Thursday, August 11, 2011

Passo Dello Stelvio

To continue my theme of being affected by television shows, I was recently able to ride up a mountain that I have always wanted to since seeing an episode of Top Gear. 

James May, Richard Hammond and Jeremy Clarkson drive three aged supercars through some fantastic roads in Italy and Switzerland. The most spectacular of these is the Passo Dello Stelvio. It is a 25km climb that rises to 2760m above sea level and is a Mecca for cyclists and motorists. 

There are 48 hairpin turns as the road climbs it's way up towards the clouds. As you near the top, the temperature drops as snow falls year round and the air thins, making you feel light-headed. 

The views on the way up are amazing with huge mountain panorama in every direction. At the top, tourists swarm the souvenir stalls to buy some Stelvio  memorabilia and cyclists that have been caught out by the cold purchase warmer clothing for the trip back down. 

I am fortunate enough to stay at the top for two weeks of altitude training and for the past 2 days, we have woken to snow covered ground and freezing conditions. This has caused two major problems. 

At the beginning of a ride, you must put on every warm bit of clothing you have to stay warm on the way down the mountain and then we you reach the bottom you have to take it all off and carry it with you somehow. 

Secondly, staying at the top means that every ride we do finishes with a minimum 20km climb back up the mountain. Today, after 100km, I cracked with 10km to go. I crept back at snail pace and have never been happier to see a 1km to go sign. 

Tomorrow sees a planned 165km ride that includes 3 BIG mountain passes. I'm not looking forward to the last one. 

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