I woke up much later than planned, but I really needed the sleep. After fueling up on the hotel breakfast buffet, I retrieved my bike from the cellar and headed up to Grindewald to start the CP2 parcours.
I nearly missed the hotel checkpoint, with the name on the buildings on both sides of the road, but safely pulled in to get my brevet card stamped in about 32nd position. I bumped into Darren Franks #114 and met the pairs #212, Andrew Boyd & James Stannard for the first of many times on this journey. It was great to meet up with and chat to some fellow racers for the first time since CP1.
After a brief catch up and selfie with Darren, I was keen to push on so said my goodbyes and headed up the Grosse Scheidegg.
The views on the way up here were absolutely incredible. Just the sheer size of the mountains surrounding were quite intimidating and awe inspiring. I was buzzing over the mountain views. Never mind the steep gradient and the crazy bus drivers bombing up and down the mountain with their horns blaring.
I saw a few more riders on the way up, #89 Joe Todd just after the CP & #93 Geoffroy Duassault again, but was mostly on my own just enjoying the scenery. Still, it was good to meet other riders again as the last couple of days had been quite lonely.
Going down the other side I caught up with another rider, but never got a name, but think it was #14 Jack Thompson. It was really steep and quite sketchy going down, but I love descending, except when a big bus is roaring up the road towards you. Had to duck off the road a couple of times as it was definitely not going to stop…
The surface and road leading up the Grimsel pass was great, but there was also a bit of traffic, most of it trying to race up the pass. Along here I bumped into the #212’s again who said hello handed out some haribo and were off up the road after a short chat.
This was a long and quite tough climb, but once at the top I was rewarded with a view of the Furkapass. This looked spectacular, and really quite daunting.
The descent down from the Grimsel pass was really thrilling and fast, but before I knew it I was up and heading along the Furkapass. I loved this climb. It was quite warm and there was an extraordinary large number of flies, all wanting a taste of the salt deposited on my lycra. In fact, a cyclist road past with at first glance was a dense fly patterned floro jacket. It wasn’t until a few of them flew off did I realise that they were all alive. I spent much of the climb swatting them away, but it really took nothing away.
I was quite glad to get the elevation and feel the air cool off. You could certainly get a feel for the glacial air, but it wasn’t at any point too cold. The conditions were absolutely perfect for this climb.
A quick stock up with some water and snacks, I headed off down the mountain. Yet another awesome descent, despite being stuck behind a bus for much of it. I pushed on down to Andermatt, where I stopped at a restaurant for a well earned lunch of spag bol, plate of chips and a large coke. #93 Geoffroy also stopped and ordered the same on my recommendation, and we chatted about our journey so far.
I didn’t spend too long and made straight for the next 2,046m Oberalppass. This wasn’t too bad, but I was quite happy just to keep turning the pedals and enjoy the scenery. The descent of the other side of this was quite possibly the most fun I’ve ever had going downhill. A perfect surface, wide sweeping hairpins mixed with long twisty straights. I was in heaven! Even the short section turned to gravel by some roadworks barely made a dent in my impression of this road.
It kept going for probably about 30km, steadily winding downhill. I turned off at Ilanz and started climbing again. Again, another stunning road and climb, with stunning scenery along quiet mountain roads. It was early evening by now with the sun low behind me, and I was buzzing from the day.
I had planned to push on quite a bit further than I did, but while rolling through the town of Bonaduz, I came across a hotel that just looked too inviting. It was a recently re-opened and re-furnished hotel, and was without doubt the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed at.
I bagged an amazing luxury room for 95 Swiss Francs. They sorted me out with some slippers to wear down to the restaurant, and arranged for an iPhone charger next to my table in the restaurant. The food was most excellent also, as was the beer and ice cream. If you’re ever in Bonaduz check out the Hotel Ante Post (or at least the Hotel that has replaced it). I’m going back for sure.
Using the weighing scales in the room, I learnt that I had managed to lose 5 kg since the start of the race. I’ve always had a bit of extra timber, but I hadn’t expected to lose so much so quickly!
The next morning I woke at 4am, packed up everything and retrieved my bike from the underground garage. I noticed my tracker had a mix of green and red lights flashing, but figured it was just a lost signal from being indoors overnight.
It was a bit of a struggle to get going in the pre-dawn darkness, and was starting to get concerned as my tracker had not picked up a signal. I also had a bit of an upset stomach which was not used to 2 proper meals in one day, so was feeling a bit uncomfortable on the bike.
I was a bit stop start that morning until yet again I realised that I couldn’t control the tracker issue, at least not until I got to a town that could sell batteries. Once I’d gotten past this I was able to get into a bit more of a rhythm and started making some progress up the Albula pass.
This was an epic climb, and as I started up it #93 Geoffroy came past again. Had a quick chat, but he was clearly stronger than me so I let him go on.
A little further up the climb I came across a veteran of the TCR, #42 Zbyněk Šimčík and we rode on up over to the top of the pass together chatting away. It’s crazy to meet people all the way out in the Swiss Alps that live maybe 5 miles away in Twickenham. Nearing the top, which seemed to take forever to arrive I spotted what I thought was a cat crossed with a rabbit. It turns out they were Marmots (technically squirrels apparently), and were responsible for what I thought was bird song/squeaks on almost all of the mountain passes I’d been over. Once you’ve seen and heard one, you start to see and hear lots of them.
#42 Zbyněk Šimčík
By the time we got to the top I was totally bonked. I had to say my goodbyes to Zbyněk, and find some food in the cafe at the summit. All that was available was eggs, bread and OJ. This turned out to be a perfect breakfast. While I was eating inside I saw the #212’s yet again, and recognising my bike they called out my name. These guys were hilarious, but it was starting to seem like they were stalking me! I popped outside to say hello, but I needed to eat up so I let them get on while I sorted myself out.
The goal for the day was to get to CP3, and maybe past if it wasn’t too dark. I hadn’t made much progress till now, mostly as I was going uphill, but also as I was faffing with the tracker again. I thought it might pick up some signal again once I was through the pass, but it wasn’t playing ball even after turning it off and on again. I gave in and stopped in a town before the next climb and installed some fresh batteries. I couldn’t find any of the ‘recommended’ batteries, so some Duracell’s would have to do until I got to CP3. Once in my tracker picked up satellite almost straight away. Result!
There were two more climbs done before the long descent out of Switzerland began. Originally I had planned to take a bit of a jolly up the Umbrail pass, and come down the Stelvio into Italy. Given how slow I’d been that day and that I was actually doing quite well positionally, I figured it would be best to save that for another day. I stopped just before the Swiss side of the border to spend some of the last of the francs and stock up on more calories.
Through the border it was all downhill to Bolzano. An interesting route through here that I hadn’t paid too much attention too when plotting. It followed a fairly busy cycle path through various orchards of apples most of the way to Bolzano. The path followed the crisp cool blue waters of a river for the most part, which really helped as it was about 38 deg with a steady headwind coming up the valley.
Before getting to Bolzano, I found myself a McDonald’s. It was too good of an opportunity to miss, and stocked up an large amount of burgers, ice cream, coke and fries. When clearing away the table, I managed to put my phone down on top of the bin, then turn around and head to the loo. Not sure why I came back past the same bin on the way out, but was most surprised and very lucky to find my iPhone still there!
I discovered an awesome climb out of Bolzano in the early evening sun. The views were yet again incredible. This was the Dolomites for sure, with some incredible and dramatic scenery.
Shortly before the sun went down I came across a small town having a festival, which gave me a chance to stop and switch my dynamo across to the lights. I would have loved to have stayed and sampled the food and beer but was really keen to keep moving. Had to stop to let this finish though!
There were two more climbs to go before getting to the start of CP3, and I was really pushing to get there before midnight. I got to the bottom of the last climb, the San Pellegrino pass thinking it wasn’t that big a climb, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. When all you want to do is get cleaned up and go to bed, the small matter of a mountain pass of 1,918m and another 30 km’s to ride once over the top.
It took what seemed to be an absolute age to get over the pass. I was tired and going really slow. At the top I was quite keen to push down the other side and took an awful lot of chances flying down towards Alleghe. Near the bottom of the descent, I noticed my brakes weren’t working as well as they had been. After a few close calls on some hairpins, I reluctantly knocked back the speed well before the corners.
I caught up with another rider, #12 Stephane Ouaja, a few kilometers before Aleghe and we rode and chatted together until we got to the town. When we found the road down to the lake front it was quite clear I had worn them out and nearly rolled down a cobbled street straight into the lake. Not the best way to end the day!
I was totally cooked by now. Sadly there were no more rooms available, so both Stephane and I chose to sleep in the hotel lobby.
The Passo Giau would have to wait until tomorrow.
- Distance: 509.7 KM
- Ride Time: 27H 20M
- Elevation: 10,382 m
- Calories: 10,119