Article written

  • on 20.04.2010
  • at 12:04 PM
  • by Daniela

Onwards and upwards! 0

Apr20

To the top – come what may!

No self respecting Belgian cyclist obeys the ‘road closed’ sign when it comes to reaching the top of a mountain – especially one where Eddie Merckx won – even when the road is deep in snow, a fallen tree blocks the route and it isn’t clear exactly where the road is!

It all started so well, the racing group assembled outside the front of the Hotel Belvedere in bright sunshine in the middle of April. The Belgian group leader, Frank led a group of Norwegian cyclists from the Åsane Cycling Club of Bergen with me on what we all thought would be an energetic ride through the rolling (climbing) Italian countryside. A suggestion from one of the group that it would be a good idea to ride up the Carpegna “Cippo” Mountain seemed like a good idea…it was to change everything……

The ride to the bottom of the mountain was uneventful and what seemed like a routine ride went well for the first two hours. The mountain was covered in cloud and the start of the climb was tortuous – a 16% average gradient seemed to go on for several kilometres.

 Soon after the monument to Marco Pantani we encountered a barrier announcing the road ahead was closed. The reason for the closure wasn’t clear, no snow but many pine needles, maybe it would be difficult to grip the road with thin road tyres.

The group, which had split on the climb to the barrier began to re-assemble , we looked at each other, unsure as to what to do. The group leader was decisive: ‘you don’t expect a Belgian to obey a road sign do you?’ he said and with that, in single file the group rounded the barrier (via the ditch) and set off up the hill.

The steepness continued and gradually more and more pockets of snow could be seen glistening in amongst the grass. As we cycled snow began to fall as it melted in the branches overhead – some rather large clumps of snow fell as the wintery conditions developed. The Norwegians felt at home!

The ride was enlivened by the huge posters along the roadside displaying the history of the climb with victories by Merckx and Pantani which added to the increasingly epic nature of the ride. Riding soon became impossible though and we were forced to walk through short snow drifts at first which became longer and more frequent. Arriving at what appeared to be a junction the snow made it difficult to assess which way the road went, the group discussed the options again. Should we turn back? Frank, knowing the road, pointed out which way it went but made the sensible point that we should really turn back because the side over the summit would be worse for descending, being north facing. Arne from the Åsane  Cycling Club agreed, adding ‘but first we go to the summit!!’.  As we set off into the next snow drift, bikes were raised onto the shoulders (cyclo-cross being the Belgian national sport) and summit fever drove us on!

At the summit, as all good cyclists do, we took photo’s of the group by the summit sign alongside a big photo of Marco Pantani. The sun came out and amid much good humour at having reached the top, there was a confident air that descending wouldn’t be so bad and on that basis we set off down the north face. A fallen tree appeared soon after the summit and having climbed over this the drifts deepened, often being over the knees. When the road began to clear enough to ride, another set of problems arose. Snow over the wheels had built up around the brakes, making it difficult to stop. Ice in the cleats made it difficult to clip into the pedals and the cold and windchill made things worse. 8km later the welcome sight of a coffee bar had us all warming up whilst still laughing at the events of the day. A fast ride home was suitably uneventful and an excellent lunch awaited at the Belvedere Bike Hotel by the pool, in the sun in tee-shirts and shorts.

A day to remember!

Richard

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