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Haute Route Dolomites Stage 5

This is the day that my legs decided to show up. It’s typically the time where riders start to feel tired, but after 11 other stages, my legs were starting to feel strong.

Leaving Bormio was sad, but I’ll be back. Maybe I won’t cycle on my return. It maybe that I ski. I’ll definitely stay at Hotel Derby though.

dsc_0587-3Leaving the quiet village cobbled streets of Bormio you’re straight into the start of the Gavia. This is possibly one of Europe’s best climbs. It starts winding up from Bormio at about 5-6%. It’s not until you reach Santa Catarina that you start what you’d call the real climb. From here it got steep. It never dropped below 10% for the next 12, or so, kilometres. The switchbacks made life easier, as you never get to see what’s ahead. Ignorance is bliss. The scenery is sublime. Only when we left Bormio did we actually start entering the Dolomites. The previous days had been in the Swiss and Italian Alps.

The rest/feed station at the top was a welcome sight. I gorged myself on cake and figs. The descent was fortunately neutralised. The Haute dsc_0590Route organisers do a fantastic job of deciding what can and can’t be raced. The descent of the Gavia is insane. Not only the scenery as soon as you crest, but the road is loose. The surface is not great, it’s very narrow, there are a few tunnels, and the gradient is challenging when you’ve oncoming traffic. It was the right choice, even if I didn’t think so at the time. Descents are where I’d been making up time.

On the descent is where I’d learn of my problem with cleaning my chain. I’d managed to coat the braking surface with chain cleaner. What ever you do, never do that. This, coupled with my dodgy headset, made my days racing fucking annoying. Squeaking brakes so loud that I didn’t want to race next to anyone. They alarmed other riders on the descent. I tried to chase down a Mavic car, they’re champions, but they didn’t have the equipment for the job (although the next day they serviced the bike and cleaned the rims).

My legs were still feeling much better. After stopping for about 10 minutes with Mavic, and forgetting my new Rapha Pro gloves, I headed off up the Passo del Tonale. It was a friendly beast. It’s not too high, not too steep, and not too long. It’s a great climb. It starts at Ponte di Legno. It’s only 9km long, 6.5% and only climbs 560 metres. It’s a cracker. Everything about this climb was great. Legs still feeling strong.

From the top it was an easy descent albeit 55 km to the base of the next climb. It would’ve been great if I could have found a suitable bunch. This is where being in the middle of the pack is hard. Once again I found myself unable to find suitable riders to race with. Most too fast, lots too slow. At this stage I wish I’d dropped more weight, and did more climbing. You simply don’t know, what you don’t know.

dsc_0595It was fast and furious all the way to the finish line. Up and over the Passo della Mendola. A great little finishing hill. I crossed the line a happy chappy. Then came the hardest part of the day. The descent into Bolzano started off easily enough. Then a few riders, me included, lost the signs to find the race village.

We dashed through the suburbs of Bolzano with absolutely no idea if we were going in the right direction. Through tunnels, passing allotments, almost through people’s back yards. All of a sudden we saw a sign. Bang, we were on the right track. Eventually we made it to the village.

Later, the briefing, we were told that some of the locals had removed the signs. That confusion saw most of the peloton spread across the city. At the end off a long stage it was all we needed. That day was definitely type two fun. The only saving grace is that our hotel was near the village, and that it was a great little hotel, except for food punctuality! It was the signage that really let this stage down. A first world problem, most definitely!

Stage Position: 161

Overall Positon: 174



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