Thursday, April 29, 2010
Italy is capturing increasing amounts of my free thought time. This will be my first time travelling to mainland Europe. I visited Scotland briefly once. Brett has been to Italy before. We still opted to sign up with a tour group, Thomson Tours, to handle the logistic side of things. I tend to plan my trips to the Nth degree, and planning a first time international trip seemed a bit overwhelming. I'm already thinking about how once I learn the lay of the land over there, I will plan an independent mountain biking trip. I've since learned that are some pretty good weekly package deals in the Dolomites and endless miles of singletrail to ride over there. The dollar is coming back against the Euro too.
I tentatively plan to venture off by myself one of our eight days in the Dolomites. This will be our second to last day there. What I forfeit is the climb up Mortirolo and seeing the Giro come through. It's not a big mileage day, and I suspect most of the day will be spent socializing near the top. We have three other days to watch the tour, including the last mountain stage on our last day of the trip. We will in fact ride much of this stage, which starts in the village of Bormio where we will be staying, and goes over Passo Gavia.
So what do I have planned for my solo off-road epic? I know what I'd like to do. I probably won't be able to. There's still about 3m of snow at 3000m. We'll see though. It hasn't snowed in this region in nearly three weeks (yeah, I check the webcams every morning over a bowl of Cheerios). I've manged to find three loops of varying length and altitude that I can ride right from our hotel in Bormio. Rental bikes are available.
So how do you think this bids for an off-road excursion at the same altitude? Not good I'd say, unless I was up for a few miles of post-holing. I've done it before in Alaska. Not fun, but rewarding none the less if you can get to places you might never see again in your life.
Passo Stelvio is the number one climb I want to hit in Europe, ahead of Ventoux and Alpe d'Huez and others. It is the highest motorable road in Europe. It also has around 50 switchbacks down one side, stacked one above the other. Hope the road is cleared for our trip.
About a vertical mile below at around 1200m elevation, things are looking much nicer in Bormio. The grass has turned green. The snowline continues to recede up the slopes.
How can you look at this and not get excited? The valley that disappears into the distance leads to Passo Gavia. The road to Passo Stelvio goes to the left of this image. My desired route would go well above snow line right now. I wouldn't come over the peaks though. If it continues to stay warm, I might get lucky. Lots to look forward to.