Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Pietro: No Ride Photos, Just Pain But a Happy Ending

Peter, aka "Pietro", files his ninth report, now riding with the Andy Hampsten tour.

"Thursday, September 3, 2009: Day 7 Big Four Loop Ride over Four Passes including final ascent to the Marmolada; 100 km Ride, 8400 feet elevation, Passo’s Campolongo/Gardena/ Sella/Fedaia.

Weather forecast is chance of showers. The night before Andy changes start time from 8 to 9 AM so we get better idea of weather. Day is cloudy and cool. I pack my rain bag for the van with all warm stuff. I put on shoe covers, knee warmers, arm warmers along with under layer and vest. I down my last pre-race energy drink (recommended by Paolo at Chesini bike shop in Verona).

The day before, I bought bananas and cokes (no bananas at breakfast). Now I can have my coke during the rest stops.

At the start, I think I am over dressed but it is cool as we climb. Most of the passes are at 2000+ meters (OK, over 6000 feet). Alleghe (our hotel town) is at 1000 meters and the valley. Only way out is to climb.

All I can do is grind away on the climbs. The climbs are long. You pedal and at some point you can see in the distance the pass. I don’t have a computer on the bike, so I look for the signs that tell you the distance to the summit. Most of the climbs are 10-15 km. The grades vary. When I’m on the steeper grades, I always look ahead for the change to an easier grade. Occasionally, I stop for a few minutes to recover. I have to keep heart rate below 120.

It’s cold on the summits, well into the 50’s. We stop to put on our warm weather clothes at the summits. It’s cold on the descents. When we reach the bottom, we un-layer.

The picnic is at the second summit, Passo Gardena. When I reach this, I put on my winter vest and everything else to stay warm. I shove food down as best I can. Thank goodness I have coke and a banana, then some meat with apple. It’s cold so finish up, no sight seeing, no camera.

All I can say is the scenery is amazing. You look up the mountains and see these houses and towns all the way up. How do they get there? At one point, I see a gondola ride to the top of the mountain except it’s shrouded in clouds so the gondolas are going up into the clouds. It’s pretty amazing.

I know the Marmolada is our last climb but I am climbing up to Passo Fedaia so I’m thinking I have one more climb after Passo Fedaia. At the bottom, we shed some clothes and prepare to climb. It’s long with some steeper sections. As I climb, I keep thinking that we have to climb the Marmolada after Passo Fedaia. While the legs keep churning, I wonder whether I have enough left in the tank to do the Marmolada.

As I approach the summit, it starts to drizzle and I go through a series of tunnels and there is the van with Gerardo. Andy Hampsten happens to be there getting ready to move on. I tell Andy I don’t think I have the legs to do the Marmolada. Andy replies “Your on the Marmolada and it’s 30 km downhill to Alleghe”. Wow, what a surprise. Now, it’s raining harder and I suit up for the descent. That is, put all the clothes I have on and use the long fingered gloves. I’m too tired to take the shoes off to put on my water proof socks figuring my shoe covers should provide some protection. I grab a coke and sugar wafers (Ah, energy for the ride home).

Once ready, I take off in the rain and it’s a 1-2 km flat next to the lake. Then the descent starts. Actually, it’s not that bad riding in the rain. I take the turns slowly and gingerly. It’s all down hill so not much effort required. I grab views of the scenery as I descend. The water eventually gets my socks wet but it’s not that bad (water proof socks not required). I arrived back at hotel at 4:30 PM. It was a long hard day.

Once back at the hotel, everything was soaked. The warm shower felt good.

So, with astute planning, Andy has given us a taste of when he took the 1988 Giro lead in rain/sleet/snow/cold on the descent from the Gavia (OK, it was a little bit colder for Andy on that day than for us).


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