Friday, September 14, 2007

2,000', 3,000', don't stop till you have 4.

My first ride in Italy accrued a total of 2,000' climbing, and the second totaled all of 3,000'. Therefore, on the 3rd ride, I decided we must do at least 4,000'. That's logical (remember, I'm simple minded). The morning skies were beginning to cloud up in Castelrotto, so we packed our bags, said goodbye, and headed south to Trento. Exiting the autostrada in Trento, we drove in the direction of the mountain we had previously selected to climb; Mt Bondone.

The weeks prior to our trip, we combed the internet for ride reports in the area. I came upon a guy's cycling blog with somewhat detailed accounts of rides in the Trento region near Lake Garda, an area with which we were familiar from previous trips.

We had wanted to start from the town of Sardagna, but didn't want to waste anymore time navigating our way there. We stumbled upon a tiny blip of a town called, Cadine, that looked like a good starting point. The next trick is to find the magical blue sign with a big "P" on it. Every town has these signs to let you know it is safe and legal to park in the designated area, and many of them are usually free. Bingo, we found it, parked and unloaded.

It's a bit of a hassle "riding out of the car"; everything you have is all crammed in the vehicle. Performing luggage gymnastics to reach your belongings requires all the agility and patience one can muster. This also means all your belongings, including the beloved laptop, will be sitting in the car while you are out cycling all day. In Hawaii, you would never do this because nothing would be left upon your return. But in Italy (outside of major cities) this really isn't much of a concern. It is still an ordeal trying to remember just where you packed your cycling gear, your camelbak, you heart rate strap, and the gu. Oh yea, where's the darn chapstick.

Finally after scrounging around and a quick assembly of the front wheels to the bikes, we were off. Not really sure where to go, we just looked for a road that went UP. Quickly we were riding through the town of Sopramonte, then hooking up with the road we wanted.

It didn't take too long to get high enough to take in the big views. We weren't sure where we were looking, but it sure was grand. We would pass large open fields dotted with random sunbathers soaking up the warm sun. Seems like they had to make quite the effort to get up here, but then again, so did we.

We learned that the Giro has come through here on occasion. Legendary climber, Charly Gaul, won the Giro in 1956 & 1959, displaying his climbing prowess on this mountain (He also won the Tour de France in 1958). All of a sudden, I began to feel quick and nimble. I was a legend in my own mind, climbing with the likes of past professionals before me.

The up side of doing daily rides of long extended climbs is the endurance you build. The down side is you get soft after a while. Over the days my speed and quickness diminish as I'm lulled into a slow rythmic pace of climbing. I rarely do any bursts or jumps because I'm thinking I need to pace myself for what's ahead. In fact, I have no idea what's ahead, thus the pacing. Back home on U.S. soil there will be plenty of time for intervals to reclaim speed, I'm on vacation right now. On, on.

We passed through Vaneze, Norge, Vason, and finally Viote. I knew this meant we were up essentially at the top. The views went on for days and were the typical dramatic vistas. How do they find these views??? Simply amazing.

We rode along the ridge in silence, the beauty was a bit overwhelming. There was so much exploring to be had, but time was running out for us today. A quick check of the Garmin would confirm if the goal for the day had been achieved. Yea, 4,000' worth of climbing! Reluctantly, we turned around to head back down.

I love the descents because you get to take the views all in without the huffing and puffing.

Another glorious climb/descent has come to an end. Our car is just as we left it waiting to take us on to the next stop. We load up the bikes as moms stroll by while their kids run ahead to the park just beside our parking spot. The town bells toll briefly drowning out the children's laughter. There's something about the sound of chiming bells that is very soothing to me. I doubt the kids even notice them.

From here it is a quick hop back on the autostrada south to the Rovererto exit. We head west through Mori and Nago and drop down to Torbole on the north shore of beautiful Lake Garda. The exceptionally clear day makes for a dramatic drive with rocky cliffs towering on either side of the valley opening up to a specatacular view of the lake.

We were happy to quickly find our Hotel, Albergo Caminetto, right smack dab in the middle of Torbole. This meant the car could be parked for the next few days, and our feet or bikes could do the traveling. A relaxing 3 min stroll along the lakefront brought us to the Hotel Grier where we sat down outside for an evening meal of fresh lake trout and grilled vegetables. The town was teeming with cyclists and tourists. We watched them all pass by as we relaxed with a view of sunset behind the mountain drapped lake and a table full of good food.

To go to my photo gallery, double click on the slideshow, or just watch the thumbnail slideshow right here.

Thinking it would be hard to fall asleep being all abuzz with today's adventure, I zonked out immediately. I needed the sleep. Tomorrow would be a big day, climbing Mt Tremalzo. We could hardly wait!
2,000', 3,000', now 4,000'; we have to do 5,000' next to keep the trend going!

If you haven't already figured it out, these reports are obviously written well after our return home to Georgia. Therefore, I am interjecting a little snippet of our first weekend of riding now that we're back. This Saturday was to be the much anticipated grassroots "race" in the Cohuttas. But thanks to a certain hurricane, most everyone was scared off and chose to do other forms of torture. Namrita and Eddie and a handful of hardcore racers allegedly did the FW, and reported it to be in great condition. I want pictures.

Raja and I received an invitation to join Larry and some of his W.O.T. teammates to ride Six Gap. Since we were already psyched up for a sufferfest, we figured this would be a great substitute. Suffer indeed. As I mentioned before about our trip, my legs were not used to steep climbing or chasing down lean mean racing machines.

Lean and mean pretty much sums up the company we were keeping this Saturday morning. Somehow we survived 81 miles of tortourous climbing, 8800' to be exact. At least it helped us decide we would not be doing the Six Gap century in 2 weeks. Been there, done that plenty of times, don't need to do it yet again. Having been off the road bike the week prior to our trip, then riding the Euro bike for another week, my body was already de-conditioned to the roadie position. My neck hurt, my shoulders hurt, and my back was screaming. I don't mind riding the road in Italy with fabulous views on a Litespeed mtn bike, but 5+ hours on a Trek 5500 without any killer views was killing my body. I'm a mountain biker to the core.

This is a nice enough view for a Georgia morning, but it was sort of a let down from what I was used to seeing. Today we were driving just outside of Ducktown, TN to the Ocoee Whitewater Center to meet a group riding the Tanasi trail system.
Southern singletrack is one thing that the rest of the world doesn't have a thing on us. There's nothing like it, and we had a blast. I was finally happy to be back home!

Last night's ice bath helped pump out the lactic acid from yesterday's Climb-a-rama. We had a ball zipping around, up and down on the beautiful trails. The best part of Tanasi is the Thunder Rock Express, a rockin' fun downhill. You gotta do it, it's a thrill a minute!!!
I feel sorry for roadies that don't get to experience the fun and camaraderie we do in mountain biking (I am a roadie too). See here just how much fun we had!

Stay tuned for more Italy reports. I have 3 more to go! Yikes!


James Bigler said...

I liked your comments about Charly Gaul and riding with past legends in your mind. I do that too. Something about the road bike and long climbs. My mind just wanders.

I hate that I missed the Tanasi ride. Looks like fun. Amy and I did our longest ride to date on Sunday though. Maybe I need to try your ice bath trick next time. My legs are aching.

Becky said...

Great stories and pics as always! I had to laugh about the "riding out of your car" and how hard that is - It's so true. And yet you two still got ready MUCH faster than we did before Stelvio!

It is so true too about the long extended climbs...You can get in a rhythm (and be so distracted by views) that you don't think about the climbing. But that's not so easy on Hogpain...

Keep the stories comin!