Getting to Prato Allo Stelvio took very little time, but once there I made the fateful error to push on instead of stopping to buy food. Nevertheless, in high spirits we rode up the Stelvio highway, stopping only to remove our helmets and put on cycling cap under sunny skies. I didn't even make fun of Pengtoh for putting on sunscreen that day.
At Trafoi, we stopped at the National Park visitor's center for water, but the person running the place told us that there were no grocery stores and no food in town, except maybe at the campground. But the campground road headed steeply down the hill, and none of us wanted to do additional gratuitous climbing.
As we climbed, clouds descended upon us, and by the time we got to the 22nd hairpin at Hotel Franzenshohe, we were starting to feel drops of rain. I should have opted to buy snacks at the bar and then left, but it was cold and I wanted a hot lunch! So we ordered pasta, soup, and coffee, and proceeded to eat. "This doesn't look promising," said Arturo. "Let's see how we feel after lunch."
"OK, let's go take a picture," declared Arturo, "then let's get out of here." All thoughts of staying at one of the hotels littering the summit was gone. We wanted out of this as quickly as possible. We took the summit picture. "I'll wait for you guys at the Livigno intersection." I said. In these conditions, I'm frequently the fastest descender. I took off down the Bormio side of Stelvio, going as fast as I dared. I passed many cyclists, all of whom seemed nervous in the rain, unwilling to trust their brakes. But my bike was battle tested --- I'd done many a wet descent, and I knew precisely how much braking power I had in every condition. At no point was I surprised by my brakes' performance, though I was frequently astonished by how even in such a light rain, the cyclists I encountered dared not exceed walking speed. I've since met many an advocate for disc brakes, but on that day, not a single disc brake-enabled bike passed me, and I passed several such equipped bikes. The current fashion for substituting equipment for skill or experience does not fare well in inclement conditions.
My chink in the armor, however was the cold. While I never got so cold that I could not modulate my brakes, I was starting to shiver. By the time I got to the intersection with Livigno, I knew I could not wait for Arturo. I stopped for all of a minuite before deciding that going to the tourist information center to find a hotel was a better idea. I was too cold to keep riding that day.
I waited the agonizing 5 minutes to get into the tourist information center. Stuttering from the cold, I explained to the person running the booth that we had 3 people, all on bicycles, and that we were going to climb the Gavia tomorrow. "Oh, I know the place you want." I then realized that she meant the place Phil and I stayed during the 2011 tour. She then looked at me and said, "If you need to wait for your friends, you can wait inside. It's much warmer than waiting outside." I was very grateful for that invitation and took her up on it, dripping all over the nicely carpeted interior.
I texted Arturo and Pengtoh as to where I was, and sure enough, they showed up 10 minutes later. "I thought to myself that if Piaw manages to wait at that intersection for us, he's a fool." smiled Arturo. "But that was a good call to finish Stelvio today. We basically salvaged a day." I led the way to the hotel (literally the last building in town before the start of the Gavia climb). We checked in, took showers to warm up, and took a walk around town in the gap between rain.