Sunday 31st August – Stage 1: San Pellegrino Terme to Pieve di Ledro
Approx Stats: 198 km; 4,800 m; 12 Cols
Main climbs: Passo di Zambla, Passo San Zeno, Passo di Maniva, Passo di Ampola
And so it all begins, just as it’s likely to continue for the next ten days: just 4 km after setting off from San Pellegrino, we hit our first climb. And it’s 26 km long (!) – the Passo di Zambla – sending us on our way to Lovere, on the beautiful Lago Iseo for our first feedstop (there are 3 feedstops each day, at c. 50 – 60 km intervals). The Passo San Zeno comes next, a 17 km climb. But the real feature of the day is the Passo Maniva. It’s a 30 km climb and we cross the summit via ‘strada bianci’ (Italian for gravel track – seriously). This is a very remote, wild, barren, but beautiful place. I’ve only been here once before, in June 2013 and there was a foot of fresh snow…
Once back on tarmac, we descend for 30 km (one of the rewards for all the effort), passing through the amazing hillside town of Bagolino, famous for its cheese. We then pass the Lago di Ledro and climb over the Passo di Ampola to reach our first stage finish. Phil Deeker, the man behind the Cent Cols Challenge, describes this as “a stunning opening stage.”
STAGE ONE BLOG:
Sunday 31st August, 3.00am: thunder, lightning and a massive storm raging outside. Deep sigh.
6.05am: alarm call. It’s still raining. Hard.
6.30am: breakfast: but no muesli 🙁 It’s stopped raining though 🙂
7.30 am: roll out. The sticker on my top tube tells me what’s coming for the day.
9.30am: a road ahead is closed. We’ve detoured and done another climb, plus an extra 27km. Keep calm, let Phil (Deeker) handle the problems and just focus on riding your bike.
11.00am: ah. Delayed by, of all things, a bike race!
1.00pm: the Passo San Zeno was hard – narrow, poorly surfaced and consistently steep. Lunch is fish. But I’m allergic to fish. I skip lunch. But will almost certainly pay the price later.
1.30pm: the descent off the San Zeno is narrow, rough and scary. My bike is the perfect weapon though. I’m the only one on disc brakes and everyone is jealous 🙂
3.00pm: the Maniva and I’m struggling. All the signs of an impending meltdown. I stop for an espresso, drop off the back of the group I’m with and settle into my own personal battle. A Bounce Ball (google it – a small ball of peanut protein) actually saves me in the end – it’s substantial enough to pull me out of my misery and I reach the top feeling significantly better.
4.00pm: it’s not really a road. It’s a track. A rocky one. Don’t look down, don’t fall off. Cyclocross and mountain bike skills coming in handy. No normal bike event could go here, but this is a Deeker event and he can do what he likes. Brilliant and again, I’m on the perfect bike (short of a mountain bike)!
4.15pm: the descent: technical as hell, scary as hell, back wheel in the air, front wheel sliding. My 9 year old daughter told me before I left “not to die, not to fall off and not to strain any muscles!” I’m in what Deeker calls ‘The Box’ and doing my best to stick to Annie’s instructions. I succeed, just.
4.30pm: final feed stop. Just 30km to go and one more 8km climb.
6.30pm: done. Jeez. Nine more days of this?