Tuesday, August 05, 2014

July 7th: Santa Caterina to Fondo


One of my goals today was to make it to Hotel Gran Baita on the Mendola pass so we could have an easy ride to Bolzano the next day. One look at my past trip report from 2007, however, made me realize that I'd made a mistake. In 2007, we'd started from Ponte di Legno (otherwise known as bed-bug town) rather than Santa Caterina. This group wasn't nearly as strong as the 2007 group, so we had very little chance of making it. Looking at my 2011 trip report, it looked like Phil and I made it to Fondo that year from Santa Caterina, so I made Fondo a more realistic goal. The value of having taken good notes in the past was made clear with this simple observation.
From Tour of the Alps 2014
I'd never had a good-weather climb over the Gavia, and though it looked like this would change as we set off that morning under blue skies, things soon reverted to form as the road rose above 2000m in elevation. Storm clouds emerged, and soon I felt rain drops on my skin, though they were occasional and not too frequent. I stopped to put on clothing and more clothing as I approached the summit. One interesting event was that the Vespa touring club had somehow decided to climb the Gavia on the same day. Vespas are severely under-powered, and some were even carrying 2. The small engines made distressing noises as they were subject to stresses not designed for. They moved so slowly that I could even capture footage of them as they passed me!
From Tour of the Alps 2014

Arturo would later tell me that one of them stalled out in front of me and they had to descend in order to get the engine restarted. Gavia from the north eases up from the 8% grade to a very very manageable 3-4% near the summit. But unfortunately, so did the rain. I got caught in one rain shower but could see that the weather eased up at the summit so made a maximal effort and found myself on the summit proper where after putting on everything I owned, I ate a Banana, some chocolate, and walked into the Rifugio Bonetta, which featured poster sized photos of Andy Hampsten winning the Giro on the Stelvio/Gavia, as well as Jobst Brandt climbing the Gavia back in the 1960s when it was unpaved. (The Gavia was unpaved until 1996)
From Tour of the Alps 2014

It took my companions a while to get to the summit, which surprised me until I realized that for the first time during this tour I felt well-fed, so I was no longer functioning on a nutrition-led penalty! When they did arrive, they mocked a sprint for the finish and then immediately headed into the Rifugio for a hot chocolate. While talking to them, I realized that the weather was about to take a turn for the worst, so I told Arturo and Hina that "I had a bad feeling and was going to start the descent right away." Indeed, apparently right after I left a fog rolled in, trapping Hina and Arturo for almost half an hour.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

The Gavia descent on the North side starts off easy, but then quickly degenerates into several steep grades, a long tunnel, and then approaches 16% as you get near the bottom. I got to the bottom, found a park with a kiosk serving pizza, got bored waiting for my companions and bought a Pizza and ate it before either Hina and Arturo showed up, complaining that I didn't wait at any of the "obvious" intersections. They too, had a pizza lunch, and then we wasted no time climbing to Passo Tonale, easiest the ugliest and least scenic of the passes in Italy, dominated mostly by a ski resort with no redeeming values other than a cable car that would offer a tired cyclist a free ride to the top.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

At the summit, Arturo paid a quick visit to the mausoleum of the war heroes, and complained that he didn't think we could make even Fondo that day. I pointed out that the route was mostly downhill past Tonale, and the short climb to Fondo was less than 300m. Tonale's easy descent gave us terminal velocity almost throughout the descent, interrupted only by the occasional annoying Italian motorist, and one stop for water.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

At the town of Piano, I spotted the bike path sign and pulled off the main road to join the bike path through the valley which was made for easy traffic free riding which I had enjoyed 3 and 7 years ago. It appears that I'd missed that sign on the prior journey or the path had gotten extended as the bike path went on forever until just past the town of Male where I got nervous and got us back onto the main road towards Cles.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

We were now in the apple-growing part of Italy, with signs telling us what sort of apple was growing in the area. The air was filled with the scent of apples, and the sun appeared, occasionally mixed with rain. Both Arturo and Hina were flagging, but an appropriate dosing of chocolate and ice cream soon had them starting the climb to Fondo, where we arrived at the information center and discovered that the hotel in town couldn't take 3 more guests.
From Tour of the Alps 2014

I recalled a B&B that Phil and I stayed at in 2011, and so asked for that B&B and confirmed that yes they did have room for the 3 of us. The price was good, we just had to walk to town for dinner. Since Arturo knew Spanish, which was sort of related to Italian, he did the bulk of discussions with the B&B hostess as to where to go for dinner, but it all turned out to be moot. It rained while we were going to the "good pizzeria in town", so we ended up defaulting to the hotel, where the service was uncommonly quick --- until we realized that they'd probably made a half-pension dinner for the huge group in the room next door, and we were getting the left-overs. It was pretty good left overs, so we were still satisfied and went to bed hoping that it wouldn't rain until we got to Bolzano the next day for our rest day.

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