Off the top this was an epic day – not so much in distance as we only did about 67km, but the riding, the views, the climbing and descents were superb.
• Giro Stage 19 – many many kms of going uphill, and a real kick in the canustas…
• Here’s the layout of the stage steep stuff.
We joined the good guys at Nonstop Ciclismo for our stay in the Dolomites, and while the group headed out for a fine day of climbing 4 passes, our route went from our hotel at Cesa-Padon in Livalungo, heading downhill for about 30 minutes – but no pedaling meant no real warmup. The views of the valley are spectacular and enough to keep you distracted from what lays ahead. The location here is outstanding for it’s central location and access to so many super climbs in the Dolimites.
• The views all along this valley are amazing – like this to the southeast overlooking the town of Digonera. We’re heading through it and out the bottom of the valley, but first we checked out the church in the foreground, and it’s memorial to the 5500 men of the region who lost their lives in World War I. The cross shaped structure in front of the church contains markers with pictures and names for many of the men.
• The bottom slopes of the Marmolada pull no punches…the first pitches hit 8%, and after the long descent to get there, seem a lot steeper.
• The road climbs into the village of Col di Rocca, at a mild 6%, where a bunch of wacky sculptures were more than enough reason to pull over and snap a few pics.
• A slight deviation at the town of Sottoguda reveals a 2-3 km ‘shortcut’ through a canyon… the final slopes are out-of-the-saddle steep before you rejoin the main road – but well worth it.
• Just after Sottoguda, you catch the main road and look up… waaaaaay up at the Marmolada. We goin up! Our route takes us counterclockwise around and over the mountain. Dead ahead is a long steep straight section that is damn hard… as much for the grade as for the long visual – so you see just how far you have to go…
• Around halfway up the climb, we’ve just come through about 3km of 10-11%, with pitches up to 15%, and the straight stretch ahead runs at average 12%. Relief comes at the switchbacks to the left, where the grade eases back to around 8-9%. This section pummels you – we slogged at around 10kmh, heavy breathing, and bottom gear pushing all the way.
• The numbers don’t lie. The VDO MC1.0+ dutifully reports the news of the minute: 16% grade, 1742 meters, speed 8kmh, and 20C degrees. I don’t recommend riding a grade like this with one hand….
• After some super nasty steepness, heartrates and breathing got back to normal in the safety of the switchbacks… but only for a minute…
• No Laughing Matter. In the 11th km, the final pitch hits 15% – we’re talking bottom gear and WORKING it just to move forward. Not even the new Pez “Under The Big Top” legwarmers could make me smile at this point.
• The top of the Passo Fedaia is a rather low key affair – no monuments – but this manmade lake is kinda cool, and even hosts a wartime museum. It actually comes sooner than expected, as you grunt through this last pitch, round a right hander, and there you are.
• The top is chilly – good time to pull on the vest for the descent. After a quick espresso it’s time to snap in for a tasty 10km drop to the valley town of Canazei. Watch out for the moto-guys – they’re all over the mountains and love scream by.
ONTO THE PORDOI!
Feeling pretty chuf with ourselves after a tough climb and cool descent, and quick stop to choke back our pre-made panini, we were back at it for another 11.80 km, gaining 774m and a more reasonable 6.6% gradient. The Passo Pordoi is a GREAT climb – gorgeous curvy switchbacks, grades you can ride and feel good about, and some huge views make it worth doing again. Check out the photos…
• The town of Canazei sits in the valley below the Passo Fedaia and Passo’s Sella and Pordoi. If you haven’t noticed by now, the views all over are stunning.
• About 5km from the top the forest thins out and the imposing Sella range becomes even more… imposing.
• Into the alpine at the top – 2200 meters high – you’re at the top of the Dolomites and the tifosi are well into setting up camp for tomorrow’s stage.
• Now this is more like it – a summit with meaning. The monument to Fausto Coppi is an excellent spot for some self-congratulation and portraiture.
• All downhill from here: Looking back towards home from the top of the Pordoi. Many switchbacks, a bit too much traffic, and 15 or so kms of descending to take us back to the hotel.
What’s next for PEZ? Tomorrow we make the transfer to Aprica, where we’ll catch the stage 19 action from the bar, recovering from today and psyching up for our planned assault over the Gavia and Mortirolo on Saturday. Stay tuned for more…