There was negligible warmup before the climbing began. Once it started, it didn't let up. We took an alternate route through a rather spectacular gorge. Reminded me of the Flume Gorge in New Hampshire, except it had a narrow one lane paved road through it. The grade was rather heinous. I was in my 34x32 most of the time. Stopping to take pictures, I was soon off the back of the pack.
We popped out of the gorge into a open valley. It looked flat, but my Garmin said otherwise, rarely indicating less than 10%. I asked our ride guide if it got steep again, and the response was "oh yeah!"
HEading up to Fedaia
Eventually the headwall to Passo Fedaia comes into view with switchbacks cut into it. It looked really impressive, but given the state of my legs riding with the "A" group the past three days, I was scared. The grade kicked up to 15% again and pretty much stayed there for the next couple kilometers.
Looking down Fedaia
Our riding groups are ad hoc formed each evening after the ride briefing. Depending on how we feel, we can choose which group to ride in, with A's being the fastest. A handful of us have ridden in the A group for each ride. I wondered how much longer I could pummel my body on this trip.
The descent from Fedaia was swift and furious. It didn't last long enough. For once, I didn't need to don the long layers for the descent. It was quite pleasant out. We dropped down into Campitello di Fassa and mingled with heavy traffic for several kilometers. For the first time, we had a stiff headwind to push into. When we reached Pozza di Fassa, our final climb of the day began, Passo Costalunga. We were told this one was pretty tame. It started out as anything but tame.
View on Fedia descent
Kurt immediately rolled off the front. The talking stopped. We dug in. This was supposed to be a semi-recovery day. The pace of the rest of the A group slacked off a bit. The next thing I reallized, I too was riding by myself off the front. My legs felt spooky ok considering what they've been through. I soon was pushing a full-on threshold effort pace. Kurt came back into view and eventually I caught him, just after the heavy work subsided. The summit comes after several kilometers of false flat. After shameless drafting Kurt for a km, I resumed TT mode and drilled the last couple km to the pass. It was a completely wreckless thing I had done. Wednesday's ride is 130km with big climbs, then the two hardest days of the trip come after that. No recovery, ever.
We took a long outdoor lunch break at the summit of Costalunga. It was gorgeous out, about 19C, sunny and breezy. Towering peaks loomed to either side of the pass. The break did my body good. I ordered a Tirollese Pizza. Tirol (spelled different ways) is thinly sliced ham, almost like bacon. It seems to be very popular in sandwiches and such. When the pizza came, it was way more than I could possibly eat, and for about 8 Euro. Totally hit the spot.
Lunch stop on Costalunga
The descent from Castalunga lasted forever, nearly 30km long with negligible pedalling. It went through many tunnels, several of which you could not see the other end. The longer tunnels were dimly lit. Of course, the tunnels followed the same 6-8% downhill grade. Our pack broke up a bit on the descent, since not all of us are fearless descenders. I was with three other riders in the back group. I nearly broke 80kph in one tunnel. Very spooky in tight, curvey tunnel with oncoming traffic that buffeted you with turbulence. You dared not take your eyes off straight ahead.
When we bottomed out at the outskirts of Bolzano, all three groups joined for the procession into town to our hotel. Several riders said that was their best descent of all time. I'd say it makes my top-three list. Wish I had more cojones to carry speed around the switchbacks and stay with the lead descenders. I keep thinking back to Bill's and Alex's wrecks on descents back home and don't want that to happen to me. We did have another minor crash today, the same rider that slid out on a switchback two days ago. Tires crossed on a steep uphill grade with tumble to sidewalk. I litte more minor road rash and tweak derailleur hanger were the result.
Bolzano is a wicked cool town. We went into the center, which is a vast, carless shopping area. Hundreds of shops. All cobles, with bicycles everywhere. I regret not taking the camera. We were on our own for dinner today, so my roommate Joe and I had dinner at outdoor cafe, as many cafes here offer outdoor seating. Really cool people watching, like chicks on bicycles.
View from hotel in Bolzano
At our next day's ride briefing, we were offered a "bail-out" option to skip the two mountain passes and just ride a slightly rising 80km route to our next town. At first almost everybody took the easy way out. Most were beat down. Much cajoling ensued by those that wanted to do the planned route. I came here to ride mountain passes, not a bike path between towns. The ride leader penciled Joe in for the long ride despite his desire to bail. We both complain about each other's whining about how the rides are kicking our asses. I don't want to hear it from him. He trains about 18-20hrs per week and spent time on three different Canadian national teams back in the day. He's got a motor, even though most of his training hours are spent trail running these days. Hopefully the weather continues to hold up. Other than a soggy first day, the weather has suited me well these last three days.