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June 23, 2007 / jslipschultz

Italy: Monte Grappa

Today was the biggie:  Mount Grappa.  I have never experienced anything like this on a bicycle.  I have no idea how professional riders can do what they do.  It seems humanly impossible.

Today Jamie and I conquered the mountain.  It wasn’t easy.  First we had to bike 18 miles to the base of the mountain (no problem–the usual 18 mph or so).  Of course, it’s not Texas.  There is lots to look at as you race through.  The trickiest part is the round-abouts.  There are some stop lights, but there are loads of round-abouts (or traffic circles).  You have to time your move to yield to traffic.  It takes some patience and practice.  Of which I have little.

At the base of the mountain, we learned there are 20 switchbacks on this mountain (turns out they stop labeling them at 12–probably a good thing).  The climb was 16 miles of riding with stopping to take pictures or get more water.  The temperature changed about 20 degrees from bottom to top.  Many riders were racing down as we climbed.

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We averaged 8 mph, but only because there were a few downhills while climbing the mountain.  There was much of time where I was riding between 6 and 7 mph.  Just working on the turning the pedals quickly while the wheels seemed to drag along.  For reference, when I ride with Linsday, she averages 7 mph (on the flat road, of course).

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As we climbed, we saw cows with bells on.  One group was practically a little orchestra with all the bells ringing.  Why bells, you ask?  Well, it’s easy to lose your cows up on the mountain on a day like today.  As we got closer to the top, we started biking through the CLOUDS.  Towards the very end, we could not see two car-lengths in front of us.  I kid you not.  It took us 2 hours and 10 minutes to climb up the mountain.  Just 16 miles.  From the bottom of the mountain to the top of the mountain was 5310 feet.

At the top, we literally stopped to make sure we were at the top and asked a driver where the restaurant was.  It was right in front of us, but we couldn’t see it.  Maybe 20 feet away.  Good thing we didn’t give up and start heading down.  I was hungry.  A little lasagna goes a long way after you’ve burned close to 2,000 calories.

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Going down was fun.  But too short.  The 16 miles only took 47 minutes going down at an average of 20 miles per hour.  We could have gone down a lot faster, easily over 30 mph, but there were so many turns with uncertainty around each corner, so we had to slow down near each curve and certainly each switchback.  It was cold going down, we had to wear jackets until we got closer to the bottom.  That’s where we saw two hang gliders take off (still high enough up the mountain to catch a good draft I guess).  They just lifted right up like a kite and flew in circles above us.

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After reaching the bottom, it was another 15 miles to home where we hauled pretty fast (around 20 mph) and passed a few Italian riders.  Although one caught my tail and drafted us for about 15 minutes then led us for about 5 minutes.  When we were almost home, we ended up at the bottom of the hill that the hotel is on.  So after all that riding, we had to finish with a 1.3 mile climb of over 400 feet.

You can see the Rosina at the top next to the church up at the top on the right (the church is the funny curvy building and the Rosina is directly to the left of it.

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The total ride was about 5 hours of total riding time (although we were gone from about 9:30 to 4:30).  It was 65 miles and 7,388 total feet of climbing.  Jamie asked we when we finished, “If your life depended on it, could you ride the same ride again right now?”  I told him, I’d be dead either way.

Tonight we have dinner at Jamie and Siv’s friends’ house.  Jennifer isn’t back yet from Oslo with Siv.  We called them.  Looks as if they pushing the limit on shopping before we need to leave for dinner.

 

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2 Comments

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  1. James / Jun 24 2007 11:23 am

    Jeff/Jamie,
    Congratulations! What an awesome experience. I can't wait to hear the details when you guys get back. There was no group ride this weekend.
    Take care,
    James

  2. DBing / Jun 24 2007 9:37 pm

    Greetings from Texas !!

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