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Maratona Tour – Day 5 (Fedaia, Falzarego, Valparola)

Jul 8th, 2011 | By | Category: Blog, Travel
Today’s Distance: 65.9 KM
Total Distance for the Trip So Far: 334.4 KM
Today’s Climbing: 1,836 meters
Total Climbing for the Trip So Far: 7,911 meters
Today’s Kit: Alpe d’Huez Jersey

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

Last night while I was working on the blog, my friend Carlton Reid @’ed me on Twitter to ask how the weather has been on the trip. Just then the rain began, followed by thunder and lightning. I kid you not. It rained much of the night.

This morning we awoke to mostly cloudy skies, but thankfully no rain. We had a nice breakfast at the Hotel La Cacciatoria (amazing coffee!) and went outside for our pre-ride briefing. Our jaws dropped when we looked at the route profile for the day. It showed three climbs, but the one in the middle was listed as 14.6% average (average, mind you!) grade. Enrico and Massimo ensured all of us that this was a mistake, but I for one was not sure until we reached our hotel in Corvara at the end of the day. Thankfully, it was a mistake.

But we did still have three big climbs. The first was Passo Fedaia, and the climbing began in less than a 1 km ride from our hotel. It was a 9+ km climb with an average grade of 5.8% and, truth be told, while it was difficult and I did climb slowly (that’s just my way), I felt pretty darn good. When we reached the top we had an excellent view of the Marmolada Glacier, the only glacier in this part of the Alps, and Lake Marmolada. Enrico told us that this was the site of very intense fighting during World War I as the Italians and Austrians fought it out for control of the region. The Austrians built a complex of fortifications and caves within the glacier and used these are their base of operations.

From the top of the Passo Fedaia, it was a flat ride of a kilometer or so until the descent to the valley below. We had been forewarned by Enrico during our briefing that this would be one of the most steep and dangerous descents of the trip. He told us, “iif you think you can go 10, please go 5.” I took it easy on the descent. This gave me time to notice the growing number of individuals, teams and touring groups climbing the opposite site of Fedaia, obviously training and preparing for this weekend’s Maratona.

Once at the bottom of the valley, the climbing began again in earnest (after stopping for some snacks that Massimo had set-up for us), with 20 km until the summit of the Passo Falzarego at 2,100 meters. This was a hard climb, but it was tempered by the amazing scenery and, of course, Massimo’s next impromptu rest stop about halfway up the pass, where he had set-up fresh bread, prosciutto, cheeses, fruits, and other tasty snacks. From there, I climbed alone to the summit where I had a well-deserved doppio espresso at the rifugio. Guido said goodbye to us at the top of the Falzarego, as he is heading home. I hope he got all the video he wanted!

It was a a very short climb from there up the Passo Valparola, just about 2 km and another 100 meters or so, where I had my photo taken (and returned the favor) by a trio of German cyclists. At the top there is a small, but excellent museum about the World War I battles in The Dolomites, built inside an Austrian fort from World War I. The museum is ‘guarded’ by an actor in an Austrian uniform. I got some great shots.

From there it was all down hill into La Villa, and then about 4 km up to our hotel in Corvara. Kudos once again to Ciclismo Classico for choosing the Hotel Posta Zirm in Corvara. It is modern, yet charming, with an extremely well-appointed room, a beautiful view of the Passo Campolongo, a fantastic restaurant, an turn down service that included wonderful cookies. Bravo!

As I mentioned earlier, there are a bazillion cyclists in The Dolomites right now, most of whom will be joining us on Sunday for The Maratona. I have to say that I have been surprised, on the whole, by the lack of etiquette I’ve witnessed. It’s not quite the boys from Cinzano sticking a pump in Dave Stoller’s wheel, but if you think cyclists in the U.S. have poor etiquette when they don’t call ‘on your left,’ just wait until you ride with this bunch.

To be fair, I know that many of the cyclists here are top-level amateurs, pros, and former pros so perhaps they have a different concept of how to ride around rank amateurs like me. It is also possible that I have an unrealistic expectation of how other cyclists should act around each other, but cutting you off on a descent, coming around your left without calling and then cutting back in front of you even before there’s room, talking/texting on a cell phone while riding, slowing down a line of cyclists while you search for something in your pocket, etc. are not the ways I’d suggest cyclists act, especially on busy or dangerous roads. It shows a lack of respect, an overabundance of arrogance, or both. Just sayin’.

On the ride for La Villa to Corvara we got a glimpse of the Maratona staff setting up the barricades and banners for Sunday’s race. Just before dinner, Massimo gave us our swag bags, jerseys and numbers. Everyone is getting excited. And nervous. And deciding which of the three courses to attempt.

We’ve decided that tomorrow will be a rest day. We’ll meet in the morning (not too early!) for a briefing on The Maratona and then perhaps go to the bike expo and do some shopping for our families. I’m sure I’ll still have something to blog.

Oh! By the way. My mom asked an interesting question in an email yesterday. Go check out this blog post and help me answer the question for her. Thanks!

. . . and one more thing. Check out this fun video I put together last night with footage I shot using my handlebar-mounted GoPro Hero HD. As Nacho Libre said, “it’s just for fun.”


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