So yes, I love bicycling in the Dolomites, but perhaps what I have talked about the most (in fact, it came up in conversation just a couple days ago) are the tomatoes that Gerardo brought from Tuscany. Heaven.
On most of our rides, there would be a stop where Gerardo would slice up a bunch of these Tuscan tomatoes, press them into pieces of bread so that their juices infused the bread, and then drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt over it all. This was one of the most delicious things I have had to eat, on or off of a bike.
I lead with this because Day 2, with Passo Duran and Passo Staulanza on the itinerary, was the first day that rated a food stop serious enough to bring out the tomatoes, and thus give us a pretty powerful incentive to get to the top of every remaining climb on the trip.
And yet–as significant as this event was, it was just one of the highlights of the day.
The day (pretty much the same ride as last year) started with an easy spin down the river valley out of Alleghe. It was a section of road that brings out the luxuriously glorious side of cycling–not so downhill as to require braking or lots of attentive caution, but enough downhill to flow with ease and delight around the many curves of the road.
It’s hard to beat the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment of reaching the top of a hard climb, but the intoxicating delight of roads like this comes pretty close.
So I was loving the motion and flow of the road, and the rhythm of leaning one way and another into the curves. I was also noticing that Andy was behind me, and that it was perhaps a good time not to do anything particularly boneheaded on my bike.
That’s when I heard “You look at one with your bicycle, in case you were wondering.” from behind me.
BWAAAAAAHHHHH!!!! ANDY I-WON-THE-GIRO-D’ITALIA HAMPSTEN COMPLIMENTED ME ON MY BICYCLING!!!!! AGAIN!!!!!
In a moment of complete genius, I managed not to fall off my bike or crash or do anything particularly boneheaded. I might have even managed to say “Thanks!” (But honestly, I don’t remember…)
So, anyway. There was that, which made the day nice.
And then we hit the climb to the Passo Duran, which was still hard. But this year I knew I could do it. And despite being familiar with it, I was pleasantly surprised by the part at the top that levels off a bit, and rolled up to the van feeling pretty good. Whereupon Gerardo promptly took charge of my bike as I was looking for a spot to lay it down, and gently leaned it up against a post. As for the van… There were tomatoes… Sigh.
The descent from the pass is really steep, with lots of tight turns–it’s a descent for caution (and hoping you don’t overheat your rims) rather than swooping joy. This year was at least made a bit more entertaining by Gianone splashing some water on his disc brakes at the bottom so we could hear them sizzle.
This descent ends (and ascent to Passo Staulanza begins) in the town of Dont. The jokes and wry comments never get old. It really is a moment that makes you reconsider/laugh at your decisions in life that led to you spending your vacation climbing mountain passes in the Dolomites.
I’ve heard that the beach can be nice in the summer, for example.
Like last year, my legs were not thrilled about starting a second climb, but this year I was ready for that. And, as it turns out, the start of the climb is steepish, so it’s not entirely me being a wuss that made it seem difficult.
Unlike last year, I knew when I got to the switchbacks that I was pretty near to the top, and felt pretty chipper about that fact.
Like last year, I neglected to get any photos of the Passo Staulanza. I’m pretty awesome that way.
It was a delightful day, and I enjoyed it all the more for having done it before.
Two days in, and I was so happy to be back. I was also happy that the weather forecast looked really good for our return to the Sella Ronda the next day. After walking part of the Passo Fedaia last year, I had some unfinished business I wanted to take care of.
But first, the hotel, food (and more food), and more views!