Saturday 6th September – Stage 6: Pozza di Fassa to Levico Terme
Approx Stats: 191 km; 5,150 m; 11 Cols
Main climbs: Passo di San Pellegrino, Passo di Valles, Passo Rolle, Passo di Primadiccio, Passo di Lavazé, Passo Manghen.
‘Fresh’ from our rest day we climb the San Pellegrino on its easy side, but then the Valles makes up for this ‘soft’ climb by throwing five km of 9-11% at us. True ‘Dolomite character’. After this climb, we begin to pull away from the mineral heart of the Dolomites as we head along ridges that offer superb views across wooded valleys towards the Swiss Alps. Towards the end of this stage the Passo Manghen (yet more Giro history embedded in that name), steals the show with a climb to match any other on the whole route.
BLOG POST: Getting Back to Business
5.45am: Jim, my room mate, wakes me up and the next instalment of our Italian odyssey is underway.
7.30am: we roll out and down the valley for about 5km, before our first climb starts. I feel pretty achey and my legs definitely aren’t working well. I adjust my saddle height slightly and settle into the climb, but seem to pretty instantly be dead last on the road. I pass one guy, half way up, who later abandons – he’s picked up a chest infection. The sun is shining, but it’s only 6 degrees C.
9.00am: I’m still dead last, but I can see other riders in the distance, so I’m not unduly worried. I feel like I’m riding OK and have also reminded myself that I often feel a bit creaky for a few hours after a rest day.
10.00am: I start the ‘out and back’ climb of the Passo Rolle (an out and back climb is where we deviate from the main route, to climb a specific col/pass and then descend the same road to rejoin our main route). A couple of the front riders pass me going the other way and I check my watch – it turns out they’re already 35 minutes ahead of me!
10.15am: I think of my family and tears start rolling down my cheeks! Senses and feelings get very ‘heightened’ in events like these (the same happened to me a couple of times on the Tour in 2012). Fortunately I’m on my own, so no one notices!
10.25am: Passo Rolle summit – stunning scenery.
10.35am: first feedstop and Loren’s waited for me. Star.
1.30pm: lunch on top of the Passo di Lavaze.
5.00pm: we start the longest/hardest climb of the day (with 150km ridden and 4,000m of climbing already under our belts): the Passo Manghen. It’s hard, long, densely wooded until the last few km, the road is super-narrow and it’s one of the best climbs I’ve ever done. I even feel good enough to ‘ride’ a little, just for shorts stretches. The descent is technical and long. I ask Phil, who’s following me, what I might improve and he says I should try to lower my centre of gravity more and suggests I watch Cancellara for an example of how well a big guy can go downhill.
7.15pm: the finish. It’s not dark and nor is it raining! Gosh, I’m slightly stunned! Over half way.
9.30pm: briefing for tomorrow and a sad goodbye to two guys who both abandoned today and head home tomorrow. Some very tough climbs ahead, so no complacency.
P.S. My ‘Rider of the Day’ award from Stage 4 – thx Phil, very kind. I was really just being stubborn!