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…..🤷♀️🤷♀️🤷♀️🤷♀️
Disappointingly I have very few photos today, despite taking heaps. My camera memory card seems to have had a myocardial infarction!
It was to be a reasonably long day..about 135 km to get from Cortina, in the Dolomites, to Asolo, in the Veneto. This was the route followed.
I was told by Geoff we HAD to be on the road by 8 am. Breakfast, get changed, pack gear, attach to bike and ready! But first I wanted to say farewell to John, the Irishman. I found him in the breakfast room. He told me he set his alarm for 6 am as he wanted to say farewell but then fell asleep. He thought he had missed me to,say goodbye. Very sweet and witty man, but I have promised to email him upon my return to Australia.
It was only 2 degrees and we had a descent to start with so all clothes were on. We retraced some of the previous day route in reverse. Traffic was not light.
We had coffee at the 45 km mark and then did not stop until 107 km. We rode on a variety of surfaces, roads , unsealed cycle tracks. The latter included pinches of up to 20 percent and were unrideable, for me anyway.
The two biggest laughs of the day….The first one was at the end of one of those unrideable bike tracks. It was horrid…steep, rocky and I was pushing my bike. It looked like a construction site…at the end there was a sign…in Italian it said that the site was a mine site, and any trespassers would be shot! Next to it was this sign….
The second funny thing is this picture taken by my riding companion Geoff. I was not that hungry and I was not really enjoying this dish…too many carbs 😂😂😂
The last few km into Asolo were up a nasty hill of around ten percent. The old town looks really interesting.
I have now met a couple of our Giro touring team ( Italy Bike Tours) looking after us including Alberto, Daniele and Georgio. Daniele is a former professional rider, having won a stage of the Vuelta. He was also a team mate of my favourite cyclist Peter Sagan for many years. He had many stories to share over dinner.
Also met two other guys doing the same tour. Luke from London ( expat Aussie) and Peter ( Sydney)
So tomorrow the plan is to check out Asolo better in the morning. We then ride in the afternoon to watch the Giro stage finish.
Back at our accomodation, here is the scene is the shared bathroom aka laundry….
Those are NOT my clothes soaking in the bidet! My riding companion is using the bidet to wash his clothes!!! 😩
The weather looked promising when I walked out onto the balcony this morning. Yesterday I could not see the base of this mountain.
Big breakfast with lots of coffee and we were ready to roll. I quite liked this statue as we headed off from Cortina.
Immediately the road climbed, steeply! This was the view after 200 meters of climbing.
Then there was this sign……hopefully not!
When the ride starte today in Cortina we were at 1224m above sea level. We were riding up to Passo Tre Croci at 1809 metres. On the previous ride to Passo Falzarego (2117m) the snow was at 1800m. Today the snow started at 1600m. It appeared that there had been significant snow falls yesterday.
First goal achieved. The Giro d’Italia riders do this same climb on Sunday ( well I think it is Sunday?)…
Very scenic and a nice climb. 7.95 km from Cortina and 584 metres of climbing in that short distance. The weather was nice for climbing, little traffic.
Some beautiful views on the descent. You can see the dry river beds caused from avalanches of snow. Many had heavy machinery clearing tonnes of gravel material.
It was a nice long descent. Many sections were under repair as quite pot holed in places…new bitumen was nice to ride on.
At 864m we arrived in Auronzo di Cadore where we stopped for coffee. An interesting town that boasts ski slopes, old churches and a huge dam.
Many towns were gearing up for the Giro with town beautification projects including lots of new plants in garden beds, rose coloured ribbons and flowers being tied to railings and so on, as well as a massive road resealing program.
This caught my eye.
And then this…
As you can see above, there is no verge on the road here. As I recommended riding from taking the photo above, Geoffmshot this photo…nice and close….😩
The weather had started to deteriorate somewhat so just after the rain jacket was donned we came across a cafe…time for minestrone soup…and hey presto, the weather had improved.
We followed a bike track for the last 15 km or so. I took this photo of an old train station, as I was putting my wet weather gear back on. I particularly liked the roof line.
A few km before Cortina I noted the old Olympic ski jump from the 1956 winter games.
Approaching Cortina this view was really nice.
A great ride that I could recommend to anyone..only 83 km or so, nice loop.
In the evening, we shared a meal with a lovely bloke staying at the same hotel, John, from County Clare, Ireland. A retired theoretical physicist, now working as a tour guide in German, French and English. He was a great raconteur with jokes and stories aplenty. He insisted on holding my hand for the photo.
Tomorrow we leave Cortina and ride to Asolo, about 130 km from here, to join up with a Giro d’Italia tour. Exciting for me, as I will be reunited with warmer clothing, as I have paid 375 euro to have my luggage collected from Bern and transported to Asolo.
Leggings, puffer jacket, Scarpa boots….oh I have missed you!! 😊
The idea of being based in the Dolomites for three full days was to do day rides out and back to and from Cortina. Maps were obtained with suggested road routes.
So the plan was, starting in Cortina (1,224m), climb up to Passo Falzarego (2,117m), Passo Valparola (2,192m), descend to La Villa (1,483m), Corvara (1,568m), up to Passo Campolongo (1,875m), Pieve di Livinallongo (1,475m), possibly Passo Giau (2,236m) or Passo Falzarego (2,127m) and back to Cortina.
A big ask for this chook but one I was willing to do as I knew I would do it, just a matter of pace.
Starting in Cortina it was not too bad. I had my short sleeved merino jersey, long sleeved Assos jacket, and Rapha winter short legged nicks for climbing. I carried my rain jacket, merino arm warmers, winter leggings, long fingered winter gloves in my front panier ( to be used if needed).
Cortina looked pretty ok.
Climbing started pretty well immediately. The views were great. These photos are after 200 metres climbing, and only a few km riding. (1425m).
As I approached the lookout area, half a dozen very flash Porsche’s had screamed past having their own little roaring race up the Pass.
Riding on I came across this little church.
The snow started at 1800 metres.
Just two km before the top of the climb it started to lightly drizzle. When you are climbing you are generating plenty of body heat so the lower temperatures not so much of an issue. I was hoping the rain would hold off long enough to get to the top as I did not want to stop and cool down.
Photo of my bike at the top and one looking to the right hand side. To the right of the Passo sign you can see a small church. That is where Geoff was to be found, huddled and cold.
The rain started to come down heavier, and it suddenly got colder. I put my bike inside the tiny church and you can see the inside temperature on my Garmin….and that is probably 10-15 min after I entered the church.
There was a bit of a debate..what to do….we both wanted to keep climbing, but knew that we needed to be sensible. The next Pass was only another 85 metres up, but the weather likely to be worse.
The descent to La Villa and Corvara would be cold, and it certainly looked like it was raining down that valley.
With great reluctance we knew we should descend back to Cortina. All clothes were now on.
I don’t ordinarily mind descents but I prefer dry descents as they are much safer and faster.
This descent was cold and wet. The road was pot holed, in places, to boot. The temperature dropped down to 4.2 on my Garmin.
Normally descending I just control my speed with brakes…pedal when I have to. today I was riding my brakes and trying to pedal a bit to generate body warmth.
The further I descended, the worst my shivering got to the point that I was not able to keep tight corners.
With 5 km to go I noted a little pub like establishment with a light on. We pulled off the road and knocked. A lady opened the door and ushered us in. I hugged her!
Despite being wet, she insisted we sit on their cushioned bench seats. An incredible hot chocolate was made. It was more like heated chocolate custard, it was so thick, sweet and rich. We followed that up with a coffee.
I could have sat there for ages…we were only 5km out of Cortina. The rain had eased and the temperature was now a balmy 5 degrees!
Here is the reluctant Sharron ready to finish off the descent.
A perfectly symmetrical graph today! As you can see the climbing of 907 metres done in 16 km. A nice climb I am hoping to do in slightly warmer weather.
I have expanded the map so you can see where I am in the Veneto area.
The forecast tomorrow is worse. Maximum of 9 degrees and rain. Wednesday looks a bit better. Will a ride be done tomorrow? Not sure….will wait and see if the meteorologists are right!
Leaving Muhlbach the weather looked a bit ominous. The forecast was not great. Low cloud on the surrounding hills looked eerie, particularly around this old castle.
Today we spent a lot of time on cycle pathways, both sealed and unsealed. We met a guy named Chris from Austria who was heading home on a 185km ride.
The track took us into what we thought was a quiet and deserted village….until we rode into this square. It was not quite 10am and people were sitting around drinking wine already. Cyclists rode through. It was the hub of all activity.
There were a number of people wearing the Tyrol costumes looking like Oompa Loompa’s. They must be getting ready for something big if they needed to drink wine so early.
Then they all lined up with their instruments and I waited and waited….ever so patiently….
Then they started to play…stick with the video…the band are riveting and I have an extra who was ever so keen to be in my video…kind of sweet and makes me smile…twice! In fact the highlight of the video, and I mean that in a really nice way..😊
Back onto the cycle path following a river through forests, under motorways.
It was interesting to note the structure across the river. It appears, from signage, to exist to prevent major debris floating downstream during flooding.
Pushing on, snow clad mountains returned as we approached the Dolomites.
Still following rivers…
With only 28 km to go until Cortina, this was our view. We needed to turn right to head towards that V, part of the mightily impressive Dolomites.
Before turning right, we peeled left into the village for a bite of lunch. A nice village with beautiful backdrops.
It also had this station for charging electric cars and bikes.
We were there for nearly 90 minutes….I think they forgot about our soup….so long that the weather had really deteriorated and we got wet!
We sheltered under this UNESCO information portal and waited a tad longer as the sun was trying to break through further north.
The portal also represented the top of the climb, so it was pretty well flat or downhill to Cortina. No photos taken as it was a cold descent around 8 degrees, and whilst I had my rain jacket on, my legs were bare, and I wanted to just keep pedalling. I was cold!
Cortina is a nice town, very quiet as the ski season has finished. Walking around I was impressed by the surrounding mountains but the last one was my favourite.
The plan is to stay here until moving onto Asolo to hook up with the Giro. I suspect climbing maybe involved in the next few days, if the weather holds. Current forecasts not looking great.
Leaving beautiful Innsbruck after a filling breakfast…some little extras packed away in my front panier including chocolate cake! Yes, from breakfast.
We had left the traffic of the city behind after perhaps 1.5 km and started climbing…quite steeply..up those mountains. The climbs were up around 9 percent until we had reached Igls. The views back over Innsbruck were great.
We kept climbing for a long time today..some 30 plus km heading to Brenner Pass, which is on the border with Italy. After Igls, we left the main road and rode in cycling tracks again. Whilst they are invariably slower, they are safer. They also travel through man more villages.
Just above you can see the main motorway. Incredible infrastructure that went for so many kilometres.
Do you remember the photo in yesterday’s blog of a heavily laden bike that included a guitar? That same guy was walking his bike up Brenner Pass, and when I got to him, he was scrounging through a rubbish bin on the side of the road. Sad, perhaps he was looking for food…?
A few km before the top of the Pass I stopped to eat my banana. Nice views back down the valley.
Brenner Pass was not what I expected at all. It is quite heavily saturated with discount shopping stores, a railway station, truck depots and the like. So we did not stop until I found an Italian flag to photograph.
Looking down into Italy.
The cycle tracks from Brenner Pass were amazing. Wide, great condition and through great forests until we arrived in Vipitono. It was so inviting we decided to stop for coffee and apple strudel.
Despite now being in Italy, the area is still very much Austrian and German speaking.
We were now only about 30 km from our destination. Rain threatened, but again we were lucky and only scored a few drops. We rode further down the valley, eventually arriving at our destination, where the sun shone, and it was now about 26 degrees.
We found our accomodation…and there was a party out the front, complete with a band. The party was to celebrate vespa’s. We created quite a scene trying to get through the crowds with our bikes, and into the hotel.
A couple of men grabbed my arms to indicate ‘strong’ 😂😂😂
Many also wore these Austrian leather pants.
A really nice little village…still buzzing with partying as I write.
Todays route and climbs.
The wifi is really poor in this hotel. As I write, I am sitting on the stairwell, just above reception, trying to get a strong enough signal. I have had company….now I know it looks like I am strangling him, but I’m not…trying to rub his neck as I take the photo.
So another day done and dusted. Tomorrow is the Dolomites!
Heading out the door this morning we were all rugged up. Leg warmers, jackets as it was only around 7 degrees. The photos are looking down the valley leaving the St Anton accomodation where we really pigged out on a great breakfast.
I was told today was a rest day riding wise…easy…all downhill…sounds good!
Sure on the data for the day it looks all downhill too.
However the ride was not that quick as for the most part, we were on cycle tracks which weave around, winding through little villages, dirt, gravel and sealed.
The advantage is you see so much more of local life and gain great vistas.
We were really slowed down in the major city of Landeck with bumper to bumper traffic. I pulled over to take a photo of the bridge. There is a small castle on the mountain as well.
A couple strolled past with their dog, who jumped straight into the fountain splashing water around. Reminded me of my beautiful dogs at home as Simba would do the same thing if she could make the fountain height.
More views from the bike route.
We crossed the river numerous times.
Stopping for lunch at a cafe adjacent to the cycle track, including signage for bike parking.
Leaving lunch the track climbed steeply, around a corner, push, push, push and woah! Track blockage ahead….
Now these beautiful cows were not moving…off my bike and I slowly pushed my bike past.
Another nice village…
Here is a nesting box for 9 different types of wasps…I hope they all know who goes where and there is no co-habitating!
The last 10 km into Innsbruck was fairly straight forward, locating our accomodation that has been prebooked. I had a guy sitting behind me the whole way… he thanked me when he finally passed..you g
After washing our clothes and showering it was time to hit the streets and check out this old city that has great architecture, and surrounded by mountains all around.
Unfortunately the sun angle was not supporting me with photographs.
Two other items of interest. Firstly this group played beautiful music.
I watched a guy dressed in Austrian styled costume ride into the square on this bike. He was obviously very trusting as he left the bike and wandered off into a shop.. totally the opposite of me, as I never leave my bike unattended.
Just check it out…umberella, llama bag, sheep wool lined jacket, guitar..
So, another 105 km knocked off today and tomorrow we cross the Brenner Pass into Italy. A day of climbing …aaarghhh.