Saturday, August 09, 2014

Jully 11th: Pescul to Cortina d'Ampezzo


From Tour of the Alps 2014
The day started steeply, as Passo di Giau is a 12% grade. But with blue skies and rapidly warming weather, things shaped up very well, and it was quite clear that Passo di Giau was more more scenic than Passo Falzerago would have been. Climbing the little used road, all the problems I encountered were a fogged up camera lens (easily taken care of with a wipe) and the antique Mercedes Benz club driving 24 antique cars down the road behind 2 lucky cyclists. Those antique cars were not capable of taking corners faster than a skilled cyclist, and served the function of blocking the road so faster traffic couldn't harrass them.
From Tour of the Alps 2014
The descent from Giau was fun until I got stuck behind a bus. I stopped to let the bus go ahead as the road wasn't conducive to over-taking, but I was still too fast and caught the bus again twice. On the descent, I saw cyclists starting the climb, indicating that we were getting close to Cortina.
From Tour of the Alps 2014
At the intersection with the main highway to Cortina, I stopped and took off most of the excessively warm clothing I had, and waited for the others. After they joined me, I told them that I wouldn't be making any stops on the descent but would wait for them at the bottom of the hill. I then took off down the rest of the road, noting in satisfaction that I had gotten ahead of a platoon of cars led by a tour bus. I was feeling fast that day, and felt comfortable staying ahead of the bus. At the bottom of the hill, I removed all warm clothing and waited for them. A bee got into my helmet and stung me, which caused me to tap my feet impatiently as the tourist bus I'd worked so hard to stay ahead of came into town and took off. Then I got a text message from Arturo saying that Hina had crashed. It wasn't a trivial one as her helmet had cracked and there was an apparent head injury, which caused an ambulance to be called. Hina's tour was over, like it or not, though I would not realize that until much later.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

After Hina got taken away to the hospital, Arturo was stuck with an extra bike. I hitch-hiked with my bike up the mountain to discover that she'd crashed only 3km from town. Fortunately, by the time I arrived, the police were already there, and they agreed to take the bike down to Cortina for us. My initial thought was to have the police take the bike and have Hina pick it up from them later, but Arturo said to me, "Look: they don't want to hang on to the bike for whatever reason, so we should just do as they say and meet them at the center of town in an hour." So we rode down to Cortina d'Ampezzo and found a hotel downtown with good TripAdvisor reviews, called the Hotel Montana. The receptionist was very sympathetic, and gave us an adjoining room with a shared bathroom.

Later on, we would pierce together the details of the crash as follows: Hina was stuck following the bus, while Arturo didn't enjoy the traffic and so stopped and let the traffic past until he had a clear view of the road. Unfortunately, Hina paid so much attention to the traffic that she missed the potholes in the road and hence crashed. By the time Arturo got there, she was already on the ground. Fortunately, while Arturo was administering first aid, a motorcyclist who was a doctor stopped and took over. The Italian paramedics who showed up by ambulance within 10 minutes were both competent and spoke good English. All in all, while it was undoubtedly a harrowing experience for Hina, both the outcome and the handling of the situation was well done by the Italian authorities.
 
From Tour of the Alps 2014
Well, this blew my carefully made plans out of the water, so we looked at the forecast again. The next day was going to be good, but the days after that looked pretty crappy, especially for the Grossglockner highway, which were forecasted to have fog on days when it was not pouring rain. We pondered riding to Slovenia to check out a new country and then riding back to Lienz to start Grossglockner, but none of them were realistic, and it was impossible to buy good maps in Cortina!
From Tour of the Alps 2014

Searching further afield, I found that Stelvio was slated for a run of good weather after Sunday, and Arturo wanted to do it anyway, so we decided to head back in that direction. While waiting for news from Hina, we decided to take full advantage of our location and take the cable car up to one of the ski locations to check things out. By the time we arrived, the weather had turned iffy, though there was still sun in the valley. We hiked around a bit amidst sprinkles, but it was uninspiring. Coming back down, we checked the bus schedule for Hina was unlikely to be able to ride the next day. It turned out that there was a bus to Dobbacio, where a train would take her to Fortezza, where a train would get her into the Austrian train system at Innsbruck from whence Munich would be a snap. The bus would even take bikes.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

With that settled, we had dinner at a luxury prosciutto restaurant the hotel had a deal with where we would get a substantial discount. We didn't think thinly sliced pieces of ham could fill us up, but four plates of this in combination with the very light riding that we had done today proved to be sufficient. We heard from Hina: they did a brain scan, then sent her to another hospital for another brain scan, and then they brought her back and were ready to discharge her when she threw up, which apparently meant that she had to stay overnight for observation. "Usually in these cases it's either straight to surgery or they release you," said Arturo. Well, we could do nothing, having already booked two rooms, but one way or another it appeared that Hina would be discharged the next day. No matter what, though her tour was over. It was a pretty nasty way to end a tour, and it's the first time anyone had crashed out on any of my tours, in more than 20 years of touring, but unfortunately there's a first time for everything.

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