This was the first “real” ride–there were two mountain passes on the menu, Passo Duran and Passo Staulanza. Short version: we biked uphill a lot, flew downhill a lot, it was beautiful, I had a great time.
Long version: we started out with a fast ride through the valley, on a road that trended downhill but looked flat enough that you could pretend you really were that awesome and fast of a cyclist… We were able to detour off the main road a couple times onto a beautiful, almost deserted older road, and what I saw of it was pretty amazing. However, we were in loose paceline for a lot of this section, and so a lot of my brain was occupied with watching the wheels around me, and trying not to be the idiot who crashed out half the group on the second day…
I made it through the beginning of the ride without being that idiot–phew! And then the climb started. The road up to Passo Duran was uphill. Noticeably so. Over several miles, it averaged about 10% grade. There were some flatter bits of road, which meant there were also some bonus sections. Whee!
But this is what I signed up for, right? And what accompanies a very uphill road, or at least this one (and road after road throughout the trip) was peaceful forest scenery, beautiful views, light (and considerate) traffic, and great road surface conditions.
Also, what accompanies a very uphill road, was the growing sense of accomplishment, as the narrative in my head stopped worrying about the steepness of the road, and started realizing “I can do this, I’m doing this, I’m doing this and enjoying myself!”
And then the summit, the first of the trip!
I enjoyed some of the delicious food that Gerardo had ready for us at the van, and went into the rifugio for an espresso–such was the pampered life we led.
I also set about getting some photos–first up, the important personnel–no, not that famous Andy Hampsten guy, or my patient and accommodating husband…
The descent was fabulously fun (I’ll start to sound like a broken record on that topic), and at the town of Dont (really) we turned left to head up the Staulanza.
The climb up the Staulanza was less steep than up the Duran, but my legs took a while to get back into the whole pedaling thing after getting to slack off during the descent, and even when they did remember what they were supposed to do, they were a titch tired.
Add in that the first part of the climb went through several towns, so that there were actually cars and motorcycles going by more often than once every few minutes, and I was feeling a little put upon. Then I had to laugh at myself–I was on a beautiful road, enjoying great scenery on what was still a lightly-trafficked route. How spoiled had I already gotten to feel put out about having to deal with tired legs and traffic?!?
And at about that point, the towns were left behind anyway, and there was a great series of switchbacks stretching away above me to look forward to. A number of cyclists were coming down the road, and it was fun to greet them. I was particularly happy to see another woman coming down the mountain, and she called out a particularly effusive greeting. It wasn’t until later that I realized that the woman was Elaine Hampsten!
Elaine is, with Gerardo, part of the Cinghiale magic. Andy’s wife, she handles a lot of the logistical side of the business, and is a huge reason behind everything going so smoothly for us from before the trip even started. During the planning stage, she was always there to answer questions and provide information, and during the trip, she was constantly cheerful and helpful and super fun to hang out with. She had found childcare for their super-sweet 2 year-old son Oscar, and decided to catch up with us on the ride by biking it in the opposite direction. She went up the Staulanza, down part of the other side (where she gave me such a nice greeting) then back up to hang out with us at the top (at which point it eventually dawned on me who that had been).
Because I’m brilliant, I took no photos at the top of the Staulanza, but it was kinda more of the same–Gerardo, van, great food, great views. Such was our lot in life for the next week.
After another fantastic descent, we arrived back at the hotel in time for a late lunch. Here was another advantage of doing the trip with Cinghiale–since the hotel knows (and likes) Andy, they would do things for us like serving a late lunch even if the restaurant was officially closed… I ate a huge amount, and then rolled away from the table thinking that dinner (not very far away) might not be very necessary. Except that my stomach was growling again two hours before dinner.
Oh yes–a lunchtime bonus was watching the rain pelt down, after another day of perfect riding weather!
In the afternoon, Andy did a Q&A/storytime, and regaled us with tales of the pro peleton. I felt too self-conscious to bring paper and pen and take notes, though now I wish I had. One of the stories that came up was how in those days, during some races, the tv helicopter didn’t show up until well into the day’s stage. Up till that point, the Europeans would bike along painfully slowly, lollygagging their way down the route. Then the whup-whup-whup of helicopter blades, and it was like the starting gun at the 100 meter dash–suddenly the race was full speed and fierce. Meanwhile, the Americans, unused to this, would be dying of boredom in the beginning, eat all their food in the first 45 minutes for something to do, then become bloated and sluggish from all the sudden calories–just in time for the helicopter to show up and major suffering to begin.
It felt really good to have not just survived, but enjoyed the first day of mountain passes. I recorded 45 miles and 6,000 feet of elevation gain.