[ blog » 2023 » 05_Suedtirol ]d3: Toblach to Lienz (by Philipp Gesang, location: A 16 % ramp near Misurina)


Strangely the legs felt much better today nevermind the ordeal I put them through yesterday so I decided to take the scenic route up to the Tre Cime, i. e. the loop via Cortina. That turned out a great decision as the descent down into the town boasts some of the most spectacular views of the Dolomites. Cortina itself is not much of a sight though, a boring assembly of grossly overpriced alpine hotels with all the charme of a prefab village.

To complete the loop I had to climb up to the Passo Tre Croci. It was only 11 am and the road leading up there was already teeming with road cyclists from all countries. I had a chat with an older guy from the Basque Country who went up that 8 % gradient with inspiring vigor.

Tre Cime redux

The morning had been mostly sunny which instilled me with the hope of finally gettng to see that Tre Cime panorama in its full glory. Two years ago when I first went up there the peaks were veiled in thick mist and I barely caught a glimps of a few rocks. The first goal of the day was to bring closure to that unfinished business.

Which aligned nicely with the second goal of the day, watching the queen stage of the Giro d'Italia that will finish at the Rifugio Auronzo in a couple hours from the time of this writing. Of course the thought of combining the two isn't very original and I got to ride up this monster of a climb in a dense crowd. It wasn't even 1 pm and, hours before the scheduled arrival, and the roadsides were already packed with people. At higher altitude that seemed outright dangerous as it’s only one step from the barriers to certain death by nosediving into a ravine.

Those distance markers the organizers put in place conveyed very well just how brutal this climb is: at the 3 km to go sign there is still over 450 m left to climb. And this time around I couldn't fall back on the granny gear of the triple crankset like I could on the touring bike: I had just left Misurina when the shifters made that dreaded clicking sound indicating I was out of gears. A 15 % gradient knows no mercy.

Sadly today wasn't meant to be the end of my quest to see those Tre Cime. On the final ramp, in sight of the finish, a detachment of carabinieri politely insisted that cyclists get off the road. The choice was to push the bike up the final meters on that narrow strip outside the barriers, or to turn around. Since that strip was already clogged up with people and falling to death wasn’t on my itinerary for today, it wasn't really a choice. Foiled again, so close to the finish. I get the feeling this Universe of ours somehow doesn't want me to see these rocks as it keeps coming up with ridiculous excuses to turn me away.

About halfway down I bumped into that bikepacker from Saxony again so I stopped for a chat before picking a spot to watch further down. Turns out he didn't make it to Cortina yesterday anymore and just camped out somewhere along the road to Misurina. One of those typical touring experiences where you sometimes see the same faces for a few days in a row because of overlapping itineraries.

To watch the race I chose an elevated rock near the end of that first 16 % ramp at the lake. That was a serendipitous choice as just a few meters down the road a crowd of Italian fans had gathered who were dancing and cheering on every single cyclist who rode past them. Phone reception was spotty in that enclosed valley at the bottom of the Tre Cime and there were no big screens to follow the race on so news of what was happening percolated through only slowly. At some point reports circulated of a hailstorm on the Tre Croci – which was just over the hill to the south at the Cadore/Ampezzo border – but thankfully the rain clouds stayed down there today. Noone really knew what was going on but it wasn't that important. When the breakaway appeared at the end of the road around 5 pm the crowd exploded with excitement.

That's all, folks!

After the gruppetto had passed I grabbed the bike and headed down the valley again. The descent was fabulous: straight and not overly steep with few bends, making braking more or less unnecessary. From 2250 m near the Rifugio to around 600 m in Lienz it was basically one uninterrupted downhill. Continuing yesterday's last minute buyer's panic I again went grocery shopping just minutes before that supermarket closed -- opening hours not being any better across the border in Austria.

Despite sitting around for hours waiting for the race to pass by I still got 129 km of distance in with more than 1600 m of climbing. Needless to say those stats don't capture the experience of beating ludicrous gradients alongside hundreds of like minded cyclists.

So this short trip ends the same way it started, by crossing into Austria. Not quite full circle but it'll have to do until next time.


gallery image thumbnail gallery image thumbnail gallery image thumbnail gallery image thumbnail gallery image thumbnail gallery image thumbnail gallery image thumbnail gallery image thumbnail