Dolomites 2016, Passo dell’Erbe!

This day…

I wrote at length about it last year, and the essentials of that post have not changed. There are other rides that have been subjectively more difficult for me because of the challenge they offered to the amount of experience I had at the time.

But objectively, considering climbing per mile, the steepness of much of the climbing, and the rhythm of the route that makes you work until you are a few feet from the hotel, this is the hardest ride I have done. Subjectively, it’s pretty high on the list too.

Last year, I came into Passo dell’Erbe day with a lot of trepidation. I had done my homework, and knew it would be a huge challenge. Some descriptions of the ride made me really nervous about my ability to get through it without being a shattered, demoralized wreck by the end.

(Yes, this is what I do for vacation.)

This year, I was still a bundle of nerves heading into the day. Now I had no illusions about just how a huge challenge the day would be. But some of my nerves were jitters of anticipation and excitement, because I also knew how rewarding the day would be, the beauty of the ride and the sense of accomplishment at its end.

I also knew that Ian would love this day, had spent a year telling him so, and couldn’t wait for his end-of-day reaction.

But first things first–before we could get to the end-of-day, we had to start the day. The Passo Gardena descent into Corvara is wonderful–but is almost even better on the way up. The road is in great shape, the climb is challenging but eminently doable, and this hillside looks like it is gathering you in and cradling you on your way up.

Atop the Passo Gardena. See how happy we still are!

The descent (which we came up on Sella Ronda day) is gentle and mostly non-technical, so you can just let it rip. And then you keep going down. And further down. And even having done this the year before, I was still getting anxious about how far down we were descending. It feels like you must have missed a turn–you surely couldn’t have as much as that to climb back up again?!?!

The answer is that yes, you do have as much as that to climb back up again. It’s quite alarming.

After the preliminaries of Passo Gardena and some rolling hills, we started towards San Pietro, the foot of the climb. Ian made the rookie mistake of thinking we were on the climb already–no, the steady 7-8% grade was not yet the climb.

He admitted later that he was wondering why I was going so slow on the climb–then when we actually got to the real climb he figured it out–I was just taking it easy in preparation for the actual challenge of the day.

The wall that the road goes up out of San Pietro has gotten no less steep. This year at least I was prepared. And I was very proud of myself for, in lowest gear of 34-29, being able to keep my pedaling calm and my breathing steady, despite the high level of effort I was putting out. Just going up that sustained stretch of 15% in a non-flailing way is a victory in my book.

For added entertainment this year, this was one of the sections that Andy wafted by me on. If you have ever pedaled lazily on a flat route, choosing to bike a few blocks rather than walk because you’re feeling lazy, barely aware of even having to put pressure into the pedals–well then you probably looked about how Andy did in this moment. He had at least three lower gears left, and was giving absolutely no visible signs of exertion as he shot past me. 15% grade!

I would have laughed at the absurdity of the moment, but I didn’t have the breath or muscular engagement to spare.

As I got towards the flat and even downhill section towards the top, Andy reappeared (having stopped to take photos, and possibly re-ride the “fun” parts of the climb for all I know), and we rode along together, chatting. This was fun, and it’s always a treat to get to study Andy’s flowing style on the bike. But boy does it make you aware of the lines you’re taking around a corner as you’re riding shoulder-to-shoulder and really hoping not to be *that person* who did a boneheaded thing and took out a Giro d’Italia winner…

I told myself that he’s such an experienced, talented, solid rider that I probably couldn’t take him out if I tried, and kept enjoying the ride. And kept trying not to be an utter spaz around the corners.

Trees, flowers, fields, mountains–Passo dell’Erbe

I will admit that as enjoyable as the climb was, especially the wonderful section through the forest that seems like a ride in the Pacific Northwest, with an evergreen-y tang to the air, I was pretty darn tootling happy to see the van at the top. And eat. And sit in the sun (it was a hot day at the bottom of the climb, but the air becomes more refreshing several thousand feet higher up).

At the end of the day, the best part of all–Ian saying “you were right, I loved that! That was amazing!”

Passo dell’Erbe keeps its special place for me,–challenging, beautiful, and a cause for celebration.

Which is a thought that I can reflect on now–in the moment, I was just so tired, so hungry, so sweaty, that I was nearly paralyzed by the crisis of what need to address first. Yay for summer vacation!

Passo dell’Erbe day: 67ish miles (really, forgot to start my Garmin again?!), 10,000 feet elevation.

Dolomites 2016, rest on the Pordoi

On the original schedule, today was the official rest day. But we had an unscheduled rest day just a couple days prior. So what to do? The smart people on the trip stuck to the schedule. However, given that you were dealing with a population of people who elected to spend their vacation cycling up steep mountains, most people rode.

One of my goals before the trip was to ride the Passo Pordoi. Since it wasn’t part of our official itinerary, that meant either adding on to a day’s ride, or cycling on the rest day. And given my sub-optimal training for the trip, I wasn’t sure it would happen. Given that the next day would be Passo dell’Erbe day, taking some rest was probably the better course.

So I rode instead.

My recollection of the day was that I felt tired, but all considered, pretty good overall. Delusional? Perhaps.

From Badia, you get the easy part over with first–a nice warm up ride to Corvara, 5 miles and 750 feet of elevation gain. From Corvara, you then have to go over the Passo Campolongo to get to the start of the Passo Pordoi climb. A climb to get to the start of the climb is a specialty of the region.

But the Campolongo is not a steep climb–unlike something like the Passo Fedaia, it actually is possible to take it easy on the way up.  Partway up we did a stop and regroup for photos, to document how many foolhardy people were out on the rest day.

It’s the rest day, so naturally we’re on our way to the Passo Pordoi. Even Gerardo got roped into the insanity and drove the support van for us. Spoiled rotten on this trip!

Down a little ways into Arraba, and then–Pordoi! This is a storied climb, used frequently in the Giro d’Italia, and a favorite of the Italian cycling legend Fausto Coppi. He was so closely associated with the climb that there is a monument to him at the top of the pass, one of the great shrines of the church of cycling.

At the Coppi monument

To get to the Coppi monument, you climb 5.5 miles of laid-out-with-a-ruler 7% grade, switchbacking up the mountain with amazing views in every direction. I set myself a goal of expending as little energy as possible on this “rest day” and to that end, stopped frequently for photos on the way up.

A little ways up the Pordoi

It was a gorgeous day, in a gorgeous setting

Wonderful riding, with wonderful company

No wonder Fausto Coppi loved this climb so much. There is a glorious sense of being on top of the world as you progress up the Pordoi. It is the second-highest paved road in the Dolomites (just the Passo Sella rises higher). From early on in the climb, you already feel elevated above the surrounding terrain–which you can easily survey as the slope is treeless, views unobscured. The switchbacks serve to bring a kaleidoscope of views in front of one (no pesky turning of your head required!)

Once at the top, even more views open up

Climbing the Passo Pordoi, check!

(Of course, I’ve still only climbed it from one direction…)

Of course, even though I could now check this accomplishment off the list, I still had to make it back to the hotel. Which, if you’ve been paying attention, meant going back up and over the Passo Campolongo. I hadn’t ridden the Campolongo in this direction before, and despite my fatigue, it turned out to be really fun.

You see completely different things when going up than when descending, and in some cases, the difference is great enough that it would be easy to be oblivious to the fact of being on a road you’re ridden before. The ascent of the Campolongo from Arabba is an instance of that for me. And then it turns out that the “easy” slopes of the ascent from Corvara are a blast to go back down.

This “rest day” concluded with the traditional Cinghiale wine tasting. Andy regaled us with tales of wine-making in Italy, as we sipped the results. Very relaxing.

The tales

The wines

The view

Of course, as a Cinghiale veteran, I knew that the wine tasting just meant that tomorrow would be the hardest ride of the trip, but hey, I let myself be suckered into thinking that these Cinghiale folks had my best interests at heart anyway.

Rest day on the Pordoi: 34 miles, 4.800 feet elevation

 

 

Dolomites 2016, Giau day

Since the previous day was supposed to be a riding day, then was declared a rest day when the weather looked lousy, but I went riding anyway, I don’t know what day of the trip it is anymore.

So let’s settle for Giau Day.

The oft-photographed peak at the top of the Passo Giau was being atmospheric this year

Earlier in the year, I was excited to watch the Giro d’Italia go over the Passo Giau in stage 14. They showed me problems I didn’t even know a person could encounter while cycling, such as going so fast up the 10% grade of the Giau that they were forced to stop pedaling and coast around the hairpin bends.

Richard encourages us with the thumbs up while going past some of the road paint left over from encouraging the Giro riders

It’s always nice to be able to exclude something from the list of things one will ever have to worry about.

It was also nice to hear the Giro announcers go on and on about what a beast of a climb the Giau is. Sure, I think that nearly 10 miles pegged at 10% nearly the whole time is tough. But what do I know? I don’t have to coast around corners going up it… But apparently the pros agree–this is one tough climb.

And I’ve really enjoyed it each time I’ve ridden it. The challenge it presented me the first year, when at first I thought I wasn’t going to keep my breakfast down, turned to joy as my stomach settled, and by the top I felt on top of the world. The climb became a symbol of perseverance and success–and even fun.

So after two years of climbing it pretty solidly, I decided this year that I didn’t have a ton I felt I needed to prove. I dawdled up, stopping for pictures as I went. (Clicking on a picture will take you to my Flickr photostream if you need to see even more…)

Did I mention the Giau is steep? The road gets up to the level of the house pretty soon after turning the corner…

The road engineers had to coil the road like a snake to get up the mountain

Even when you can start to see the peak at the top, you are a long, long, long way from being done…

The flowers are pretty…

The way the view opens up towards the top is pretty nice too…

Photo time with Andy! Aren’t we cute in our matching jerseys… Or something…

Victory! We were atop the Passo Giau!

But the day was not done, not by any means. There was some Very Important Business left, namely, lunch! Like last year, we proceeded to the Rifugio Cinque Torri (via the super-fun descent off the other side of the Passo Giau, and a climb partway up the Passo Falzarego). After changing into non-sweaty non-cycling clothes in the parking lot, up we went on the cable car to a lunch site that stands out for scenic beauty in a region stuffed silly for scenic beauty. And ate some really delicious food–so hard to come by in Italy…

Non-sweaty, non-cycling clothes, and Gerardo! It doesn’t get any better than this!

Sheep and scenery on the chairlift ride

It’s even greener and more lush than this. Seriously. No wonder there are so many sheep.

Instead of including all the photos from the top, just click on this one and look through my photostream, if you think this is remotely scenic.

After lunch, we clambered over the rocks, paths, and sobering WW1 bunkers. As beautiful as the region is, the idea of being huddled up there in winter with people shooting at you from the hill opposite is indescribably awful. What the reality must have been… And for what?

Once on the road again, it was up and over the rest of the Passo Falzarego, plus the little extra bump of the Passo Valparola, and then down to Badia, where we would be based for the rest of the trip.

To Badia!

This year we all had the good luck of staying the Gran Ander, last year’s hotel of the awesome breakfast and the bonus climbing. Yay?

This was before dinner. Andy was enthusing. Ian was hungry. He was in his best McKayla Maroney Not Impressed mode.

This is what Ian was looking at while being Not Impressed

Between stopping for photos up the Giau and stopping for lunch up the Falzarego, it was a pretty relaxed day. And then I look at the ride stats and realize what a ridiculous statement that is!

Giau Day: 37 miles, 6,700 feet elevation.

 

 

 

Dolomites 2016, Day 4 (I guess)

Today was supposed to involve riding up mountain passes and such, with a rest day planned later. But instead, the weather forecast looked threatening (not the end of the world, given the neoprene gloves, rain pants, and other such winter clothing one packs for this trip) but also looked fabulous for the rest of the trip.

It stayed nice in Alleghe, but if you look off in the distance, it’s raining in the mountains

So Andy of the “I’ve biked in bad weather, and have nothing further to proves as regards that” fame suggested moving the rest day to today. Since I figure that one of the things that I’m paying for is to follow the advice of a Giro d’Italia-winning pro cyclist as regards my cycling, I had my orders. Rest day it was.

And I might have been a wee bit sore from the brief experimentation with not keeping the rubber side down the day before.

Unfortunately, I can also be a sucker for peer pressure, especially as regards things that are probably stupid ideas (see the VOV incident of the year before…)

So when I wandered through the lobby area of the hotel, and Kerry started twisting my arm to go ride up the gradients-in-the-teens Serrai di Sottaguda with some folks (“everybody’s doing it!”), I naturally caved. Because nothing says “Rest Day” like biking up an 18% slope.

And as is usually the case when I let myself get talked into something I know better than to do, it was a lot of fun. The group of us dawdled along, took photos, stopped to admire the view, and somehow really did manage to make a rest day out of 18%.

They take their wood stacking seriously in the Dolomites

Time for us all to stop and take a picture of the waterfall

After ascending through the Serrai di Sottoguda, we had to take to the road to come back (for some reason, they don’t want bicyclists zooming downhill through crowds of gawking pedestrians on a path that is sometimes just a few feet wide!). Though it’s always a little sad to leave a car-free paradise, the road was one heck of a fun descent! Some folks decided to stop at a café, but I decided to just keep it rolling gently back to the hotel.

And then I did what I had originally planned to do, and took a slow, feeble rest day amble around Alleghe.

They also take their flowers seriously in the Dolomites

It’s the Dolomites. Even a rest day amble involves a lot of elevation gain

Day 4/Rest Day: 15.3 miles, 1,600 feet.

Ignore the bit where my GPS got lost and thought I was scaling the mountain…

Dolomites 2016, Day 3

Sella Ronda day.

I almost ended the post right there. What more is there to say? I’ve tried for the last two years to put this day into words, and not succeeded. And this year will be no different.

As before, we started by wending our way up through the Serrai di Sottoguda which is much steeper than the main road, but feels like an easy stroll through the park because you are taking so many breaks to goggle at the scenery around you.

How about I shut up for a while, and just show some pictures

Clicking on any photo will take you to my flickr where you can see more.

And then you start climbing up the Passo Fedaia. At least I knew from last year that I could actually ride it. And I also knew how tough riding the whole thing would be. Not sure if that helped or hurt as I stared up the long, straight, brutally steep section that starts the climb.

It’s such a relief to hit the switchbacks higher up. It’s still long and brutally steep, but at least it’s not straight!

Oddly enough, despite there being a distance countdown painted onto the road, I remembered the top as being further away that it was. So in a reverse of the day before, I was cheery and delighted at the top. Still, I don’t know if this climb and I will ever be friends. Uff da.

For the second year in a row, we completely lucked out on the weather, and enjoyed sunshine and warmth at the top. I didn’t do much more than put on my arm warmers for the descent, but it’s a good thing I did that much.

See, there was a wee little incident on the descent when I might have come off my bike a little bit. (Sorry Mom and Dad, I think I neglected to mention this before…) Spoiler alert: everyone was fine. Oddly enough for a descent, it was a slow-motion topple over. It occurred when slowing for a stopped group of riders just as a close-passing motorbike distracted a rider behind me, who then was forced to decide between bumping into me, or swerving out into the path of the moto.

The other rider and I both sported some impressive, colorful bruises for a few days, but nothing worse. The worst of the damage was the hole torn into my favorite (but completely replaceable) arm warmers. And the heart attack that Ian nearly had when he came around the bend and saw me momentarily on the pavement. But if you’re going to come off your bike, it’s handy to do so when Gerardo is around–my front wheel was knocked slightly out of true, something I only realized as a new front wheel was being placed on my bike. And the next day, there was my own wheel, trued back up, on my bike. Because the folks at Cinghiale are awesome.

(Also, thank you to the person who noticed my cycling glasses with prescription lenses by the side of the road. In the moment, I didn’t notice I no longer had them on, but I couldn’t have continued the ride very far without them!)

Still–me and Sella Ronda day! Falling into a rider the first year, and falling off my bike this year. This ride kicks my butt–this time around pretty literally!

Despite all that, I still love this day. Of the four climbs, it’s hard to pick a favorite. The love-hate relationship I have with Passo Fedaia is pretty intense on both parts. Meanwhile the top half of the Sella climb is really neat, and the descent off of it one of my favorites. The Gardena is a delight for how comparatively easy it is. And the Campolongo has a great section rising out of Corvara where you get an immense sense of progress, transitioning into an easy traverse, and then the mother of all lengthy, delightful descents into the hotel, beer, shower, and food (yes, in that order.)

It’s also funny how different parts of the ride stand out different years. Maybe it was a change in the weather and light, but this year the upper part of climbing up the Gardena stands out in my mind. I felt pretty strong, and the road surface was wonderful (as it usually is throughout the Dolomites). Something about the openness of the view, and the sense of progress up the climb made a strong impression on me in a way that it hadn’t before. I have a sense of deep satisfaction with life associated with the memory of it from this trip that is different from the general “this is amazing” that I have for all of the trip, every year.

This ride also takes you past both sides of the Passo Pordoi climb, which is supposed to be beautiful, but which hadn’t been part of the route on the times I’ve been on this trip. Climbing the Pordoi on this year’s trip was one of my goals. And I’d like to say that I eyeballed the start of the climb as I descended the Campolongo to the hotel. But let’s be honest–there was no way I was going to add a fifth pass to Sella Ronda day! I will leave it to people more awesome (more stupid?) than myself. Instead, I contented myself with:

Day 3: 64 miles, 8,400 feet elevation.

Dolomites 2016, Days 1 and 2

(Yes, I’m combining days in a post. It’s 8 months after the fact, I’m writing about rides that I’ve already written about 2 years in a row, and my work schedule makes writing a bit of a “little or nothing at all” prospect.) (In other words Dad, deal with it. She said lovingly.)

It’s funny how quickly you can become passively attached to how you think things are to be done, based on how they were done in the past. Or at least, how quickly I can…

At any rate, based on a grand total of two previous Day 1’s, I was a bit astonished to find out that the Italians were doing road work, necessitating a change from what I considered as the first day route. Inconceivable!

A little-known fact about me: I very occasionally have a teensy difficulty dealing with change. One appeal of getting to do this trip year after year is revisiting the beauty and challenge of it, while having some of it be familiar.

So instead, we did a slightly different route that was also delightful and scenic and a good way to shake out the legs, and I had a good time despite myself.

And to be fair, much had not changed. Gerardo was still a divine angel of delicious food and skillful support, Andy and Elaine were still wonderful, welcoming, and fun, Oscar was still delightful and cute, and Kerry and Roberto were still models of great riding buddies combined with skillful professionalism.

Another thing that hadn’t changed is that what counts as an easy ride on this trip is something with merely 100′ of climbing per mile. Practically flat!

The delight of watching other people discover how astonishing this area is just doesn’t get old. As wonderful as it was to do the first day ride for the first time, I think I’ve almost enjoyed it more the last two years, when I knew that the great view of Lake Alleghe was just coming up, or some other viewpoint (really, the whole ride is a viewpoint), and could anticipate the astonishment and joy of other people as they were bowled over by the next thing around the next bend in the road.

A view of Lake Alleghe from our hotel. It looks lovely from the hills way above too.

Day 2 was again Passo Duran and Passo Staulanza.  You can read in full detail here and here if you so desire.

One would think that from one year to the next, the roads couldn’t change that much. And that certainly seemed the case on the Duran. The climb was hard to start, and then eased off towards the top, and Gerardo greeted us with delicious food. See previous years’ posts if you want photos.

After the steep descent, and after ignoring the life advice offered by passing through the town Dont, we started up the Staulanza. I remembered that it was steep to start, with more traffic than most of the roads we would ride on. I remembered correctly.

I also remembered that after the switchbacks, the cars thinned out a lot, and you were nearly to the top.

About that memory…

The cars did thin out, but I swear, they added a huge long stretch of road before the top of the pass. Once we were on it, I went from “yay, I’m practically at the top” to “oh no, I completely forgot about this interminable, never going to get there, part of the ride.”

Judging by the steepness of the slope, it was an easier section than the start of the climb. Judging by my disappointed expectations of being nearly done, it was the hardest part of the whole day.

And as I tried to sulk in my dark place, Ian pedaled along easily beside me, chatting merrily away (someone wasn’t out of breath…) and completely oblivious to the unfolding tragedy (someone hadn’t had unreasonable expectations of the climb based upon incorrect memory…)

The problem was, the views from that (forgotten) upper part are really wonderful, and they were totally spoiling my effort to achieve complete misery.

For the third year in a row, I failed to get photos at the top of the Staulanza, because that’s the kind of thinking-ahead person that I am.

At the end of the day, it was another amazing, pinch-me-I’m-dreaming experience. Even if Ian dared be cheery and talkative when I… Wasn’t. I was also pleased that, despite my lower base of miles going into the trip, I still seemed to be able to go up the mountains. Not really any faster than the previous year (oh well), but not really any slower either. Which all considering, I had no reason to expect to be the case.

And I just love riding these roads.

Day 1: 22 miles, 2,300 feet

Day 2: 43 miles, 6,300 feet

 

Dolomites 2016, non-bike post

Alert–the following post is not about biking in the Dolomites!

Both 2015 and 2016, I flew in a day early. By arriving some time on Thursday, I had all of Friday to start the process of acclimating to the time zone, and to shake out the effects of trans-Atlantic travel. Then Saturday, mean people would start flogging me up steep hills 😦

Which is a story for future posts.

Walking around in daylight and fresh air is the best way for me to try to convince myself that 3AM at home really is a perfectly reasonable time to be awake and eating lunch. How fortunate then, that I was spending the day in the ultimate pedestrian city, Venice.

Seriously–no cars, despite jet lag-induced idiocy can only get so lost because it’s a small island-perfect!

When I visited a couple museums in 2015, I brilliantly left my camera in my bag at the bag check both times. And then instantly regretted it. I’m blaming the jet lag. But at least I didn’t make the same mistake two years in a row. Rather than photograph the best, most important pieces, I mostly took pictures of the things that tickled my funny bone, with a couple goes at an “arty” shot. Old stuff is from the Galleria dell’Accademia, modern stuff from the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

So with no further ado:

Some pre- and Renaissance art can be so stylized as to almost seem modern, which I love. And then there's just the whole

Some pre- and Renaissance art can be so stylized as to almost seem modern, which I love. And then there’s just the whole “what an incredibly bizarre-looking Christ Child” thing going on… Seriously, I know that hands are hard to paint, but those hands!!! See also “Christ Child of the Abs” in my previous post.

The detail work on this 15th century cross was pretty amazing.

The detail work on this 15th century cross was pretty amazing.

Love the skull!

Love the skull!

WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THOSE TOES?!?!?! Seriously, can anybody explain them to me?

WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THOSE TOES?!?!?! Seriously, can anybody explain them to me?

The dog and cat fighting in the corner of this painting was pretty entertaining.

The dog and cat fighting in the corner of this painting was pretty entertaining.

Angry horse!

Angry horse!

Apparently no matter the era, rich people liked to tote around little fluffy dogs.

Apparently no matter the era, rich people liked to tote around little fluffy dogs.

The more angles you looked at it by, the cooler this piece got

The more angles you looked at it by, the cooler this piece got

I really liked this one. Beguilingly simple, and full of motion.

I really liked this one. Beguilingly simple, and full of motion.

Despite what you may have first thought, this is not a pre-Renaissance Christ Child, but rather a 20th century painting of a cyclist!

Despite what you may have first thought, this is not a pre-Renaissance Christ Child, but rather a 20th century painting of a cyclist!

There are more photos in my Venice album here. I promise that the next post will have actual cycling content!

 

Dolomites 2016, pre-story, post-story, and TLDR

So… Yeah, it’s been a little while since I’ve posted. For a lot of reasons, none of which I feel like going into detail on. But I like writing this blog (and there are apparently a couple odd people who like reading it) (and who aren’t even related to me by blood, so have no obligation to pretend to like it), so here goes.

View from partway up the Passo Pordoi. I hadn’t done this climb before, and fitting it in somehow was one of my goals for Cinghiale 2016. I did it!

To provide extra challenge to those who claim to like what I’m doing, I’m going to skip forward in time, then backward in time, and probably not really cover much more of Dolomites 2016 than the bare stats in this post. Once I’ve driven all 3 of my readers away, then I’ll consider posting something interesting about the Dolomites 2016.

Forward: Cinghiale is returning to the Alps along with the Dolomites in 2017, and we’re going! In preparation for that trip, as well as for sheer enjoyment, we have a number of other cycling plans for the year. In no particular order, they include STP, RAMROD, Mazama Weekend, and most immediately, the Santa Monica Mountains Climbing Camp in April with Cycling Escapes, a trip I did 2 years ago and really enjoyed.

Backward: When I left off, I was complaining of being undertrained, and proceeded to do less riding than planned on one of my last training events. So yeah, that was pretty brilliant.

I had a little more riding before the Dolomites though, most notably a return to Ashland and a ride with our cycling friend there.

dsc_0052

The delicious food stop would have been the best part of the ride–if the rest of the ride (and the company) weren’t so amazing!

We repeated the ride up into the mountains that we had done the previous year–with a fun alternate road that had some very Dolomitesque pitches–and then a few days later did a delightful ride through the region’s orchards. It was one of those rides that has so many inscrutable twists and turns that you’d have to be with a local to do it, and we felt lucky to be given such a wonderful backroads glimpse into the area. Thanks again, M!

But no matter how I crumbled the cookie, I was heading into Dolomites 2016 with less training and fewer miles than the previous 2 years. Not an ideal situation.

On the other hand, as someone who didn’t start cycling until July 2010, each additional year of cycling is still adding noticeably to my ability on the bike. Perhaps that would count for something?

Lest I risk creating any sort of suspense or incentive to read to the end, the trip went great! Even with less training, I wasn’t going up the mountains any slower. And I think this was because I made up for it with slightly better technique, ability to pace myself, confidence, etc. Kerry (the awesome guide) commented to a surprised me that I was looking really strong and good on the bike… And then I heard via Elaine that Gerardo had said something to the effect of “every year she gets stronger/better!”

(So, to jump forward again, a goal for this year is to go in with the improvement of another year on the bike AND a non-embarrassing number of miles…)

At any rate, here is your Dolomites 2016 TLDR version:

Essential info–we’re signed up for 2017.

More info–

Day 0, Fri 8/26. We hung out in Venice. Successfully took public transit from Mestre hotel, walked a lot, went to Galleria dell’Accademia and Peggy Guggenheim Collection, where I took photos of things I liked or things I thought were entertainingly bizarre (Venice album here).

I called him the

I called him the “Christ Child of the Abs”

Day 1, Sat 8/27. Shakedown ride, a little different than previous years because of construction. (Sadly, this meant one of my favorite descents, one I got to follow Andy down, was not on the menu this year). 21.7mi, 2,283ft.

Day 2, Sun 8/28. Passo Duran and Passo Staulanza. After three years of doing this ride, I still have no photographic evidence of myself on the Staulanza. 43.0mi, 6,086ft.

Day 3, Mon 8/29. Sella Ronda day. Passo Fedaia still kicks my butt, but I got to the top when I thought I still had further to go, so that was nice. 64.0mi, 8,442ft.

Day 4, Tue 8/30. Unscheduled Rest Day because of predicted crappy weather. Instead got talked into riding Serrai di Sottoguda again by Kerry. 15.3mi 1,598ft.

Not bad for an unofficial rest day

Not bad for an unofficial rest day

Day 5, Wed 8/31. Transfer day. Passo Giau, Passo Valparola and lunch at Cinque Torri, Passo Falzarego. 36.8mi, 6,722ft.

Partway up Passo Giau

Partway up Passo Giau

Day 6, Thu 9/1. Official Rest Day. Rode the Passo Campolongo and the Passo Pordoi(!) instead. 34.3mi, 4,859ft.

Day 7, Fri 9/2. Passo dell’ Erbe Day! Spent a year telling Ian he would love this, and I was so right!!! 66.3mi, 10,000ft.

Day 8, Sat 9/3. Beautiful flat valley ride from last year–but this time, found some hills. 42.6mi, 3,848ft.

Love this valley

Day 9, Sun 9/4. Transfer day back to Venice. But first, did some shopping in Corvara. 10.8mi, 902ft.

Total: 334.8mi, 44,740ft.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hurricane adventure!

Anyone who made it all the way to the end of my last post might be wondering how Ride the Hurricane went. (Or not, that’s ok too.)

TLDR version: we had a strong ride up, a cautious descent in pouring down rain, and the planned second trip up was unanimously vetoed.

Full version (with explanations or excuses, your choice): we arrived in Port Angeles Saturday evening to lovely weather with just enough picturesque clouds to hint that the next day’s forecast rain on Hurricane Ridge might actually materialize. Light scattered showers in the am, with heavier rain, possibly thunderstorms, after 11am.

Or so the forecast read.

Since we were planning to ascend twice, we got a pretty good start on the morning, though unlike RAMROD or STP, our alarm was not set for a time that began with a 3. That was nice. As we drove to the start, the rain started. Big, wet raindrops.

We started up the climb at 7:30, with a fair amount of our rain gear already on, rather than in the pockets and seatbags that we had so carefully packed them in. It was pretty balmy at the start, and given how much bicycling uphill warms you up, I was actually enjoying the rain–I would have been wet from sweating regardless. The rain felt refreshing to me, and made the air clean, cool, and damp, which is so much nicer to breathe than dusty, hot, and dry.

One of the great things about the Hurricane Ridge climb is the constantly evolving series of vistas–town, water, flowers, forests, hills, mountains. For example, a view from the ride:

Hurricane white out

Our view on Ride the Hurricane 2016

Actually I jest. One, there was no way I was bringing out my phone or camera in the pouring down rain. Two, even though the blank whiteness of inside a cloud was all we could see at some viewpoints, there were a couple that had a really lovely impressionistic fading away of hill ridges receding into the mist.

The cloud bank that we rode up into also served to make a familiar climb new again. Without being able to see up the road, we’d get to a corner and exclaim “this section already?!?” One section towards the top that isn’t my favorite because you can see for a ways and it never feels to me like I am making much progress just flew by.

So yeah, I actually enjoyed doing the climb in the (earlier than forecasted) rain.

Then we got to go back down. Though the temperature at the start was a pleasant 60 degrees or so, it was low 40’s at the top. Between sweat and rain, I was thoroughly soaked. Luckily, much of what I was wearing was wool, which retains insulative capacity when wet–but still… I had a couple more layers that I put on, including the high-tech marvel of a free hotel shower-cap over my helmet–something I picked up from a certain Andy Hampsten who knows a little something about cycling in inclement weather.

But there was no way to get around the fact that the descent would be cold and wet. And despite our rain gear, it would be a bit colder and wetter than we had planned for.

We rode our brakes all the way down, going slower just so that the windchill factor would be less. We also stopped several times to restore feeling to our hands. And at the bottom, we were in agreement that there would not be a second ascent.

Actually, I should rephrase that, as a second ascent would have been welcome for the warmth it would provide. Rather, there would not be a second descent.

So, it feels a little silly to be wimping out in bad weather during our training to ride the Dolomites with Andy Hampsten, someone who has ridden through much worse than a little rain… But it was really quite wet out. And cold, with that heavy humidity that brings the chill right into your bones. And perhaps a 5,000′ climb still counts for something?

Plus, I figured that all the extra muscle engagement that I was doing on the descent to try to create some warmth was more work than I would usually get on this ride, so it was kinda like doing the climb more than just the once? Sure.

At any rate, after the fact I’m glad I did it. During the ride, I really did enjoy the climb, and now that I am warm again, the descent makes a good story and allows me to indulge in feeling a little badass for being out riding in such conditions at all. And it continues to be amazing to ride that road car-free. This year, the peaceful patter of raindrops was part of what made the ascent enjoyable–something you can’t enjoy in the same way when it’s constantly interrupted by the roar of the internal combustion engine.

Performance-wise, I felt pretty good on the ascent (seriously–I’ll take ascending in the cold and rain over ascending in sun and 90 degree heat any day.) The four times I’ve gone up that climb, my times have been very close to each other. This year was definitely the most weight I’ve ever carried up the climb, considering the amount of clothing I was wearing and its water-logged state (seriously, that was one amazingly heavy pile of laundry), so I’m pleased with having a time comparable to my summer-weather ascents. Despite fewer miles this year, I am at least hanging on to fitness, maybe even slightly improving? And I’ve got to figure a lot of character growth for riding up and down a mountain in the driving rain…

August in the Pacific Northwest. There’s nothing like it.