Saturday, August 16, 2014

July 17th: Ramosch to Bludenz

We got on the road early in the morning in the shade, and while it was a little cool, I soon took off my jacket despite being in the shade. At the bottom off the road from Ramosch, we went 200m and saw a hotel right on the roadside, meaning that we didn't have to climb the steep climb to the hotel we stayed at last night in Ramosch. Arturo said, "The hotel on the road side looks pretty shitty anyway." It might have been sour grapes. After a few kilometers, the descent finally came, and the kilometers rolled by, soon putting us right into Austria somewhere along the road. I didn't stop for a photo of the border crossing but Arturo did. The early morning light set the canyon we were riding through perfectly.
From Tour of the Alps 2014
At the next intersection, we spotted the sign for the first kilometer off the Inn river bike path. I'd ridden many parts of it but never the first kilometer, so I couldn't pass it up! It is a little known secret that Austria makes the best bike path facilities in the world. I knew this, but hadn't told Arturo, so he was amazed as we rode farm road after farm road, each with spectacular views. These were nothing like the bike paths he'd ridden along the Rhine in Germany.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

From Tour of the Alps 2014

We rode along the bike path until we got near Landeck, where I turned off the bike path to avoid a few bike path climbs and discovered to my surprise that the road was close. On a bike, 9 times out of 10 the road closure's something you can just walk your bike around, but this road closure was guarded by a couple of laborers. We were told to turn around and re-enter the bike path, and thus we did. When we reached Landeck proper, Arturo noticed that they were building a new bridge behind the closure.

At Landeck, we visited the local supermarket and ate a sat down lunch. I didn't notice any water between the town and the start of the Silvretta climb on previous trips, so I bought a couple of liters of water, which we dumped into our water bottles. On a light traffic day, we rode to Pians where the Silvretta highway turns off from the Arlberg highway and tunnel. On a beautiful day, there's no reason to ride the Arlberg instead of Silvretta unless you're severely pressed for time. Of course, this time, I spotted a functioning water fountain just a kilometer away from the turnoff.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

The Silvretta has a long approach, about 33km between Pians and Galtur follows a river, which means that the grade varies between 1% and 3%, making the long approach an easy climb at 13-18kph even on a loaded bicycle. The route is liberally sprinkled with tunnels, about half of which are for winter use only. Most days when we see tunnels we look for a bypass route, but the day was so warm that we welcomed the tunnels as respites from the heat. All through the next few days we would see farm vehicles and farmers working over time, literally making hay while the sun shines.

Past Galtur, the road becomes a toll road, which immediately eliminated most of the traffic on the road. The road becomes serious, going to 8% to 12% grades while the views become more dramatic.
From Tour of the Alps 2014
At the summit, there's a dam for power generation, as well as a hotel and a restaurant. The views were gorgeous, though the weather started to look like it would turn sour despite the forecasts.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

It had been 7 years since I rode the Silvretta, and on the descent, it looked as though the Austrian highway department was bent on dramatically re-engineering the road. There were several places where it looked like the old road had been re-routed, and much of the pavement had been re-done, making the smooth sections glorious to descend. I got a break in traffic right after over-taking a construction truck early in the descent, and thereafter just did not stop as any stoppage would mean traffic behind me would catch up, eliminating my nice smooth flow-inducing descent as I made my way down the 34 numbered hairpins on Silvretta.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

Once I got past the Partenen toll station, I stopped at the next intersection to wait for Arturo, anticipating a long wait as the descent of Silvretta isn't easy even for experienced folks in dry conditions. In wet conditions, this was one of the few descents where I could beat Roberto and Mike Samuel down the mountain. I was not wrong, as it took Arturo a good 20 minutes before he joined me.

We headed down the main road in order to find the bike path that I had discovered years ago. I'd remembered it as being behind a supermarket in Partenen, but I misremembered. We rolled past a tunnel and several towns before I spotted the Spar at Montafon rolled into it and past the parking lot into the bike path which you wouldn't find unless someone told you was there.

A strong headwind had risen in the late afternoon, and I despair at getting to Bludenz prior to it being time to stop. Demoralized, our speed dropped despite the downhill bike path. But near Tschagguns I noticed that the headwind had stopped. Arturo looked at his bike computer and the distance marker on the bike path and said, "Wait a minute. We can make Bludenz in half an hour!" With that a fire was lit beneath our wheels and we rolled quickly towards our desintation: Gasthof Lowen in Bludenz.

The bike path takes you past the train station in Bludenz. The trick to not ride extra is to pull your bike into the train station as though you were going to take the train, and then hop into the elevator at the end of the subterranean walkway to get out into the city proper. From there, you go up a few blocks along the main road and the hotel would be right there. I'd showed up a few times with reservations before, but this time, at 7:00pm with no reservations, we got by far the lowest price I've ever managed for the hotel.

Eschewing the traditional dinner options, we ate at the Chinese all-you-can-eat restaurant in the old town. The food is not the highest quality, but after another near century day, we needed quantity, and the restaurant provided a decent amount of variety with the quantity. We went to bed satisfied and ready for more descending the next day.


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