Arturo's bike had a cable stop that was broken. It looked like a trivial piece to find and fix, but once again, it was actually difficult to find road bike parts in Europe, so we had to search 3 bike shops before finding one that stocked the part and was willing to do the job. It was a 5 Euro fix, which meant it was well worth it for them to do the work than for me to attempt a field repair. We visited a few more bike shops and I tried to persuade the others to buy shoe covers and additional cold/rainy weather gear, but no one was persuaded. "It'll only be used on this trip!" said Arturo. Oh well. since my companions were opting out, I decided to opt out as well. No point being the only person willing to ride in the rain!
We bought and lunch as well as additional salt tablets near the bike shop, but rather than eat lunch right away, immediately headed towards the Livigno tunnel entrance. The tunnel entrance turned out to be much further from town than I thought, and it was quite clear that we were going to miss the 12:30pm shuttle throught the tunnel. Apparently, the tunnel was very narrow and bicycles were not allowed inside --- a shuttle especially for bikes was provided instead that ran on a 45 minute interval. Pengtoh decided that he might as well stop to take pictures.
Then two very blond cyclists wearing red and white on obviously team bikes passed us. "Hop on, Arturo!" I shifted into gear and spun up to catch their wheel. Arturo followed suit. Their jerseys said "Polska", which meant that they were part of the Polish cycling team. Their pedal strokes were smooth, and their bikes were fitted with mini-V brakes, which I'd never seen on a racing frame before. V-brakes are usually used to enable wider tires, but on those narrow frames there wasn't a discernible advantage. I never did figure out why their frames were designed that way. We zipped through gallery after gallery, with the two professionals in front of us never seeming to notice us or skip a beat in their cadence despite putting on gloves, chatting, or dodging obstacles and potholes on the road.
Even without a heart-rate monitor, it was clear that I was going to be dropped really soon as I was not going at a sustainable pace. Pengtoh was also nowhere to be seen. Just as I was going to volunatrily drop off, the pace suddenly slowed and the cyclists made a U-turn. We broke into the clear with views of the galleries behind us and the lake next to us. After we'd caught our breath, Arturo said, "You know, I don't have the gearing to exceed around 40kph."
Ahead of us, a man was sitting in a van with what looked like a bike trailer behind it. He stepped out, wearing an Austrian jacket, and said to us, "Going through?" "Yes, but we have one more." "No problem, we'll load up your bikes first." Just then, a big team of cyclists rode up. I started to worry about having room for Pengtoh. It must have been obvious to the driver, for he looked at me and said, "Don't bother about them. They never take the tunnel." Sure enough, every person made a U-turn and headed back on what was obviously a training loop.
On the other side, we unloaded the bikes and started up Ofenpass, looking for a picnic bench. I'd forgotten that Swiss National Parks aren't really for recreation, and sure enough, we found nothing until we got to Il Fuorn, the only hotel in the park, where across the street there was a bus stop with seats which we could use. We ate a quick lunch, some chocolate, and then rode further on up the hill. Low clouds were already accumulating over the pass, so there wasn't much to see.
Regrouping in Santa Maria, we debated briefly as to whether or not we should head up the Umbrail pass or go on to Stelvio. Arturo was a huge fan of Stelvio: "It's your first time doing it, Pengtoh, you should just ride the East side." The plan was to head over to Glorenza, and possibly Prato Allo Stelvio if the weather held, but Schluderns had a better train connection if the weather should turn sour, so we deferred that decision until Glorenza.
The weather cleared up very nicely after the thunderstorm, however, so we managed to visit the town castle grounds just before dinner. I was optimistic that we'd probably still get to ride the next day despite the impending rain. "Worse comes to worse we finish the day at the hotel at the 22nd hairpin on Stelvio."