We’re getting close to the end of Haute Route Dolomites. Stage 6 goes from Bolzano to Cortina d’Ampezzo.
Saying goodbye to the industrial wasteland of Bolzano wasn’t too hard. What soon became hard was the long dull climb of the Passo Gardena. 30km neutralised, and then the real climb for another 20km. It’s not that the scenery was dull, just long wide road and quite straight at times. The tough part of the climb wasn’t the climb itself, but seeing Christian Haettich crawling along the barrier. Christian represents everything that the Haute Route stands for, tenacity! Here is a man with one leg, and half an arm. He has managed to complete almost all of the Haute Routes. He’s a Haute Route living legend. But, and it is a big but, I really didn’t enjoy passing him crawling alongside the barrier, just to get to the top of the hill. It was my problem, not his.
The second climb of the day was the climb that caught most people out, Passo Furcia, or Fucka to most that have experienced it. The stats on paper make this climb look a doddle. Don’t be fooled by stats on paper. It’s only 575 metres of climbing over 8km. Even that doesn’t sound too bad. It has an average gradient of 7.3%. Not too bad either. But a 400 metre stretch at 31.8% in the middle section took me 5 minutes to climb. I’ve never gone so slowly on my bike. I was doing fuck all of fuck all. Well, 4.5 kph with an RPM of just 45-50. That was sick.
The only benefit of such a difficult mid section is that I was able to climb a few places. See, having a 32 cassette wasn’t a bad idea, after all. I didn’t think I’d be using it until the Dolomites. Wrong. I used it everyday of the haute Route Alps, as well.
If the truth be told, I was having a personal battle with this weeks room mate. He, Stewart, was a very likeable character, but he reminded me of my father in-law. Not that my FIL is bad. I think it was Stewart’s voice that made me compete with him. He didn’t even know that I was competing with him. I have to credit Stewart with motivating me towards the end of the Haute Route. What better way than competing against someone.
Stewart was feeling ill on stage 6. I was feeling strong. So I walked it over the Fucia, then smashed it over the Tre Croci. On the long valley run in to the Tre Croci I was told that there was another rider only 100 metres back. I slowed until he managed to get on my wheel. It was obvious that he was struggling, so I pulled him for the next 40km. I’m sure he’d of done it for me. But my best reward was him coming up to me at the end and grabbing me saying “Merci, merci, merci”. Ther’s no better feeling. He couldn’t speak English. I was too tired to speak French. But I understood. Awesome. This is what the Haute Route Dolomites is all about.
So then we dropped into Cortina d’Ampezzo. What a delightful town. It’s like a very up market, and slightly bigger, Bormio. The town’s main street has been pedestrianised. This added to the charm. Coupled with the scenic backdrop of high mountains, it was beautiful. I’d love to visit in the Winter.
Stage position: 141
Position Overall: 164