Cold, Wet, Sleet


After yesterday’s big effort on San Pellegrino (it kicked my butt) the prudent thing would be to go easy, possibly even taking the day off. Some did. I did not. Not everyone showed up for today’s ride. I did.

Climbing up towards Sella
Climbing up towards Sella – Part 1

We rolled out at 9:00 a.m. Well, they rolled out at 9:00. I had to go back to my room to get my Garmin. I left and chased for 3km before I got back on.



We had a quick rest stop in Canazei. James Shanahan, our guide, encouraged us to ride (as opposed to standing around “resting”). The weather did not look good. Unlike yesterday when I was first to go, I was last to roll out from the rest stop. I was going to take it slow. I rode for a while with Colin Giffney, a New Zealander.


Like the roads we climb, this waterfall down in the mountain
is much steeper than the camera captures

We chatted about the difficulty of biking on the “wrong side” of the road. About his grandsons. About the Sydney Zoo (he took his grandsons). I asked if they have all American animals. (See, in our zoos we have koalas, and dingos, and duckbill platypusses/platypi*.) Colin had a new camera which kept giving him a disc error so when he stopped to take pictures he always had to reboot.

The climb up the Stella is 5.5 km at 7.9% grade from the crossroads to the Pordoi. We started in Canazei which was another 5.5 km of climbing.

At the base of the first climb in Canazei

I caught up to Nick and Caitlin Steel from California. Nick is a beast of a rider but we rode at Caitlin’s pace and really enjoyed the climb. Reaching passo Sella, the winds kicked up and it began to rain.

Climbing up towards Sella – Part 2

Caitlin decided to turn back, which was a prudent decision. Colin did too. Apparently half the group did too. Prudent. I didn’t. Not prudent.

We did not see stunning views because of the weather


We did not stay long at the top. Just long enough to grab a jacket and put on some warm clothes for the descent and crappy weather.

passo Sella – Just before the rain

As we descended off the Sella the rain turned to sleet. The ice pellets stung as they hit.


At the bottom we began our second climb. In the opposite direction I was passed by a Team BMC car followed about five minutes later by a BMC rider. I don’t know who that was but was probably Daniel Oss or Manuel Quinziato, both of whom are from the Dolomiti region in Italy. (Unbeknownst to me, Tejay van Garderen passed our group yesterday on Passo Fedaia. But it didn’t look like Tejay.)



The second climb was over passo Gardena, a pretty easy climb except for the cold blowing rain. It is rated as just 5.8 km with an average grade of 4.4%. I had passed some riders who were up the road and we waited at the pass. But then Bud Hoffacker and Anne Marie Redmond took seats in the SAG wagon. Prudent. It was a nasty bitter day.




That meant I was last on the road. Well, I was along with Sonja Schmidt, our guide. I took off first on the descent although I stopped for a photo op. In the pouring rain. She passed me and had two full switchbacks on me as a head start once I was done taking pictures. I’m not sure what she thought when I caught her in those weather conditions.

Beginning of the descent from passo Gardena

Sonja and I reached the bottom in Corvara and began another climb with switchbacks. This was a 6 km climb at 5.8% to passo Campolongo. We caught Jennifer Gands. I noticed I was mashing and Sonja was spinning. I asked her what size gear she had on the back and she said 30. I was running 27. She said “would you like a 30?” Well, yes. Later she switched the cassette and the rest of the week would be a tad bit easier.



The three of us rode to the summit together where the most serious decision of the day would be made.  Trek Travel had lunches for everyone inside a restaurant. I was cold and soaked and did not want to sit down for an extended period. At all really. While everyone still remaining went into the restaurant, James gave me directions and off I went on the descent before the final climb. Solo.


James had said if I turn onto a road full of switchbacks, I’d know I was on the right road. He didn’t say 32 switchbacks. The rain stopped about halfway up but the wind picked up. Each switchback meant a different direction for the wind. The headwind was nearly impossible to pedal through. But the tailwind was almost strong enough to coast up the 6% grade.

Helicopter Landing Stop Lights in Arabba

It was a long climb and I feared I would be brought back by Nick. I don’t know if my psyche could handle being caught two days straight after being spotted one hour. The climb up Pordoi is 9.2 km and averages 6.9%. Apparently it has 33 switchbacks so I must have missed one.


Passing a fenced field of cows, there was one poor cow standing out on the road by herself. She was probably scared, not knowing how to get back in the field. And I was scared go go past her. I crept over to the far left, never making eye contact (challenge), and got by.

Photo Credit: Trek Travel

Those switchbacks seemingly went on forever. Eventually I could see a building that looked like a hotel at a pass. It was a hotel, but it wasn’t at the pass. There was another three km to ride after that but I could finally see the summit. The real one.

Photo Credit: Trek Travel

After going over the summit of pass Pordoi, I had a pretty fast descent down 28 switchbacks, the first 12 of which we rode this morning before turning up to Sella. I was cold. Freezing. Soaked. Showing beginning signs of hypothermia. But I would make it down safely.

Colin told me he was in full hypothermia mode. He was shaking the entire way back and he had turned back after the first climb (Sella). It was cold.




Once back to Canazei it was a matter of retracing our morning route. There were some sweet descents on the road. I didn’t realize how much climbing we had done to arrive at Canazei. Arriving back at Moena, I was two kilometers short of 100 so rode out and made it a metric century. Then hit the shower. Rarely have I enjoyed a hot shower so much.

*There is no universally agreed plural of “platypus” in the English
language. Scientists generally use “platypuses” or simply “platypus”.
Colloquially, the term “platypi” is also used for the plural, although
this is technically incorrect and a form of Pseudo-Latin, the correct Greek plural would be “platypodes”. Source: Wikipedia 2014

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