Day 7: Pozza di Fassa to Forni di Sopra

, August 4, 2011

After yesterday’s epic 175km, I had planned a slightly shorter day today to allow me to recover. Well that’s what I thought. Today turned out not as short as I had hoped, and was most definitely more mountainous, resulting in little by way of recovery. It’s been a by brutal day in the high Dolomites, 138km on very hilly roads.

I treated myself to a lie in and lazy start with the excuse that it would allow the sun to appear from behind the mountains and dry out my very went tent and generally damp gear. The light shining across the Dolomites was fantastic and eventually the sun rose from the mountain behind the campsite and bathed the camp in hot sun. I was invited to join my Italian friends for breakfast, we sat in the luxury of their gazebo enjoying the spectacular scenery. My plan worked well and I hit the road at 10am with everything dry and well aired. I was impressed by the Vango Helium Superlight 200 tent I am using this trip, it kept me and my gear pretty much dry through the torrential rain.

At Canazei I began climbing the Passo Pordoi. This is a monster climb topping out at 2239m. It was a long slog but my tired legs eventually sparked into life and I did the climb in a ‘oner’. There was a steady stream of cyclists heading in both directions, this mountain clearly having similar pilgrimage status to L’Alp d’Huez. I insist on saying ‘caio’ to every cyclist I pass, about 50% yields a response. Amongst the steady tired ‘caio’s there was a roar ‘Ciao!!’ – it was my friend who I climbed the mountain with yesterday heading down the hill I was now climbing up. He was flying down the hill in a big group and turned his head over his shoulder to shout some encouragement. It was a welcome boost! After what seemed a very long time (27 hairpins), I hit the summit and looked out over a spectacular vista. No problems with heat today, a near continuous blanket of cloud was shielding the sun and the temperature this high was only 10 degrees.

A wicked decent with tight hairpins followed. I am starting to get really confident descending at pace on a loaded bike, and on a few occasions out braked cars, taking them on the hairpins. It’s a fun game: Check the road below is clear then get on the outside of them going in, hit the brakes late and hard, turn the bike in, clip the apex then drift wide until scuffing the armco barrier. A quick burst out the saddle and I am away. Don’t tell Mum.

Unfortunately the decent was short lived, dropping 800m in just a handful of kilometres. Then the road traversed the mountain and headed up again into the trees. Another hard pass, Passo di Falzarego, forced me to stop for lunch after just a few kilometres as I felt my blood sugar levels dipping. I felt poor on this climb but eventually found a rhythm tapping my thumbs on the handlebars and trying not to think about it too much.

Up into the cool again, I put my jacket on for the long downhill. Several tight hairpins gave way to a longer steady decent. I was now covering ground at good pace arriving in Cortina with aching hands from the extended hard breaking. Plunging further to 700m, I knew that I would be punished later for all these easy kilometres, still I feel I had earned them following the two previous mountains.

As I hit the lower slope of Passo della Mauria I only had one more climb for the day. Like the alps, famous cyclist names are painted onto the road, always a good sign that you are in serious territory. Scoffing down juicy nectarines on the lower shallow slopes, I wiped the sugary juice from my hands and buckled down to it. Amazingly I felt great and seemed to be having a ‘second wind’. I got into a good rhythm and soon arrived at the 1295m summit. Another ace decent through verdant forest an I had arrived at Forni di Sopra and my stop for the day.

Riding in the Dolomites today has been stunning, the roads are epic, the views spectacular and the cool weather prefect for riding. A top day. I type from the campsite bar flowing a lengthy conversation with the campsite owner on my route tomorrow. When I said I am going up Zoncalon he looked stunned and remarked that it’s a terrible climb! 1200m of climbing in 9km. Can it be done on a loaded touring bike? I guess we will find out tomorrow.

Jump to Jack’s next day