Day 6: Garda to Pozza di Fassa

, August 3, 2011

Today has without doubt been the hardest day of the trip so far. 175km with 2500m of accent including one monster 1000m climb. I have hit the Dolomites. I am now lying in my tent with the roar of thunder rolling through the mountains and rain lashing against the fly sheet.

I set off from the glitz and glamour of Garda and having ridden 35 km to the lakes northern tip (Riva del Garda), I began climbing. The first pass of the day took me over to Roverto and though not too painful, it did at least serve to warn me of what the Dolomites has to offer. I then had an awesome decent hitting a max speed of 76 kmph and in doing so lost the altitude I had gained. The route, interspersed with long dark tunnels, spat me out at Trento.

Plunging into pitch black tunnels at over 70kmph on a loaded touring bike is an exhilarating experience. Keen to out run the lorries, I kept off the brakes and made it out into daylight as soon as possible. With the blue waters of the lake behind me, I was now in fruit growing land. Huge swathes of apple orchards and vineyards occupied the valley floor and dramatic grey craggy peaks lined the route ahead. I bashed on with a keen tail wind taking me to my lunch stop at the foot of the climb. In Ora I got out of the sun and sat for an hour in a air conditioned restaurant while I tucked into some ravioli soup, loads of bread and salad. 110km in the bag but a big mountain pass ahead.

The climb started gradually and then a series of hairpins really cranked up the pain. With the hot sun on my back, my body soon became glazed with sweat and a steady stream of drips fell from my chin. I pushed on feeling strong but very hot. As I rose the trees lining the road gave me some shade. allowing me to cool slightly at intervals.

I was then caught by a roady, fully pimped dura-aced bike, tanned legs, the works. We started chatting, and I sat on his wheel getting a break from the wind. The gradient of the climb eased and the pace went up, I could just hold his wheel and on a few occasions the Italian eased up to allow me to stay in contact. It was a very kind turn; he shielded me from the wind and it was nice to have some company on the road. I knew the pace was killing my legs but I was also aware of the speed and rate at which we were getting up the mountain.

A fast decent took us into the Fassa valley, in which a series of postcard villages sit. The pair of us pushed on until with 12 km to go to my aim of Pozza di Fassa I knew I needed to eat before I cracked. We waved goodbye and I was alone again. I plodded on and got to the magnificent Vidor campsite here in Pozza.

There is more to be told from my epic day but I can’t keep my eyes open much longer. I am, for the first time this trip, cool and not stewing in my tent. Its so great to be back in the mountains. I feel far more at home here, for one thing its cool and raining. I think I will sleep well!

A P.S.

Words can’t explain how dramatic the thunder and lightening is right now. Every few minutes there is a rumbling of thunder which traverses the mountains ahead of me, several seconds later my tent is illuminated like a camera flash going off repeatedly. Very cool.

Jump to Jack’s next day