Our day's go like this. We get a next day's ride briefing the evening before, including hazards to watch out for, expected weather conditions at the passes, etc. We have dinner after the briefing. Sleep, then meet for breakfast at 7:30am. The ride departs at 9am. We were told it would be very cold today, just above freezing at the passes, and very cold for the ride start which consisted of an 18km gradual descent.
I kitted up in near winter gear, went outside 15 minutes before ride start, only to find it quite comfortable. Most of the layers came off. I chose to ride with the B group today, since all groups do the full 117km ride, and I feared the slow twitch guys in the group, which is everybody, would kill me in the A's. The A's go off first, then B's a minute later, then C's. The B's caught the A's at the base of the climb to Passo Duran. They took off before we stripped unneeded layers. After a couple kilometers, I found my legs and began bridging up to the group of six A-riders. This went against all Hill Junkie wisdom.
Climb to Passo Duran
Fortunately, the prior day's ride took them all down a notch too, and they were in a talkative mood. The vertical meters ticked off on my Garmin. Duran is a pretty brutal climb to awaken your legs. A sign halfway up said 15% grade. My Garmin never went that high, but it stayed 10-12% for much of the 3300ft climb.
Climbing Duran, never saw 15%
We replenished fuel and bombed the descent. I let my speed run out a little more between switchbacks this time, still holding way back from the California guys and Thomson ride leaders. I think it was Dan that hit a bump coming hot into a switchback, lost a water bottle and rode over it, kicking his rear wheel over, and left him with no choice but to go right off the end of the switchback. Fortunately it was just weeds. He pulled a perfect Lance maneuver and rode right out of the dicy situation and back onto the road. I slowed down again after that. We were warned the Duran descent would be rough. Actually, it would be considered a good road in New England. The roads in general here are in near perfect condition. I liked Duran. It is a one lane paved road to nowhere with no traffic on it.
Me and Nick in Dont
We dropped down into a town called Dont. The next climb began immediately up to Forcella Staulanza. This ride litterally has no flat sections. The profile looks like a saw blade. Fortunately, Staulanza wasn't as steep but still gains 2700ft. When we hit the top, my legs were reeling. I thought there was no way I'd survive Giau after that. I had to somehow. Passo Giau is one of the more famous climbs in Italy and is often included in the Giro. It was the Cima Coppi of this year's Giro (highest point) at 2236m. We rocketed down to Selva di Cadore and promptly began climbing.
Looking down climb to Stualanza. Heli putting up cell tower.
I must add that touring with Thomson is the balls. Their organization of daily rides is first class. With big climbs come big temperature changes. The valleys are warm and no layers are needed during climbing. But the descents are frigid. It is nice to have a van to swap layers on and off and to quickly top off water or throw down some calories. I would definitely book with Thomson again.
I kicked it into survival my gear heading up Giau. I was deeply concerned I would sieze up before the summit. I was getting those cramping early warning signs on the last climb. Not good when you have a double-digit grade 3000ft climb ahead of you. Somehow I managed to keep most of the A-group guys in sight all the way up. Giau was a soul crusher. Once above tree line, the pass still looks impossibly far away.
Climb to Passo Giau
We had lunch at the summit restaurant. I went for a salty ham and cheese sandwich and caffe americano. I find Italian food good for a weak taster like myself. Everything is strongly flavored here, whether it be coffee or cheese. Sandwich meats can be very salty. I needed the sodium.
Eating a lot necessitates leaving more deposits than usual. When I visited the men's room, both hip flexors siezed up on me as I sat down. I had to jump right back up. What a predicament. I was in worse shape than I had thought. That last 800m climb was going to be a bitch.
From Giau, looking towards Pocoi
We had some nice descending off Giau. Went forever. Of course, once we reached the bottom, it was straight into the next climb, Falzarego. This would be the tamest climb of the ride. We had passed by the summit on the previous day's ride by coming into from a different way, a 3-way junction. Then it was 25km, all downhill, back to Alleghe.
Bicycle weathervane at Passo Giau
My roommate Joe and I were first two to summit. Guess the others weren't feeling too chipper anymore either. Joe is one of those slow twitch mutant types. He rides a bike once or twice a week and could dominate a tour like this. His primary sport is running, doing those 30 hour, 100 mile body destroying kinds of events. Guess it carries over well to cycling.
I carried considerably more speed on the descent back to town this time, knowing what was coming. I almost managed to keep the fastest few descenders in sight and was mid-pack this time. The day before I learned the leaders like to townline sprint coming into Alleghe. I thought I'd go for it this time, but didn't remember exactly where the sign was. It came too quickly and our ride leader took it.
The ride ended with 117.7km, 11,100ft and 5:32hrs on the Garmin. The climbing is way more dense here than in New England. We net about 100ft per mile there, while in the Dolomites, it is closer to 100ft per kilometer. I had to be careful how I moved after the ride, as any wrong move sent my legs into spasms. Tuesday will be an easy day with only half as much climbing as we ride to the next town we'll spend one night in. Hope I can survive that.