Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Swiss Trip Day 3 (Sunday): Livigno to S-Chanf

Day three and the sun was blazing! Glorious blue sky but at 1800 m it was actually still quite deceptively cold. A good breakfast where I tried to stuff my face to liven myself up a bit but I did feel totally drained, not entirely due to riding and not eating enough either.

Dressed and out to get the bikes, warm in direct sun but still really parky out of it. We rolled down into Livigno itself to find out what the trail conditions would be like. Day three involved riding over the highest pass of the trip and was going to involve a lot of pushing with or without snow. I honestly was really worried about it and knew I was going to really struggle and hold them up, my brain was woolly and my limbs felt like bits of chewed string.

A bit of discussion after the trail report ended up with Jez and I opting to have a touristy day lower down, we would end up doing double the mileage of the others but without the sapping climb, altitude and snow. I was relieved and looking forward to actually seeing some of the area properly without being too tired to appreciate it, particularly now that the weather was so good and you could actually see how spectacular it was. We also had a time pressure on our ride on day 4, the longest mileage wise as we had to get back to Scuol, pack up and get back to the airport for our flights, I needed not to be tired for that.

The rest of the boys set off on their big climb and Jez and I headed for Lake Livigno. Our plan was to ride alongside the lake to the border where there was a tunnel. No bikes were allowed in the tunnel but we would be able to get a bus through then ride from there to S-Chanf.

It was a bit of a gradual downhill to the border, first on a cycle path then on a road through some "tunnels", built to protect the road from rock fall and avalanche. I had taken my knee warmers off when standing around in town but I regretted this as the wind had a real bite to it still, brrr.

We saw lots and I mean lots of roadies, very fit roadies, roadies that wouldn't look out of place on pro teams and they all seemed to have standard doubles on. Super strong. We saw a bunch of six riders whipping past in Lampre kit.

We got to the border and found the "bus", it was in fact a mini bus with a bike trailer attached to the back of it:

It was due to leave about 5 minutes after we arrived so timing was fantastic, it only cost 5 Euros which is basically the cost of going through the tunnel. It was a single track tunnel so we had to wait until all the traffic had come through from the other way before heading through and emerging back into Switzerland (no passport checks at all). When we got to the other side we unloaded our bikes and a group of roadies filled it up with their bikes heading the other way.

That was all the bus did, shuttle cyclists and pedestrians through the tunnel. We then started gradually climbing up on tarmac, we hadn't really realised it was a climb until we saw cyclists absolutely flying the other way. It was a bit of a relief to see that as we thought we were being doubly pathetic not being able to pedal flat tarmac.

We climbed up for a while on the road as it snaked nicely up the valley, it had a few steeper ramps but nothing too dramatic. The strange thing was when we got to the top of the road, the pass was at 1810 m, just 10m above where we started from yet we had been climbing for quite a while. I don't know how we lost so much height, there was some loss alongside the lake but not that much, maybe the tunnel was downhill?

It was lovely new tarmac at the top and a fantastic view, then we headed down towards Zernez. After the last couple of days we were determined to keep food intake up so decided to head into the town itself and find a bite to eat once we got there....first was a road descent to contend with.

I put my arm warmers back on (which was a good choice) and zipped my gilet right up then followed Jez off down the hill, picking up speed nicely. Zernez is at just under 1500 metres so we had 300 metres to drop, all on this road.

It was typically alpine in nature, long sweeping bends. I remembered watching Fabian Cancellara's descent where he hit 90kph and wondered how fast I could get the Titus - Jens Voigt hadn't had his crash yet, if he had I might have been less gung ho!

Needless to say a fat tyred full-suss MTB was no match for a skinny tyred road bike but I was very, very thankful I was on the Titus and not a road bike. The tarmac was obviously not up to TdF standards of smoothness and I rounded one sweeping blind bend to find some whopping great pot holes all over the road which the Titus just ate but still.

I then rounded another sweeping blind bend to find no tarmac at all! About 50 metres of the tarmac surface had been lifted and was just gravel, I hit it at a fair speed and even on fat tyres and suspension the bike squirmed quite a bit through the gravel. That would not have been pleasant on a road bike, particularly with the five centimetre drop in level first - shudder! There were some proper road works further down but the random gravel section was a bit interesting and it wasn't the first, the drive over the pass to Scuol had something similar so if you ever do some fast alpine road bike descending really keep your wits about you!

I had been trying to lay off the brakes as much as possible but in the end I only maxed out at 68kph, boo. Jez got a little faster as he is heavier than me, pesky momentum!

We rolled into Zernez and found a cafe whilst I tried to remember some basic German. We had some food and Jez had a "kleinus" beer. I just can't have alcohol and ride so I stuck to coffee. Having dropped down so far it was now pretty warm, it was really nice sitting in the sun in the cafe watching a very two wheeled world go by. Cyclists and motorcyclists everywhere.

After our lunch we then continued back on the 444 towards S-Chanf. As we were riding out of Zernez a group of 8 - 10 side by side roadies came flying through. They were all dressed the same (though I couldn't make it out clearly) and they were really noticeable due to the speed they were shifting at, even though they seemed to be sitting up and chatting. Then an Astana car came flying though after them, that's why they look fast!

S-Chaf is at 1665m so we had some climbing to do to get to it. We were both starting to feel a lot more perky and the climbing wasn't too bad. There were a few downhill sections to break it up but in general we were heading up, lots of cyclists going the other way very fast though. Before long we arrived at a bench looking across the valley to S-Chanf, which was below us, lovely:

A fast roll down into the town and we headed to the town to find the hotel. Our bags were there waiting for us so we checked in and had a shower and got changed and headed downstairs to wait for the boys to roll in for some well earned beers. I was feeling pretty good now, shame I wasn't like that in the morning.

I think they rolled in about 3:30, having taken 5.5 hours to get there and it sounded a great day so I have unfinished business with that pass! The boys did 20k, Jez and I did 40k but about half the climbing and in half the time. I felt quite drunk after two beers (oops) and it was scorchio. I had a bit of a lie down before stuffing myself silly with a great dinner, just hoped it would be enough to kick start me for the ride back to Scuol.

1 comment:

  1. The pictures almost look like postcards. Espeshially the top one!

    - Lovely!