Sunday 7th September – Stage 7: Levico Terme to Castelvecchio
Approx Stats: 174 km; 4,900 m; 15 Cols
Main climbs: Passo Cost, Passo Vezzana, Passo Coe, Passo di Borcola, Pian della Fugazze, Passo del Zovo.
This stage begins ‘hard’ with another of the steeper climbs of the route: 8 km of 10-12% on an extraordinary rode carved into the mountainside. It takes us up to the Passo Vezzana in a truly dramatic fashion. This is one of the most remote stages, with several wooded climbs on narrow, deserted roads and more endless views across wooded expanses. It also has an uphill finish: a steep climb up to the tiny village of Castelvecchio. This was baptised ‘Little Zoncolan’ by the CCC 2012 riders: we have been duly warned!
Another incredibly tough day. 2.5km out of the door and we hit the stunning, but super hard climb of the Passo Cost: c.10km at 10% average. It’s a bad way to warm up and I reintroduce all my usual niggles and pains, plus a new one in my left calf when I climb out of the saddle. Mentally, I start to have doubts again and I seem very low on energy generally. But, I stick to the adage ‘eat, drink and spin’ and the belief that things might get better at some stage. The roads are remote, the routing unlikely but brilliant and gradually, I come to life – a little! The sun’s also shining and we’re heading south into warmer places, which all helps my general mood. Loren keeps me company as usual, with pains of his own to carry along with him.
Some 11+ hours later, we finally make it to the foot of the final climb to Passo Marana, with it’s 17% ramps. It’s a brutal way to finish. Up in my hotel room, I notice my knees are swollen on the inside – never seen that before. I rub Deep Relief into them, elevate them for a while and then head down to dinner.
Success is still very uncertain – I’ve never had swollen knees before, the next two stages are desperately hard and long (lights almost certainly needed). My body may be beginning to shut down – but only time will tell. As evidence of the cumulative effects on the body, two more riders abandoned today – both of whom had looked way stronger than me up to this point. Another left the event altogether – the third to do so in two days.
Time for stretching and sleep – if I can get through it, tomorrow could be depressingly long!