Giro Stage 20: One man, one insufficient bicycle and 5 whopping great mountains in every possible weather

Today the cyclist was adamant to set off early as he was expecting 10 hours in the saddle. In fact our journey from the start to the finish was 11.5 hours taking in the puncture very early on and the two sandwich stops so he could refuel. Also there were the minutes taken by putting on or taking off extra layers depending on the sun, snow, climbing or descending. In each case I have layers ready and have warmed them by putting the heater on full for the footwells and strategically placing clothes and shoes so they are dried or warmed.

We missed breakfast at the hotel. I saw it. It was all laid out very well and I smelt the warming bread and croissant as I asked for my ice packs back. The cyclist did say that I could stay and take breakfast on my own and try to catch he up later. That as an offer but just wasn’t going to ever happen was it?

So I stopped to fill with diesel at the first fuel station as I knew there was a trek ahead of us into the mountains, and I had the trusted Special K bar with a sip of the tea from my mug. Thank heaven for Costco thermal mugs. Not only do they see me I to work and through my morning meetings, but with two I make a tea (to drink first) and a coffee (to get me through midday) or save it for those snowy rainy mountains when the cyclist is in need of warmth more than I need to stay awake.

There was a puncture within the first miles (I am not sure how many but it wasn’t far), and the cyclist was upset to day the least. I kept a low profile and handed tools etc as required. We were on our way again but we were both. Little fraught shall we say. Both of us were concerned about losing each other which added to the tetchiness. In fact it wasn’t long before we did. It was a straight road and I was less than a mile in front and I went down the hill through two long tunnels. I waited and waited at the bottom. There was abridge next to a hotel where he and his motorbike friends have sat having coffee. I knew he would like a photo of him going under the bridge and I had positioned myself to get the perfect shot.

After 15 minutes I got back in the car back up the hill for a couple of miles. Luckily when his Garmin had navigated him off so he didn’t have to do the tunnels he decided to sit and wait. That was the best thing to do so we were together again but it had wasted precious time. In the big town we lost each other again. Oh god. I waited, then went on a bit, then went, then on again and this time he was retracing his steps in the opposite direction. The cyclist suggested a stop to re group and so he could have a sandwich. He knew that if the mountains were open they were all tough especially the Passo Giau which was the third of the mountains. Like all mountains they have a steep side and a one that is slightly easier. All the climbs today were on the steep side and the Giau would be hard. The fifth has an 18% average for about 8km to the top. So Obviously some parts were steeper. The photos here do not do it any justice.

After the sandwich stop the sun began to shine and the cyclist was cycling well though he didn’t fly up the first climb. That was a tactic as why blow all your energy when the worst is yet to come. Today would be the last of the mountains for the Italian Giro tour so I made sure I took lots of pictures. For my blog, for the website and for us to look at whe we get home and have time to reflect over where we have been and what we have seen. At the moment we have a quick loom at photos at night, pick a couple and do it all again the day after so we haven’t had time to really appreciate and reflect on everything.

The cyclist was both happy and gutted when the Passo Giau was open. As that meant he had to cycle it. He wanted to do it of course, but he knew it wou.d hurt and take a Monmouth effort. On went the arm and leg warmers as the temperature dropped as we climbed. It was slow. Really slow but that is so easy for me to say when I am not having to pedal. The rain caught us. I video’d him from the car, doing this steep climb, along to the Andre Boccelli track. It was quite moving filming it actually as I knew that his heart was on the floor as he wanted his other cycle and this one’s gears kept slipping so he couldn’t go any quicker. He said that his face had never felt so cold, the rain stung his face like pins being stuck in and the wind was blowing as it had most days. At this point I was a little overcome with emotion. He had come so far, overcome everything the Giro and Italy had thrown at him but he was doing his favourite Dolomites without his oomph.

It showed in the pictures and stopping at the top to have a photo with the sign at the top was a forced smile for the camera. When we got ourselves down a s through Cortina, the Giro through its usual sting in the tail. It was getting late but we had two more climbs. The clouds were closing and he was predicting a late finish. Oh dear.

For the 4th climb it seemed to me like all his will and energy had gone. There was no bounce in his peddling. It was steep. Yes I know I have said that before but until you have seen it with your eyes and the road just goes up and up relentlessly it is hard to appreciate I know. At the top it flattened out and it was blowing a gale and raining. There was a lake which looked quite nice but there was no time for stopping for photos with the cyclist. The worst was yet to come. Along we went then up again. The snow became more apparent again as we climbed. Then we came to a barrier. As I approached I wondered if it was a border but it was a pay station as the last climb was in a private road. The guy said it was €22 to go the last bit. The cyclist could go but I had no cash. After a bit of time he let me through for nothing. I wasn’t about to suffer the worry like when he left me at a barrier last Sunday.

Oh my if we thought the other climbs were steep they had nothing on this. The road was deserted at 6.30pm it had began to get darker as the black clouds came over. I have no idea what the cyclist was using to get himself up that mountain. It was Freezing, blowing, snowing and was at freezing point. His Garmin said -2 so with the wind chill factor on top at over 2300meters you may be able to I agile how cold it was. He couldn’t talk to me as I took photos, I just kept telling him he was nearly there and other words of encouragement. I was cold but he was like a solid block of ice. His legs turned pedals slowly and he his chanting to keep himself going had even stopped. To be honest the snow was bitter and I wanted this day to be over. Because when it was over, it wouldn’t be over. There was a 3 hour drive back down the mountains towards Venice for the third time.

At the top I video’d the last bit for him. He was so cold and knackered. We got the bike strapped on the back of the car, now having to use an electrical cable I had got to strap the wheels from moving. I made his protein shake and got him warm clean clothes out and bundled him into the car. I had programmed the hotel into the sat nav and it said a 10.45 pm arrival. Great.

However I had to get us of this god forsaken mountain in fading light and freezing snow on the road. Going up is one thing but descending with ice on the road is another. The cyclist keeled over in the car and just flopped. Could get nothing out of him for a few minutes. He was so co.d and devoid of any energy he just went. The heater was on but I was all wrapped up in layers so I was roasting with the heater going. It was probably the worst experience of the whole tour.

At the bottom of that pass he had begun to warm up and come round. Now to get down from the fourth mountain as we were still 1800 meters up. I drove as fast as I could safely. The cyclist was not best pleased with this so I knew that he had begun to come back round properly. We agreed that he could start to drive when He had had something to eat and drink. I really really didn’t want to be getting off mountains in the dark. Especially when I have only had 5hours sleep the night before. I don’t like driving when I am tired. The lights coming the other hurt my eyes. It was then he o,d me that the Professionals the week before ad only done the first and fifth climbs as the middle 3 were closed due to snow. Well that means he did 3 more than they did and as he pointed out, they get paid for it. Well he could have said let’s stop, but that gene was missed out of his DNA makeup. He says it isn’t his legs that matter on days like today, it’s the mind that gets you through it. I’m sure the physiologist will have a thing or two to say on that?

Eventually I gave in and let him take over. He was tired, I know, but he wanted to drive then I could navigate in the dark. We made good time and got to our hotel about 10.40pm and it was about 11pm when we got to the room. The cyclist raided the cool box and I made him tea. Once again the cool box came to the rescue. I had only had a couple of Madelienes and some Haribo but I had what was left after the cyclist as I am very aware that he needs to eat way more than I do. Especially today as I was unsure if he sould be able to do the ride tomorrow. He was as empty as he could be. Nothing left. So basically I broke a bit of Emmental cheese and 4 mini salami. I would never eat them normally but that doesn’t mean I would eat bugs and grubs like they do on those nature shows. The cyclist sorted himself out by having a shower while I got all the stuff sorted for the morning. When he was warmed and cleaned by the shower he checked the distances for the final stage in the morning. He had convinced himself it was 80 miles but unfortunately to his dismay it was 100 miles with a 5 hour dive to our hotel afterwards.

We were both bouncing off the ceiling after all the adrenalin and neither if us could sleep before 1am. Another early start was called for if we didn’t want a late night repeat so eventually we turned the lights off in what can only be described as a room that the sixties forgot that you couldn’t swing a cat in.

9 Responses

  1. Mind over matter sometimes Kay! It’s a special and admirable thing to be able to keep going when your legs don’t want too….. I’m going to talk to him about UMCA, on the basis of what he’s done in the past month he would do well in it!

  2. Thanks Phil. I hope you like boiled eggs and madeleines as they are staple foods to keep you going up those climbs.

  3. Boiled eggs?? Madeleines – maybe. Nutri-grain bars are good. I shall have a stash with me.

  4. That isn’t all he eats Phil. I am a dab hand at keeping the Cyclist fuelled, especially as what he loves one day changes the next. However I was determined not to eat pasta in between tours.

  5. We are stocked up with Naked Bars. Pure fruit only, tasty and easy to eat while cycling up mountains.