Mike Simpson

Dolomites Diary 2012 Stage 6

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News filtered through during the rest day that due to a mountain bike race an entire village (10K from our start) was going to be closed the following morning (imagine the uproar in the UK if they closed all the roads into a village just for a race).The Cent Cols team quickly acted on this info and got permission from the race organiser to get through the town, but this would mean a 6.30am start for the stage. We had sampled the greatest ever breakfast at our rest day hotel on the rest day morning but this early start meant that a repeat breakfast would not be possible. Initially our stomachs were bitterly disappointed but we were here to pedal not eat so 6.30am it was. After a cold descent and a few more tunnels, we climbed the San Pellegrino - far too early to push it hard, this was taken fairly easy but the pace gradually increased through the morning climbing the Valles and Rolle, both over 2000m. There then followed a very long descent before the 1st timed climb of the day, although my room mate and I decided to make this longer by inadvertently missing a crucial left hand turn, adding an extra 10K of downhill. Eager to return to the base of the timed climb, we re-routed through some villages, one of which had it's festival that morning and we had to fight our way through closed roads and packed crowds. We picked up signs to the correct mountain, Lavaze, but were climbing it from a different side - 8K up we joined the right road 3/4 of the way up the timed section, I had no choice but to descend the correct road and start again from the proper start point. It was a super fast descent, which meant just one thing, when I turned around it would be steep. Fired up I attacked it hard and was soon back on course.

In the afternoon we continued our journey through the forests towards the Swiss Alps but my main thought was the beast that lied ahead , the 2nd timed climb was the mighty Manghen. Looking at the stats on the profile stuck to my top tube, I saw 17km rising up to 2040m. One thought came into my head……sub 60 mins. I did that on the Port de Bales in the Pyrenees last year, so that was my aim. (There was one minor difference though, something I would only realise later, the Port de Bales averaged 6%, whereas the Manghen averaged 8%). The climb lured you in with it's relatively gentle first half. As I ticked off the kms I noticed on the garmin that the elevation gain was not ticking off quite so fast, i.e. it's going to get a lot steeper. In contrast to the Pyrenean climbs the kms weren't shown on the road so to gauge the precise effort was hard. I have recently been using a Chris Boardman quote as inspiration; "If you are sure you can maintain the pace you are on til the end, then you are riding too slow. If you are sure you cannot maintain the pace you are on til the end, then you will blow up. The idea is to ride at a pace that you are not sure weather you can maintain or not"

The last kilometre of the Manghen was a blur, lungs had burst and my head my spinning. The top of the mountain was crowded with motorbikes, cars and pedestrians, it was a stunning beauty spot. In the last hundred metres a group of people were all across the road, walking up to the top. I shouted something but they didn't move, I brushed past them on the side of the road. When finishing off such a massive effort people getting in the way is so annoying. I missed breaking the hour by 48 seconds, I certainly had cut off more than I could chew. Then something happened that had a big effect on me.

At the feed stop at the top, another rider informed me that the group of people who got in my way were a disabled man, two disabled children and their helpers. The 30 metres they were trying to walk from their minibus to the beauty spot would take them about 20 minutes. Who cares if a rider can ride up in under an hour, people had more concerns and needs. I felt so small and rubbish that I had shouted at them. I got off my bike and walked over to them. In my bike shoes walking up over rocks, I kept slipping and tripping up. They were looking at me as I approached, were they thinking I would shout at them again? I started to apologies but they only spoke Italian. I said sorry a dozen times, and I think they understood. They were all smiles and happy to shake my hand. All smiles to a complete stranger, lovely people. They were happy to be in such a beautiful place. I returned to the feed stop and ate cake looking at the view. Not annoyed that I missed the hour but relaxed and content being in such a incredible place, thinking myself so lucky to be able to breath and free to pursue my goals and aspirations. As I was about to leave, the group walked past back to their minibus and were all waving and smiling at me, I rode the last 30kms of the stage with such a renewed love of life.


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