizes and abilities. It was walking only under the KOM banner as cyclists just seemed to stop on the line, causing a build up behind.
We then rode another 15 km or so to the finish line where we saw the riders come through the first time…very fast…hence the blur on my photos…
We all sat outside a local bar waiting patiently….
Until the final sprint…we were all hanging our arms and phones over the barriers and did a massive jump back as the riders screamed around on our side of the barricade…
A nice win for Viviani, good friend of our leader Daniele. I did not get a photo of him…too fast for my trigger happy finger.
The crush after the race was incredible…4 police pushed through so I drafted them ( walking), and stuck with them in the gap they created.
Our team management decided to transfer us back to the hotel by van, as thunderstorms were threatening….,
Tomorrow is the challenge ….Zoncolon…to Zoncolon or not to Zoncolon, that is the question…..🤷♀️🤷♀️🤷♀️🤷♀️