We’re now a week in the race, and quite the week! I was going to do a little bit of reflection on the entire week, but this past day was so damn intense, that it currently occupies my entire memory. I started this post last night, but fell asleep halfway in.
Strava tells me we’ve only managed to ride 89km at a painstakingly slow moving pace of 11,4km/h. But I’m still surprised we (Henning and me) managed to do that much, because we still had 2/3 of the parcour to do, but the Alps didn’t seem to like our presence very much and continuously spit us in the face. The average temperature was 11 degrees, with a minimum of 2 degrees.
The alarm in my nun’s cell yesterday morning went at 6am, when it was raining very hard. The deal was if it was still raining, we would allow ourselves some extra sleep. I got to reset the alarm to 730, still raining. So Henning said he wanted to try and score a poncho somewhere, but of course the shops wouldn’t open til 9am. Hop, back to bed for another hour, enjoy our complementary breakfast and to the shop.
It was quite nice to have an easy morning like that and as a bonus it stopped raining when we left. That first part up the pass was like a fairytale! I’m pretty sure I saw a troll washing himself in a waterfall and elves playing hide and seek down the valley.
But the higher we climbed, the further we got into the low hanging clouds. And the clouds brought their friend rain, who brought his girlfriend wind. The wind was so strong that I nearly got knocked of the bike twice before I deemed it too dangerous to continue riding. Problem was, up there was actually NOTHING to take shelter, so the only option was to keep pushing the bike. But even that proofed very difficult when another gush of wind came by. Henning was already further up the road out of sight, so I was just hoping for a message he was drinking coffee somewhere, because that would mean the end was near. I actually posted a video on the Transcontinental Race FB page to show everyone what was up (this page is by the way a wonderful resource for those of you who got hooked on dot watching and would also like to get some news from other racers). Video Grimselpas
The plan was to warm up a bit before descending, but the restaurant owner on top of the pass wasn’t very welcoming. Back on the bike it was, getting down to Gletch and get a real lunch. The descent was extremely difficult due to the rain and especially the wind trying to push you over the cliff in the switchbacks. So we had to take it really easy, which meant braking a lot, which meant very frozen hands when we got down. We took our time a bit to get warmed up and dry our kit as much as we could before the Furka pass.
Luckily the Furka pass was a lot less bad, although the wind was still really strong on top. But altogether it was a lot more doable, Henning just felt bad for me that I didn’t get to see the pretty views. I still think they were very nice though, just in a different way.
This descent was more or less the same story, especially the wetness of the road really forced us to be extra careful. It didn’t matter too much, we were already congratulating each other for having this ridiculously steep part behind us. We decided to have food in Andermatt, which was by then only a flat 9km away. But just out of nowhere it started to piss down and strong headwinds came up. We just cracked on as quickly as I could, but it did feel like a bit of a slap in the face from the weather gods.
Turns out, it wasn’t the last thing they had in store for us. While having schnitzel dinner in Andermatt we decided to reserve a hotel in Disendis, 20km further up the road, which seemed to be the only somewhat reasonably priced hotel in the area. 20km wasn’t too far, but we knew there was still the annoying little Oberalp pass in the way. It’s only 6km long, but it was 830pm, so we quickly had to get going.
Turned out, the ascent wasn’t too bad, but we underestimated what it would do to us mentally to have yet another climb late at night when you’re just ready for a shower and a bed. Also, darkness fell completely before we were well on top, and the little drizzle started to get worse. When we finally reached the top, I think it was a little before 930pm, we passed a hotel. Henning suggested to stop there, but I just felt like continuing to a place where we were assured of a bed. Big big mistake! The road was pitch pitch black and the rain was getting worse and colder. Where we usually would have been able to use the descent to cover the distance in no time at all, we were really forced to slow down to probably 15km/h. The road never seemed to end, it was so so cold, we were so so wet, and the end never seemed to come in sight. Going back wasn’t an option, because it would mean yet another climb, so the only thing we could do was keep going until we found shelter. I was really a bad place at that time, not only because my hand and feet were about to fall off my body but also because I felt so stupid and guilty for making us descend in conditions like that.
By that time we both agreed we would take whatever next hotel would take us, at whatever price, and forget about the hotel we already reserved. I was at a near mental breakdown and so so so cold. Poor Henning was probably having a hard time putting up with me at that point, I hope he realizes that I was in fact very grateful that he was with me yesterday.
Finding another hotel wasn’t that easy, because as we already noticed when looking for a hotel earlier that night, a lot of them were fully booked, and were turned down three times before we found one with available rooms. It was like a damn oasis! The hotel is really nice, and expensive, but not outrageously. Besides, it had a wellness shower and I took full and long use of that. I could easily stay here another 3 or 4 nights. By this time I felt like getting under the covers, but I decided to have another drink with Henning at the bar, just to have a wind down and also to try and be good company after being the witch I was earlier.
So of course, as always, all ended well. But it was a hard time getting there. I promised myself I would only get going if all my clothes were dry, so I will soon check their state and then we’ll see what the plan for today is. Probably taking it easy a little bit, to give the body a bit of time to rest. Will keep you posted as always!