Wednesday, August 19, 2009


When I was doing the planning for this holiday I sketched the route on maps that I had. I looked for roads that took me over passes, the higher the better. Today's stretch looked to be an intermediate day, at the end of the grand Italian Alps I didn't look too closely at clues that would have suggested that it would be a bit more difficult than that.

My first clue came while having a coffee after leaving the campsite. Someone came over to me and asked me if I was going over the Passo di Lanza, which I was. He proceeded to tell me that he climbed it the day before and that it was more difficult than the Zoncolan, which I'd deliberately avoided due to it being extremely steep, a gain of 1200m in less than 12km. I put this down to a little boastful exaggeration.

I can't say whether ot not it was harder than the Zoncolan but I can say that it was the hardest 1000m climb of the trip so far. I even had to push, I was so beaten by it. At one point I was out of the saddle moving forward in jerks as I pushed my feet down or rather let then fall hoping gravity would provide so help. Alonhg came a car and I stopped. Starting again after it passed until I got onto something less than 15% was not an option.

Other than the fact that it was a complete killer it was quite a nice climb.The first part was carved out of the rock with forest above and below, with occasional views to the Italian Alps to the South. Nearer to the top it was completely in forest until the end when it opened out into pasture.

There were two places selling food and drinks before the top and I stopped at both. At the second I was so near the limit that stumbling to a table a challenge, there were a couple of locals there, who'd all come up by car. They all stared at me and shook their heads. It was a sign that I'd recovered sufficiently to continue when I began to notice and care about this.

The way down was quite nice but not one to let off the brakes and ride fast. There were constant hairpins. The view of the Carnic Alpes was lovely. 1000m down I was in Pontebba, which had frontier with Austria right through the centre of town until the end of the first World War.

After lunch in a restaurant I attacked my second 1000m climb of the day (I hope you get the picture, it was not an easy day). Fortunately it was not too hard. I even had a nice little wind on the way up to cool things down. At the top of the climb was the Austrian ski town of Nassfeld where I'd been skiing with friends a few years back.

The way down from Nassfeld was a well graded road which could have been taken much faster than I dared. I enjoy a descent when I feel that I'm in control.

The bottom of the climb dropped me into a long valley. There was a nice bicycle path that followed the Gail river which I followed for a while. Before heading up into the hills at Kötschach where I faffed around while trying to decide whether to stay at the local campsite. When I finally decided to do so I found that there'd be no way I'd find a spot which allowed me to use my hammock so continued on. I stopped at the first place I could find outside town, fortunately it wasn't expensive as I was completely done and it would have killed me to have continued and to have spent a lot of money on a bed.

I stayied at Gasthof Gailberghöhe (618m) GPS N 46º42.862 E 012º58.043
Total ascent 2309m
Total cycling time 7 hours and 22 mins
Distance 98km
Average speed 13.3km
Kcaleries burned 2075

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