[ blog » 2023 » 05_Suedtirol ]d2: Sterzing to Toblach (by Philipp Gesang, location: A crazy oversized hotel room)


Woke up with legs that felt like some alchemist had transmuted them to lead. Not sure if they were on strike after yesterday of they were just too busy synthesizing fresh type-1 fibers to move, but after a while they started obeying the brain's commands again.

After an adequate but late breakfast -- seriously, I spent like an hour reading until they finally opened the buffet at 7:30 -- I headed down to the Isarco valley hungry for some real mountains. En route I briefly rode on the same roads as two years ago just in the opposite direction and without the rain.

The first of two major climbs I had planned for today was the road up to the Zumis parking lot which tops out around 1750 m. It only takes 10 km at an average of 10 % gradient to get there. Average, as in: we sprinkled some sections with north of 15 % at various points during the ascent to add some variety ... Yeah, in retrospect those legs were probably on strike because they could see this coming. Near the summit I again rode into a cloud which provided some welcome cooling after a half sunny morning.

Less fun was had on the descent. Those roads were primarily constructed for tractors so they are subject to heavy wear and don't receive a new surface very often. Dealing with short switchbacks on a -10 % downhill over crumbling tarmac is an exercise in agility. Good thing I changed those brake pads earlier this week.


In Lüsen where the descent from the alm ended the next climb immediately starts. The road leading up from there to the Würzjoch is mostly straight, it follows a mountain stream in the bottom of a valley which is really a series of tiny waterfalls which add a constant rumble in the background for dramatic effect.

As the name implies, the Würzjoch is spicy climb which again averages around 10 % for about 10 km. Most of the steeper bits are in the lower half and it ever so slightly flattens out near the top to round about 7 % which feels surprisingly soft at this point. As for the scenery, the valley is covered in thick conifere forests which give it that characteristic high altitude feeling.

The Würzjoch pass is located near the treeline at just under 2000 m where there is still some snow in shadowy corners. The view from up there on those rock formations that are typical for the Dolomites is breathtaking. So many peaks -- instead of just Tre Cime you get a whole bunch of cime for the price of just one climb!

The downhill was again a bit of a hassle, equally steep as the road on the other side but not straight but irregular switchbacks once more. My brake discs must have been near glowing near those corners, in fact I had to readjust the brakes later because those new pads are already half worn after these two descents.

A hurry

After some more tunnel fun I passed through Bruneck heading towards today's destination, Toblach. On that road I caught another bikepacker which turned out to be a guy I had noticed yesterday seeking shelter from the rain close to the Brenner summit. Even better, after exchanging a few words he mentioned that he was from Saxony too; what are the odds?

For the last climb of the day I had planned a visit to the famous Pragser Waldsee and I had already started the climb when some obscure, sensible part of my brain decided it would be a good thing to check the opening hours of the shops in Toblach. It was as I feared, even the supermarkets close at 7 pm. And it was already past 6:30 at that point. The Waldsee is a short climb but there was no chance I'd make it in time so I turned around and hit the pedals. Memories resurfaced of me racing against the clock to reach Andalsnes before the last supermarket there was closing last year. Fueled by fury I arrived at the nearest grocery store at a quarter to seven, phew that was precision work. Missing out on recovery after a day like this would have been disastrous. Shame though I didn't get to see the Waldsee, it's been on my bucket list for some time now.

Just 129 km traveled but with 3160 m of elevation gain today ranks top three of the most climbing I ever did in a day. Not too shabby.


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