So, in Italy. It has taken a couple of days to get my bearings but… well…. no problem. Plenty of time to relax, enjoy the scenery and get my legs use to gradients and climbing, All over again. Training is at an end, time to ride. Time for the Mendel Pass.
But it’s important to keep a sense of perspective. The Mendel Pass cannot be compared to the likes of Ventoux or Stelvio. We took a ride up by Cable Car and the road looked, well, good. Some mock-Hells-Angels on top going full gun with motor bikes that were too clean but nothing crazy. On the way back down a good view of the road itself, albeit too brief to take a picture. Wide, good surface and…. hairpin heaven. Perfect. After a couple of warm-up rides, feel nicely ready.
Taking it In
As for those warm-ups? Short rides in terms of distance, maximum 20 kilometres. But shortness of distance was more than made up for by the steepness of the gradients. High averages with sustained bursts of up to 20%. Long and straight as well.
Just one hairpin?
It was as though whoever was responsible for designing the roads out from Eppan thought….. ‘this will really f*ck up the cyclists’…. I could understand the tourists on E-Bikes, if you’re not in condition these roads could mess you up.
Sidenote: E-bikes going a 50 km/h in Holland is one thing. E-bikes here? Nice to see people out on bikes who otherwise wouldn’t be. At sensible speeds.
During these rides, it’s good to stop and take a look, See what’s around you.
It takes your breath away.
A rolling sea of vineyards with mountains looming over them, broken only by seemingly lonely villages of houses that seem to lay low beneath the spire of a single church, standing tall. It feels like it should be Switzerland. Or Austria. Not Italy.
Even the drivers give plenty of room when they pass a cyclist. A white van even stopped to allow me time to cross a rough patch of ground carefully. And the driver smiled and waved.
This is Italy where the relationship between motorists and cyclists is not meant to be optimal. Seems fine here.
This area does not quite match a stereotype of Italy in many ways. This is a holiday, not a training camp, and a large chunk of time is spent looking around, hearing the the voices around us. And a large proportion of those are German, not only through tourism. With the exception of the the town of Bolzano, most villages in the South Tyrol area count German as the primary language. After all, this was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire until the end of the First World War.
Despite an at times fractious history, including forced Italianisation under Mussolini, considerable relocation of German speakers to the Third Reich and an aggressive campaign by the South Tyrolean Liberation Committee, there is little sign of friction now. At least to the casual observer. Small signs, though. Overhearing locals complaining about someone they knew and referring to them as ‘Italian’. A small hint at friction?
But nothing over that we can see, admittedly through the somewhat tinted view of a tourists sun-glasses. The history is there to see. It is possible to witter on about the charming, Hansel and Gretelesque feel of the surroundings but it’s the small things are what are noticeable for me. Behind a church in the town of Kaltern is a memorial. To our fallen, from the 1914-18 war, In German. Austro-Hungarian Army. The pain of history.
Back to the big ride.
The couple of short, hard climbs are done. And a good amount of walking as well, stretching the ligaments. That’s the excuse, although it is not much exercise when walking to a Gasthof for a nice meal and a bit of wine. Which, by the way, is very nice here. But, like all of the challenges, the training comes to an end and has done so for the Mendel Pass. Certainly not the hardest training, it’s a holiday after all.
So, the plan is to ride the Mendel Pass either on the coming Saturday (7th September) or the following Monday (9th September). Subject to the weather. Not to keep mentioning it but,,,, this is a holiday.
I don’t want to get wet….
The climb is not in the same class as Ventoux or Stelvio but it’s still a consistent 15 kilometres of ascent. The ‘steep hits’ may not be as bad as I thought but there are a couple of nasty gradients and it is still 15 kilometres of going up. Then when I descend, I will need to do one of those short, nasty climbs to get home.
This is a climb, medium distance but consistent. It will not be easy. And I will respect it. It may not be insane. Just a little crazy.