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Tuesday, August 07, 2018

June 23rd: Sella Rondo Bike Day

Way back in  2007 when I first toured the Alto Adige valley, on my way up the Stelvio I asked a bunch of cyclists what their most beautiful ride in the area was, and they told me it was the Sella Group. I dutifully visited the Sella Group that year, and was rewarded by the sights and sounds of tour buses climbing up passes, and being stuck behind tour buses when descending. So when I saw that the Sella group was having a bike day, and the weather forecast was cooperative, I knew we had to participate.
We ate early enough to ride out from the hotel at 8:00am. In retrospect we didn't need to do this. Not only were we finished well before the 3:30pm cut off, by starting half an hour early we bore the brunt of the last minute rush of vehicles trying to get over the various passes before the roads closed. Fortunately, by the time we got to the ridge to climb over to Passo Pordoi, the road was well and truly closed.
The bike day is every bit as amazing as you might imagine. None of the other countries in the alps have regular bike days: the Germans don't do it, neither do the Swiss or the Austrians. The Gran Fondo-type events might feature road closures, but those require pre-registration in advance and the entry fees are usually high, and in some cases you might even need to be lucky enough to win a place. To my mind, this makes up for the insane driving you frequently see in Italian roads. The organizers suggested doing the Sella Rondo counter-clockwise, and most people followed their suggestions. This was great, since it kept the speed differentials down, and the roads were narrow enough that there weren't even center-line markings on them!
Along the road were photographers represented by FotoStudio3. They had clocks next to the photo stations so you could search for your pictures afterwards. I should have taken pictures of those clocks, but in any case I couldn't find any photos of us except the one that Hina found, since there were so many cyclists at the event! Every where you looked, especially after we descended to the saddle between Sella and Pordoi, where hordes of cyclists were climbing up from Canazei, which was apparently a much more popular lodging destination for cyclists than Selva di Gardena. Here's the thing about doing the Bike Day on a tandem: first, we were the only non-electric tandem that we could see. Every other tandem we saw was electric-assisted. The other thing was that every cyclist who passed us (which was most of them!) would say, "Bravo!" or "Grande!" Some would even speak to us, and tell us what a cool bike we had. I don't think I ever got so many compliments in my life for riding a bike on one ride. As is true back home, despite all the compliments on the bike, if I asked anyone if they wanted to exchange no one would take me up on the offer. 
Bowen, as usual, hadn't eaten much breakfast, and by 11:00am was quite hungry. The Sella Rondo bike day wasn't a supported event, but the restaurants and hotels all along the route were open, and happy to serve hungry cyclists with food, snacks, and drinks. He ate a sandwich and I ate some chocolate. While descending from Campolongo to Alta Badia to start our final climb up to Gardena, an Italian guy rode up to me and said "Piano, piano, kinder!" He was asking me to slow down so I could watch out for kids on the road? Or was he worried about mine? Bowen was a veteran of major descents at this time, and I didn't see any kids descending on the road. We did see plenty of other types of bikes, recumbents, e-bikes, even a guy towing a child in a trailer using an e-bike. Safety patrol was done by 4-wheeled dune buggies, which made the only motorized noise we would see that day once the event got going.
It was a relief when we finally made it up Passo Gardena, with only a small saddle to traverse before we began the descent back to Selva Gardena. The day clocked in at 6500' of climbing in 38 miles, and Bowen was a good sport about it all, complaining about the cold only a few times. Once we were in the hotel, we showered, tried to find the game room (which turned out to be just a bunch of toys thrown into a room), ate dinner, and spent more time in the swimming pool, as Bowen deemed the zipline at the local playground not worth the time and effort it would take to get there. My boy was definitely getting picky about ziplines and playgrounds!
Miguel had yesterday mentioned that Adrenaline X-treme Adventures had the longest zipline in Europe, and I explored the idea of taking Bowen there, but nixed it when it turned out that their minimum weight for children was 35kg or 77 pounds. I could load up Bowen's camelbak with all the bricks that could fit and he still wouldn't come in close to that.
My plan was to ride over Gardena to Corvara and climb up to Falzerago to Cortina over the next few days to show Bowen Misurina and maybe spend a day climbing up to Tre Cime di Laverado, a road I'd never visited before, but the forecast had turned sour in that direction, indicating thunderstorms were coming. Unusually, the forecast for Stelvio was good for at least the next 3 days, so after confirming to Bowen that he still wanted to climb over to Stelvio, I sent a WhatsApp message to Lukas to confirm the route down to Bolzano, where we planned to take the train back to Schluderns for our attempt. Lukas couldn't help with luggage up the Stelvio, but after doing the Sella Rondo Bike Day, I was convinced that a half day of riding with relatively little climbing would be sufficient rest that we could make it up the Stelvio.

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