Doing it all the hard way...

Saturday, July 9, 2016

DolDay 6 Selle Ronde - In the throne room of the Italian cycling gods

Words can't convey and even the pictures don't do it justice
We were all excited about today.  We had discussed making a trade back on day two.  The forecast was for rain and lots of it on day three.  We opted to shorten that day and reroute day six to cover the sacred ground of the Selle Ronde. 
Thanks to McWoodie for the photo
Horst had shared an updated Garmin file so we had the route on our devices.  We had some elevation profiles available to us before the trip so I had made little cheat sheets with the info on the climbs.  The updated route did not have this so I had to “wing it.” 
Jens had said the first climb was “only half a climb.”  It turned out that his powers of estimating are not in line with his nationality and the first climb was 900 meters.  
A few of the group had decided to skip this first part and ride in the wan to the start of the Selle Rhonde.  After climbing 900 meters those guys looked pretty smart to me.
Even early on I could sense it would be a Rapha kind of day
After the climb we were pacelining to Canazei when we were passed by some riders in light blue kits riding two abreast.  These were Astana riders.  There were eight or nine of them followed by a team car with a bunch of wheels on the roof. We didn’t recognize any of them but still it was pretty cool.  We spent six months training to prepare to do for seven days what these guys do every day ten months out of the year.
Note the numbered turn....
Soon we passed through Canazei which would be our final destination this day and began the climb to Passo d’Pordoi.  The switchbacks were numbered and El Jefe’ and I churned up and up.  When this trip was first conceived I had pulled up Google Maps and “virtually” made my way up to the top of this pass. 

 How do you ride past this without staring?
Back in 2012 I had done something similar with the Galibier in France.  In 2012 I had an image from the summit of that pass on my computer for six months before the trip.  When you actually ride in the place you have been looking at for months it is magic.
As we climbed I recognized a hotel I had seen via Google Maps.  I recognized the sign and the road.  I was really here.  I breathed it all in.  I tried to memorize the smells. 
This was the hotel I had seen on Google Maps
My legs felt strong and after the final few hairpins the road flattened out and we were on top.
At the pass is a monument to Fausto Coppi the Italian God of cycling.  
He gave hope to a beaten people after WW2 and while he was no Fabian Cancellara he was in fact much better looking than this horrible image of him atop this pass.
We found the wan and refilled bottles and ate food.  As we ate we looked around and tried to take in the beauty of the high Dolomites. This is a stunning place and we all tried to file a piece of it away in our heads to save for a rainy day.
Then we regrouped and sped down the hairpins under sunny skies.  
We climbed and descended Passo Gardena and Passo Campolongo before the final climb of the day; Passo Sella.   We were approaching 3,000 meters of climbing on the day but my legs felt strong.

These were everywhere
Below Passo d'Selle

I got out of the saddle and accelerated as I neared the top.  From the top it would be a downhill roll back to Canazei and our hotel.   Our group paused for pictures and to eat some food.  One of my blessed brothers handed me a can of coke and I dispatched it quickly.

Below us was the town of Canazei and our hotel.  
It would be an “E Ticket” descent.  As we got going the sun was sinking and the shade was cooler than I was expecting.  I knew we would soon be at the hotel and I was looking forward to a hot shower.

As we were rolling into town I sensed the impending accomplishment of meeting the challenge of this trip.  This was a hard trip and my earlier statement that one person’s heaven can be another person’s hell was still accurate.  All of us were having fun and it was exactly what we expected but you have to admit the size of the task was and is daunting. 
The mood at dinner was light as if there was a collective relief that we would finish the task at hand.  We knew the next day would be much easier as it was designed to allow time to pack the bikes in the afternoon.

Horst had done an absolutely brilliant job of selecting routes that would challenge us but not kill us.  He is a master of his craft.  Our group chemistry is exceptional.  We wonder where our German brothers have been hiding all these years.

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