Mike Simpson

Dolomites Diary 2012 Stage 5

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Another fright 1st thing as my left achilles was unable to make that first step out of bed. I had to walk sideways down to breakfast, unable to put hardly any weight on my left leg and after tucking to a monster breakfast I went in search of physio, Chris. I was worried, so close to tomorrow's rest day yet still a tough stage to do today. After stretching and advice from Chris it was straight into the 16k climb of the Giau, which started right outside the hotel door. A beautiful climb, initially in woodland, as the sun started it's daily journey and then opened out with glorious peaks all around. Everyone seemed keen not to dawdle today, the lure of the rest day clearly in everyone's mind. 1st timed climb was the Valparola. Achilles seems ok so I went for it. Gunning it for the 1st 6k I went to pass Jonny, who took the bait and accelerated with me. His pace was good enough for me so I stuck behind him until the top.

Next we had a succession of high peaked climbs - the Gardena, Stella and Pordoi. In fact 5 of today's climbs were all over 2000m, the highest maxing out at 2263m. The pace was decent over the climbs, although they were also popular with motorbikes and cars making it pretty crowded. They had put lunch at the top of an out and back climb although it was a necessity for what was lying ahead. The Fedaia was I believe without doubt the hardest climb of the entire trip. It started pleasantly enough through a beautiful gorge, no cars allowed up this section and cyclists would have to pay for the privilege to ride it but the Cent Cols team had organised it so well we were waved past the toll kiosk. As inspiring as the scenery was, this was a timed climb so I was on my toes. After the gorge section we joined back on the main road. The Fedaia is a 14k climb but the damage occurs during the middle section - a straight road of 12% seemed to last an age. Although pushing the pace hard, the straightness of the section made the pace seem slow. It went on and on and it was a relief to finally hit the last section of switch backs, feeling pretty beaten up and cooking in the afternoon sun. I emptied the tank finishing this hard, hard climb. Maybe because it was so tough, maybe because it was so beautiful, maybe because it was so harsh or maybe because it beat me but as well as being the hardest it was my favourite climb. The final run in to the hotel was as spectacular as it gets with views of the Marmolada mountain. Made it to the rest day.



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