- Oct. 22, 2009
- Gary’s Adventure in the Dolomites: Day 6
More from Gary's white-road adventure in Italy. So, without further ado.
Whoa, today I looked out the window as soon as I got up and it wasn’t what I had hoped for.
Rain, and lots of it.
Through breakfast I could still see rain; it was very cold and just miserable. We got ready for our ride, hoping it would break. It actually did lighten up so off we went to climb my favorite pass—the Passo Gavia.
Today was a short day, one pass to the town of Bormio. The Gavia has so much history. When Jay and I first road it in 1986, it was unpaved with a dirt road on both sides of the pass. In 1988 they paved much of it in preparation for the Giro di Italia.
That year, history was made by Andy Hampsten, from Colorado who was the first American to win this historic grand tour. When the race reached the Gavia that day, it was snowing and the support cars could barely make it on the pass.
Many riders abandoned the race; some even got hypothermia.
Andy rode like a champion and took the leader’s Pink jersey and ended up wearing it all the way to Milan to win the entire tour.
Well, I wasn’t hoping to have a day like that in the Gavia, but it wouldn’t be the first time. I have ridden this pass about 12 times, many of which were in bad weather. In 2005, I hiked with my bike 6 kilometers in the snow to get over to Bormio.
Same thing in 1990.
Today it was sunny for the first several kilometers, but extremely windy at times; we figured around 100 kph. We got to kilometer six and a barrier on the road said “strada chiusa per neve.”
One didn’t need to understand Italian to get the translation; the road was closed because of snow. Well, that wouldn’t stop us, or perhaps it should have…
So, on we went.
There was snow on the road but not too bad; the wind was worse than the snow. Then it did start to snow as we descended the back side. And the descent being north facing was full of snow and ice in many spots. Our hands froze and our bodies started to get pretty cold. We made it to a Rifugio about three kilometers down and it looked like there was someone inside.
We got the attention of two older women through a window.
I was wondering what they were doing up there; turns out they were more wondering what we were doing up there, especially with bikes.
They opened the door and invited us in to get warm.
We stood around the wood burning stove, they fed us hot chocolate, and one of the women pointed out the photos of Andy Hampsten on the wall. He was still “the man” after 20 years.
We started to feel real good again.
Back outside and on the bikes. Down we went, still cold, sliding on the road like our bikes were skates, hands frozen again, but we made it safely to Bormio, found a great hotel, hot shower, dry clothes and a beer.
We were set.
Today was only 25 miles, but it took us almost 6 hours to get to Bormio.
It felt like the longest and hardest 25 miles I have ever road....walked, slid...skated....whoa.
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