Haute Route Dolomites Stage 3
Well, if I thought that Haute Route Dolomites stage 2 was the worst, and hardest, stage I’d ridden, then I was delusional. Stage 3 was as tough as it gets. On paper, and at the briefing, if didn’t seem difficult. Things were not as they appeared. After a long day in the saddle, and seat, the previous day, I was feeling exhausted. My legs felt ok, I was just tired. My legs felt ok until I started climbing.
This was the day that altitude was messing with me. I couldn’t do anything. My heart rate would go above 140, and this impacted my power output. Oh, and my legs were shot.
It was on the first climb, the Passo del Bernina, that my room mate from the Alps passed me. I said ” I don’t think I can do this”, to which he replied ” Toughen up, sure you can”.
I cycled pretty much by myself the whole day. I was dark. The stage, once up the first climb, bounced along a ridge until you reached the pretty town of Bormio. From there all you had to do was climb the Passo dello Stelvio. Yeah, all you had to do was that. It was 20km at 7.5% climbing a total of 1500 metres. Looks pretty easy, until you put 10 days of riding into your legs.
I managed to crawl my way along the ridge line. The scenery and villages were all that were keeping me on my bike. They took away some of the pain, and desperation. The sun was shining and the fields of emeralds distracted me. I’ve climbed the Stelvio before, so I knew what lay in store. It’s a brute without 80km in your legs. And knowing that we have to climb it again made it even harder. But climb it I did.
About 3km from the top my room mate passed me on his way back down. Mark had had his lunch and was carrying his backpack down to the hotel. He shouted words of encouragement. Something along the lines of ‘you can do it. It’s only 3km to go’. What I didn’t expect was for him to turn around and cycle 2km with me. What a champion. This is why I liked the guy so much. He sacrificed rest time for helping get up that beast.
With just 1 km to go I told Mark that he should head down, and that I’d see him at the hotel. If it weren’t for him, I’m not sure I’d have stayed on the bike. But with just 1km to go, albeit at 10% gradient, I slogged my way to the top. As soon as I finished I found the bag van and headed straight back down. I then headed straight for lunch, and the race village.
In Bormio we were staying in the best of hotels, Hotel Derby. Not the most Italian sounding names. But what it lacked in name, it made up for in character, atmosphere, quality of rooms, and food. I liked this place so much that I didn’t want to leave. The hostess was a dag. She lacked height, but most certainly didn’t lack character. They’d owned the Derby since ’85, and now own 7 of the towns other hotels. She was there from the moment I awoke, until the time I went to bed. That’s a fricking long day for a woman who’d not be a day under 75. It’s a fricking long day for anyone!
Tomorrow we have the individual Time Trial. Yep, it’s back up the Stelio again. Here’s hoping I feel better.
This post was only written with the help of Mark Cozens. He was a champion and made me complete, with a time, the Haute Route Iron. Cheers Mark.
Stage position: 194
Overall Positon: 180
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