Thursday 4th September – Stage 5: Cortina to Pozza di Fassa
Approx Stats: 175 km; 5,000 m; 10 Cols
Main climbs: Passo Giau, Passo di Valparola, Passo Gardena, Passo di Sella, Passo Pordoi, Passo di Campolungo, Passo Fedaia.
This is one of the stages that I’m most excited about, taking in the famous Sella Ronde and climbing into the core of the Dolomites. The Passo Giau, considered one of the most beautiful passes in Italy, is our opener (also described elsewhere as merciless and relentless), but what follows is mountain perfection: the Gardena and Sella passes. On the flip side, the Fedaia (Marmolada), which ends the glorious suffering (!!!???), is as brutal as they come: variously dubbed “the graveyard of [Giro] champions, the valley of death, or the corridor of fear!” Daniel Friebe’s Mountain High says the 3 km corridor between kms 9 and 12 on this 15 km climb are “one of the most feared stretches of any Italian ascent”. Thankfully, Phil Deeker says this stage is an absolute classic and the perfect way to head into our Rest Day!
Thursday – the fifth day. Which meant two things: utter weariness and just one more day until the Rest Day.
We roll out in rain and I eventually come back in the rain and the encroaching twilight, some 12.5 hours later. In between, I spent 10.5 hours in the saddle, rode 168km, climbed c.5,000m and 10 cols. As with previous stages, every emotion is experienced, every hour. Confidence, then doubt. Again and again. The rain clears at times to reveal stunning rock scenery and clouds, wraith like, on the cliff faces and in the valleys. I ride most of the day alone and just keep focused on tomorrow and the chance to ‘regroup’: clean bike, wash kit, stretch, eat, rehydrate. The final climb of the Passo Fedaia is brutal and undoes any recovery that I might have gained from last night: the final 8km averages 12%.
So, somewhat against the odds, I’m halfway through this thing. I’m in way over my head. I’ve climbed something like 28,000m in five days and covered over 1,000km. The stats tell me and my legs and weariness confirm, it’s the hardest five days of cycling I’ve ever done. Time for bed and a slight lie-in, but I’ll leave you with a few photos from the day (click on them and then use your Back button to return). Rest Day blog to follow tomorrow. Good night. SGL
P.S. Thank you hugely, seriously, for all the positive messages – I’m getting them, just unable to respond just yet.
P.P.S. Loren, Dale and I were awarded, jointly, the ‘Rider of the Day Award’ last night, for our efforts over the previous few days and our refusal to give in. Phil even went so far as to call us “hard as nails” which means a lot, coming from someone who defines the very term!