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Maratona Tour – Day 4 (Pinei and Sela)

Jul 7th, 2011 | By | Category: Blog, Travel
Today’s Distance: 70.4 KM
Total Distance for the Trip So Far: 268.5 KM
Today’s Climbing: 2,318 meters
Total Climbing for the Trip So Far: 6,075 meters
Today’s Kit: Republic of Anaerobia (Veni, Vidi, Vomiti)

NOTE: Scroll all the way to the bottom for photos and maps/metrics from today’s ride.

Before leaving Bolzano we participated in a Ciclismo Classico tradition: the transfer of the capelino. The capelino is a white cycling cap with the tre colori of Italy striped down the middle from front to back. On the first day of the trip, the capelino is given by the guides to a deserving person for whatever reason they see fit. On subsequent days, the recipient of the capelino is decided by the current holder. I received the capelino yesterday from Bettina, in appreciation for my stopping on the Stelvio to give her a Clif bar and for allowing her to use one of my jackets on the descent (her luggage was lost on its way here). Today, I gave the capelino to Jacob who, prior to two months ago, was a marathon runner and not a cyclist. He is doing very well on this trip and I wanted to recognize his efforts by writing on the capelino, ‘To Jacob. From marathon to Maratona.’

Once the briefing and capelino ceremony were behind us we had one more thing to do before leaving Bolzano. One of the participants wanted to get a glimpse of the Bolzano Museum of Modern Art, with its glass facade and twisty glass bridges. A few photos later, we were finally on the road to Canazei via two passes, the Passo Pinei and the Passo Sella (the latter is part of Sunday’s Maratona). Just like when I rode my bike on the big island of Hawaii, today’s ride was all up.

It was a cloudy day today, as you’ll see from the photos below, and Enrico says that if the weather had been clear we would have been bowled over by the views. The clouds kept the temperatures down, but the humidity was high, so it was another sweaty day. The Pinei was difficult in spots, but there were brief respites that helped quite a bit. At one point, Enrico stopped the van at a wide bend in the road for everyone to replenish food and water. Just past the bend was a road with a sign indicating that it was a 28% grade. Every person who arrived was told that was the way we were going next, and most believed for the briefest of moments until the oxygen returned to their brains and common sense set in. We all took pictures anyway, planning to tell our riding buddies about the 28% grade we tackled in Italy. Shh! Don’t let the cat out of the bag.

From the top of the Pinei we had a brief descent before beginning the Passo Sella. A few kilometers into the climb we stopped in Santa Cristina for lunch, one of the two lunches on the trip hosted by Ciclismo Classico. Santa Cristina is a small ski village with a warm ambience, lots of shops and restaurants and a full complement of lodging choices. It reminded me of Le Grand Bornand in the French Alps; I would love to return to either place with my family someday for a ski vacation. I had risotto with asparagus and mushrooms for lunch, which helped soothe my tired body and bring it back to what felt like full strength, but once back on the bike and climbing Passo Sella, it sat in my gut like a rock. In retrospect, I probably should have just had pizza.

The Passo Sella was brutal and beautiful, as the climb was unrelenting until the summit, while the clouds revealed the scenery we had all come to enjoy. I was relieved and elated to reach the top, lingering long enough for the obligatory photo with the summit marker sign, as well as several other shots of the surrounding beauty. I have never seen anything like The Dolomites before and despite the pain and suffering, I am glad I came.

It was an 11 km descent to Canazei and then a 3 or 4 km slight rise to our hotel. Once again, Ciclismo Classico has outdone themselves with this evening’s lodgings at the Hotel La Cacciatora. This is another four star hotel with a beautiful room with wood paneling, moulding and ornate ceilings. My room has a flower box lined balcony that overlooks the parking area and the nearby mountains. Our four course dinner (after a tour of the wine cellar where we saw €1,200+ bottles of wine) included a salad bar, and I had (in order of appearance) the smoked meat plate, tagiatelle in venison sauce, grilled rabbit with a potato pancake, and cherry strudel with ice cream. Yes I am full, and no I do not feel guilty considering all the calories I am burning each day.

Tomorrow is another tough day as we go over two more Maratona climbs, the Falzarego and the Valparola, and we’ll also do Passo Fedaia.

One more note. As you may know, the Maratona has three courses: the Sella Ronda (55 km + 1,780 m), the Percorso Medio (106 km + 3,090 m), and the Percorso Maratona (the big banana at 138 km + 4,190 m). Based on my performance on this week’s tour so far, I am nearly 100% certain that I will not attempt to tackle the Percorso Maratona. I am going to shoot for the Percorso Medio and either complete it, bail on it for the Sella Ronda, or decide at the bailout point to continue on with the Maratona. Time will tell.


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