Let’s first start this post with a shout out to yet another road angel. While I was hiking (I’ll get to that later) up the first pass, Christian pulled up in his car and yelled ‘Aahh, Transcontinental!’. He then offered me all kinds of things I couldn’t accept, like taking my bags up the mountain in his car etc. But then he asked me if I wanted to come to his farm 4km up the road for some food. In the back of my head I knew I shouldn’t lose too much time today, but I also already knew what kind of day this would be, and I might as well make full use of this beautiful side that is also part of the Transcontinental.
We agreed he would wait for me near his house and I cheerfully took off with a beautiful tumble to the tarmac. Still not sure what happened there, but it was one of those moments where I knew I would hit the ground well before it happens. Yes, I know how to put up a good show. Nothing serious, but at that point I was OK with him loading up my bike in his car and be driven to his house, as long as he would take me back to that exact same spot to continue the journey by the rules.
His farm was absolutely amazing and his wife presented me with a great pasta lunch. They even offered me to have a swim, which was very tempting, but I knew I shouldn’t wait too long before hitting the road again, so passed up on that opportunity. I’m extremely grateful for their hospitality! They also rent out apartments, so if you’re interested: Brentwaldhof . If anyone reading this could book an apartment there, I would feel like I’ve returned the favor. 🙂
Let me also briefly mention Stefano and Lorenzo, whom I met while I was fueling up for the Ofenpass, and recognized me as a TCR rider as soon as they saw my setup and cap.They’re very experienced Italian randonneurs themselves, so they were highly interested in the race. We chatted for a little bit, took some photos (but on their phone) and then we took off in opposite directions. It’s a really special and beautiful thing to meet strangers this way!
But back to business…
This morning I had a bit of a late start. I thoroughly rinsed my clothes yesterday evening (the benefit of which is already long gone after today) and they didn’t completely dry overnight. And besides that, I accidentally ended up in a hotel suite bigger than my apartment the night before. I got it at a good deal, because I was so late, but I still paid a lot more than budgeted for, so I felt it was necessary to splurge on their breakfast buffet. I took my sweet time with bread and meat, scrambled eggs, apfelstrudel, yoghurt with fresh melon (which reminded me of the two half melons that are still in my fridge in Amsterdam and may now have grown a pair of limbs, or whatever melons do after a while), and hot chocolate and coffee. I could hardly stand op straight afterwards. And then I spent an hour blow drying my clothes, and even contemplated waiting for the whirlpool to open at 10am. But I knew very well that would be overdoing it.
So it was an easy morning and the spin from Merano to Bolzano was a slightly downhill one, only spoiled by my intermezzo with Laurel and Hardy. Two middle aged men were looking all soigné on their bikes, but were cruising along with a tempo of 20km/h. As soon as I passed them, they sprinted to get in my wheel. I hate it when people start drafting me uninvited, so I forced them to pass me again by completely slowing down. But as soon as they were in front of me, they went back in cruise control. So I passed them again, and you can guess it, they started drafting. This repeated twice before I yelled some obscenities to them and seriously picked up some speed, which finally made them get the hint. It was lovely being aggressive on the road again, almost made me feel like I was riding in Amsterdam!
All this time my legs showed no extra signs of fatigue. They have been heavy and stiff for days, but were completely cooperative. It was only when the first of three cols presented itself today I could almost literally feel all the juice flow out of my legs. They were just done. Done done done. I forced them, begged them, bribed them, scared them, tricked them, but they were having none of it. After several attempts in maybe 500m it was clear, I was gonna have to walk up the pass. I was hoping at some point it would get a bit flatter, or I would feel better and give it a go again, but neither really happened and I guestimate I walked about 80 or 90% of the uphill parts today. It was yet another lesson in humility by the mountains and resulted in yet another quite embarrassing Strava ride. Surprisingly I still got 90km done, but I still have the Passo San Pellegrino and the Passo Giau left for tomorrow.
But at least I was having a good time. Half the time I spent laughing myself in the face for being such a smug little idiot, thinking I’d be able to do this and the other half I spent genuinely enjoying the beautiful surroundings and views. The road was mostly quiet and shady, so it was as enjoyable as pushing your bike will ever get. It’s a lot easier to interrupt your walk to take a photo, than it is to interrupt your ride. I was in touch with Henning and Franziska throughout the day, who are both a bit further up the route and they were experiencing the same difficulties, so that was a relief. And on the upside, I got quite good at pushing my bike up a steep slope. Plus, even more important, the dot is still moving! I think I’m still in the race for top 200. The mountains may have gotten me on my knees, but I’m not defeated just yet.