Monday, July 21, 2014

5 passes in the Dolomiti with 12,000 vertical feet of climbing.

I went for a great ride in the Dolomiti yesterday, and it will probably be my biggest ride while I am here.  I was off on a bus relatively early to get to Corvara where I rented a bike for 4 or 5 days.  I could not find a reasonable road bike to rent closer, so I had a hour and one half bus ride to the shop.  The person there was waiting for me, and as I walked into the shop, he said, Mark Collins.  I have a pretty nice Merida Sculptura with shimano di2 while I am here.  We got the bike set up with pedals, I put a little pack on the seat, and organized my gear, and was off.  Rossano, the guy at the shop, was quite helpful, and reviewed my proposed route with me.  He said it was a very challenging day, but it was doable.  The bike set up is of course different than mine, and I had a little difficulty with my position as the day went on.  Basically, the distance to the bars from the seat is different, and without changing a stem, which is not reasonable for a rental bike, it was not going to change.  I believe we can all get used to different positions on the bike and am thinking that today it will feel more comfortable.

5 Passes in Dolomiti - Passo Giau the hardest by ridingwithcosimo at Garmin Connect - Details

The weather is predicted to get worse and it is raining now, but yesterday, the prediction was as good as it was going to be, so I planned my most difficult ride of the trip.  From Corvara, I went downhill to a turn off for Passo Valparola toward Cortina.  Great start, a little time to warm up, and the first 8 kilometers or so of the climb to the pass was quite gentle.  Well, that was over, as the grade went up toward 10% for the last 5 kilometers of the climb.  The picture is from the first pass of the day, Passo Valparola.  A beautiful spot, and at this point, I was still full of energy.  

The second pass of the day, Falzarengo, was only a couple of kilometers from Valparola, and really involved very little additional climbing.  Still it counts as a second pass, and it was beautiful, with the descent toward Cortina ahead.

A great descent from Falzarengo, and around 3 kilometers from Cortina, I took the turn for the big event of the day, Passo Giau.  This is the big pass in the Maratona, and a number of teammates and friends have told me how difficult it is.  Rossano told me I would be riding it from the "easy" side, and that it should be fine.  Well, he was right, but soon after starting, there was a sign, which seemed to be pretty accurate, saying 10 to 12% grade for 6 kilometers.  Not easy in my book.  I got to the top of the pass in good spirits, and mostly enjoyed the climb.  The first picture is almost at the top, when the grade finally leveled out.

Passo Giau, hooray.  The place at the pass was very crowed with mostly motorcyclists, and I went in to get some water, but the line to pay looked to be around 15 minutes, and was moving slowly.  I decided to keep moving and I had a little water left anyway.  Soon after starting my descent, I stopped at a rifugio, and there was a spring water fountain that was perfect for refilling my water.  

At the bottom of the descent from Giau, I had a decision to make, at a junction to go to Passo Fedaia, or toward Arrabba.  I had always planned on letting the weather dictate my route after Giau, as thunderstorms were predicted for the afternoon.  As I approached the junction, it started to rain, and my decision was made.  Fedaia will have to wait.  It was a great decision, as it only rained for around 15 minutes, and then the skies partially cleared, as you can see in the photo below.  The road over to Arraba was great, and although I ended up gaining another 400 vertical meters, it mostly contoured a beautiful hillside / cliffside for around 20 kilometers.  Below is a picture of one of the many little towns on the contouring road.  

I knew there was a fountain in Arraba, and stopped for some water here, along with a head dunk, even if the temperatures were a little cool.  I even found someone to take a picture to post on the team Facebook page, as I was wearing our full kit to represent the team.  Next up, Passo Pordoi.

The climb up Passo Pordoi is a great ride, 38 numbered switchbacks, and for here a relatively gentle grade, averaging around 7%.  The last time I rode this, it was my favorite, but today, I was pretty tired by the time I got here.  On the way up, I was definitely running out of gas, and finished the food I had with me at the bottom of the climb.  I realized I was weaving a little on the way up, so I stopped at a rifugio and got some water, a slice of excellent cake, and a cafe.  That gave me some energy!  A nice descent to the fork in the road toward Passo Sella was next.  

Almost at the top of Passo Sella, I took this picture, as the rifugio at the top was set against some of the Dolomiti formations.  Che Bella!

Passo Sella, the last pass of the day, and I was pretty darn tired at this point.  I definitely did not have my fastest times climbing either Pordoi or Sella, but was quite happy to have made it up here.  Pretty much all downhill from here, and I was feeling good.  My garmin had 3113 meters of climbing, but from doing a number of competitive rides that have the elevation surveyed, I know it is about 15% low on the vertical.  So, I think I climb 3600 meters of elevation or around 12,000 feet.  My biggest climbing day ever.  What a gift and a pleasure to be here and to have the opportunity to ride in this awesome place.  Not sure what today will bring, as it is raining lightly, but it will be a shorter ride either way.  

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