Tuesday, August 12, 2014

July 14th: Schlanders to Valdidentro


From Tour of the Alps 2014
We'd spent some time the night before looking at things to do in Merano in case the weather turned sour, but woke up this morning to sunny skies! I figured that the worst case scenario was that we ended up getting stuck at Trafoi or Hotel Franzenshoehe for the night, so there was no way we wouldn't ride today. Rather than return to the bike path where we left it the evening before, we simply rode out of town following road signs until we once again saw the bike path signs, which took us into the Stelvio national park. The popularity of this tourist route became evident soon, as water fountains, park benches, and bike stands liberally dotted the route. The first fountain we stopped at, however, was infested by bees, and unfortunately Arturo threw away his water before discovering that. This was easily fixed at the next fountain.
From Tour of the Alps 2014
I was concerned about leaving the bike path at the right place, since on the map the bike path did not appear to intersect with the Stelvio route. However, the bike path dumped us right onto the foot of the Stelvio climbs with no confusion, and after a stop to purchase lunch to carry up the mountain, we soon found ourselves climbing the 48 numbered hairpins on the Stelvio.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

Despite having ridden the longest ride of his life the day before, Arturo was now in his element. Thanks to a genetic mutation which meant that he had fetal red blood cells as well as adult red blood cells, he had a hematocrit level that was just below the legal maximum in racing. That meant that at altitude, his performance barely suffered, while mine took a hit. Thus as the rode rose above 1500m, he steadily pulled away from me, until he was at least a minute ahead by the time we got to the 22nd hairpin and it was time for lunch.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

We ordered coffee for me and a hot chocolate for Arturo, and then broke out the lunch we'd bought down below without guilt. The day look decent, and it looked like we would be able to summit, as opposed to having to stay at the hotel tonight. Some clouds looked threatening, but it was a far cry from the continuous rain the forecast had trained us to expect. After lunched we made our way up to the summit, all the way being passed by unloaded cyclists, many of whom would not have caught us if we'd been fully loaded.
From Tour of the Alps 2014
At the summit, we were greeted by the circus show that was the Stelvio summit, with multiple support vans waiting, a bank, several stores selling various paraphernalia, and unfortunately, dark clouds that signaled impending rain. We put on everything we owned, and then I started the descent, forgetting to take a summit photo for Arturo. It started raining heavily until I got down to the Umbrail pass intersection. It was still cold, so I kept everything on until I got all the way to the Bormio intersection, where I waited for Arturo. It was his second time coming down the mountain, so he didn't stop for photos nearly as often as before, so he made it down a mere matter of minutes after I did.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

We looked at the map and decided that we'd try to make it up Val Di Dentro as far as we could before the rain came down the mountain and overtook us. Every meter we climbed today would be one meter we wouldn't need to climb the next. After about 6km, we started feeling raindrops, so we stopped at the visitor center. We ended up picking Hotel Miravalle, which was in the right direction towards the pass tomorrow. We arrived at the hotel just as the rain was coming down. Despite the lack of negotiating leverage, we checked for bed bugs before putting our bikes away in the very secure bike storage.
"You realized something?" said Arturo, "We completely rescued an entire day of the tour. We were expecting to have to spend the day exploring Merano by train, and instead we got a full day of riding today." Looking at the map, I was elated to discover that the ride to Livigno and past it back into Switzerland the next day would consist of passes entirely new to me. With a dinner with generous portions, we went to sleep knowing we'd done the Stelvio the hard way the day following a very long day in the saddle. Whatever else happened, we'd become acclimated to cycle touring.

Prevoius

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