Welcome to the Dolomites
Sometime during the night the rain let up. Grey skies reminded us that the rain was likely to return but we gladly accepted the dry morning. After breakfast we rolled out this day we were joined by Horst on the bike. We zipped out of town and quickly broke into groups again.
And we're off !!
We were braced for rain and dressed accordingly. Early on the climbing and lack of rain caused me to heat up quickly. I got chilled but thankfully the clouds began to thin and I warmed up.
Descending on dry pavement was a thrill we hadn’t enjoyed the first day. I joked that Saint D’ Antonio was the patron saint of descending. We began to learn how to manage the Dolomite spaghetti noodle switchback road descents. As you approach a corner in the drops you look over your shoulder to see if there is any traffic coming up the road that might reach you before you are well past the corner. If the road is clear you set up wide, hit the apex and take as much road as you need when you exit.
Just like Washington; If you like green, you better like rain
The sun finally comes out and looking up the road we find the wan and Uli with food awaiting. The remaining climb is to the top of Tre Cimi d’Lavaredo the only out and back of the trip. It is steep and so I shed all the weight I can. The sunshine further motivates me to go light.
One of several villages we rolled through
The climb starts off nicely but soon the clouds move in.
Before the deluge......
The grade picks up and it starts to rain. The murderers pass me on their way down and offer sarcastic encouragement. “It never gets steeper than eighteen percent. Well it does but only for a little bit.” The riders descending are all wearing rain jackets and they are flying downhill.
This translates roughly into, "You're mine now bitch"
The grade is steady at twelve percent and I don’t feel any hint of cramping but I am working hard as the road switchbacks again and again. It starts to rain lightly and my lack of warm clothing makes the cold rain feel even colder.
I still have a few hundred meters of climbing and the mountains are totally socked in. The riders coming down are wearing rain gear and look miserable. Their wheels are kicking up rooster tails on the wet pave’. I keep cranking. I don’t have a choice. If I want to continue I have to ride to the top and if I want to bail I still have to ride to the top. I have three hundred meters to go and the rain turns to hail. There is a wan at the top with my wan bag and I start to wish the bag had more clothing than it actually contains.
As I near the crest I can see Coz waving me in. He was kind enough to skip this part in favor of driving the support wan. Arndt’s knee was acting up and he had joined Coz and was warmish and dryish in the front seat of the wan.
Hail on my leg. Yeah not much now, but it was just ramping up
By now the hail was pounding down. I knew Marco was behind me and he must be suffering more than me. I handed Coz the bike and jumped in the wan. The hail was beginning to form into slush on the road and descending through such muck would not only be hellish it would be foolhardy. I would gladly accept a wan ride down from the summit. It was a bit too early in the trip for type two fun.
Soon enough Marco showed up and he was likewise frozen and shared my enthusiasm for calling his day done. As Arndt and Coz handed wheels and the bikes into the wan the hail accumulated half an inch thick on the floor of the wan through the open door.
The speed at which the ride went from sunshine and roses to hail and hypothermia was not lost on me. We were nearly seven thousand feet above sea level and the Dolomites are massive enough to make their own weather.
How did you spend your summer vacation Davo?
As the wan drove downhill we spied some riders still climbing with bare legs glowing bright red from being pelted with hail.
We arrived at the hotel and repeated the post ride routine that was already second nature.
For the enlightenment of my readers here is the daily schedule:
Breakfast is at seven thirty so if I am not already up my alarm goes up at seven. This thirty minutes is to pound down some water to help digestion and stage the gear for the day. This not only includes clothing that I will wear but what I will have in my two wan bag.
The wan bags contain clothing (sleeves, vest, knee warmers, rain jacket, perhaps a different base layer, bars, shot bloks, nuun tablets, endurolytes, sunscreen, chamois cream, a plastic bag for wet items I may swap for dry items.
In addition to the clothes I will ride in I need to stage my water bottles, camera, GoPro, Garmin, phone and waterproof case, lip screen, bars, shot bloks and chamois cream etc.
Before heading down to breakfast I check to see if the clothes I washed post ride yesterday have dried or if they are still damp.
Like lost souls we gather outside the dining area and await the signal to attack the coffee and breakfast. When given the nod we pile plates with eggs, breads, rolls, and if we dare meats and cheeses. We fill bowls with muesli, fruit and yogurt. We fill and refill coffee cups. When we finish our plates and bowls we go back for more.
Based on the route difficulty and weather and our individual health we choose our route for the day and then we scurry back to our rooms.
After brushing teeth we don our costumes, pack our stuff and stagger downstairs to check out and find our bikes. We drop our luggage and wan bags where they belong and plug in water bottles and fire up the electronics that will guide our riding.
Usually a bit before nine we group up and ride off. We ride and eat and ride and eat and ride until we reach the hotel.
We arrive at our destination hotel between four and six. There is a table with recovery food on it and the big wan with our luggage.
This is a rushed time when we try to manage multiple high priorities. One should quickly A) Get out of the hygienically hazardous bike shorts that have now been on for nine hours B) Get some recovery food – Protein and Carbs – inside you quickly C) Complete any bike maintenance such as lubing the chain and addressing that clicking sound that appeared three hours ago D) Sit your tired ass down E) Check into the hotel and make your meal selection before someone else makes it for you.
When you do make it to your room you quickly shower and then it is time to relax. However, you don’t have time to relax because you have to wash the clothes you wore today and hang them out to dry. All the time you are chugging down water to help your recovery.
Dry my lovely clothing Dry !!!
One of the signs of the times was all of the equipment that needed to be recharged daily. When the octopus was set up you just let the power flow.
About the time you finish hanging the clothes you just washed as well as any clothes that didn’t get completely dry last night it is time for dinner.
At first I thought this was some kind of Toilet sidecar. Sort of like a tandem for pooping.
KB sent me this image. It turns out these are for washing your bottles.
Dinner most nights starts at seven thirty and ends just shy of ten. During dinner the next day’s route and weather are discussed as well as the stories of the day’s adventure.
After dinner we often went for a short walk. This was really a chance to get in some digestion in advance of getting horizontal. During the walk we stop and stretch and lean and groan. We are not young men and this is a young man’s game.
When we get back to our rooms we lay out the gear for the next day and check email using the typically poor wireless network. Often there isn’t a lot of conversation as we are tired and as soon as we have done whatever needs to be done we bid farewell and crash into our pillows.
That my friends is a day in the life. If it sounds like the days are hard I would prefer you use the term “challenging.” If it sounds like misery I can assure you that while it was tough, it was wonderful as well. We knew what we were getting into and while I couldn’t do this for weeks on end, the challenge only enhances the satisfaction.