K2’s Giro di Dolomiti 

23rd - 27th  May 2007

Team Leader

K2 (absent with injured foot)

A Team

JR, FR

B Team

Dave, K1, Mike

?

M*** (the immigrant)

Kelloggs Carpet Shampoo

Tuesday 22nd May 6.50 am, cup of tea and bowl of Shreddies, Breakfast News droning on in the background ‘Italian cabin crew on strike – most flights to Northern Italy cancelled’.  Seriously expecting a diversion to 5 days in Devon, but absolutely no problems with planes the following day – Good Luck No.1.  Box storage and bike reassembly also problem-free.

Day 1 Venice to Feltre

Now, if we repeated this trip we would take a train from Mestre to somewhere nice and start from there.  The flat bit wasn’t too bad and JR made a real effort to use some quieter roads.  However, these roads are generally busy and there are no White Van Men in Italy – they’re all Big Lorry Men!  The Park Hotel was fine, although it did have a Bulgarian feel to it, explaining the ridiculously inexpensive price tag.  The Italians really love their football – after an excellent restaurant meal, we struggled badly to find a venue for the Champions League final starring the Italian AC Milan; a pizza joint with a TV and two Germans was the best we could manage.  Different culture – the locals watch the game at home and when it finishes they drive their cars round the town honking their horns!   M*** started the night sharing a room with Mike, but didn’t even last to midnight before running into our room and the spare bed – apparently, Mike snores occasionally.

Day 2 Feltre to Cortina d’Ampezzo (almost)

Now this was the day when the B Team should have taken more prior notice of the map and the profile – 50 odd miles to warm up and then a ‘Ben Nevis’ climb before a descent into Cortina.  Everything was fantastic to begin with; a beautiful warm sunny day and a great gorge to cycle up to a village called Tizer – I’ll have a pint of that please.  The fact that even the A Team found the ascent to Tizer rather tough should have provided a warning.  Following a top pizza lunch, everything looked good until the approach to Alleghe when a heavy rainstorm allowed time to appraise the situation – 4 pm, 45 miles on the clock, over 1500 m of climbing already completed and currently about 830 msl – now to tackle the Passo di Giao at 2233 msl where it might even be snowing at the top.  That’s 1400 m up taking well over 2 hours.  After a brief animated discussion, the B Team convinced the A Team that Cortina was not really too sensible.  A local hostel was secured up the road in Caprile; the failure to reach Cortina was the first time we have failed to achieve an objective; oh, except when Frank went home in Dorset!

After we had booked into the hotel, the sun came out again.  What if it had been sunny when we had reached Alleghe a couple of hours earlier?  I guess we would have gone up the Passo di Giao – Tommy Simpson springs to mind.  Fortuitous rain – especially as Cortina was not exactly buzzing.

Your reporter had usefully brought along an Italian phrase book and listened to half CD No.1 of a 10 CD Italian course – so that’s fluency for you!  The team were committed to learning at least one new useful phrase each day: ‘two beers, please, thank you’; ‘three beers and four pizzas please’; ‘please, where is the bar with a TV?’; ‘I have skidded on some Bolognese sauce and my bicycle is in the ravine.’  Now to put this learning to good use in restaurant ordering.  In Caprile, for example, it was a fair bet that the pizza restaurant was the only drinking den in town; hence, a great incentive to take one’s time and order slowly.   However, the first appearance of a waitress generated a burst of Franglaispalian Tourettes direct from the Tower of Babel – water, beer, wine, starter, main course, dessert, coffee and while you’re here, ‘il conto per favore’!  I suppose it’s extreme thirst and hunger that causes this – Dave’s Calorie counter quantifies the problem – 5400 Calories used comprise a lot of beer and pizza refuelling.

On day 2 we first heard of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo – not the last time we would hear of this spot where the Giro d’Italia was due to finish on Sunday!

Day 3 Caprile to Cortina d’Ampezzo

The end of this Day 3 section includes the recounting of an event so improbable that it throws into doubt the veracity of this report, and all previous reports for that matter – you’re going to have to wait for it and believe it!

A great day’s cycling, although I’m pretty sure your reporter has forgotten the pain.  The first climb of the day reinforced the decision to bottle the Passo di Giao!  Mike stated quite categorically that he wouldn’t have made it – Dave and yours truly just kept quiet.  Apparently M*** put in an impressive burst of speed up a 30% climb, no doubt training for the Tre Cime di Lavaredo.  We survived the specially laid road gravel on the descent and finally made it to Passo Valparola at 2192 msl (7200 feet), the highest we have been so far (and ever again!?).  If only one could record the feelings of arriving at the mountain-top restaurant, one would probably not go near mountains again.  A lot of time in bottom gear is recalled, ludicrously low speeds, and a seriously shaking body following dismount.  It is probably fair to state that M*** was not looking too promising for the TreCime at this stage.  A substantial feed including a bucket of Goulash improved considerably team health and morale.

In Cortina, at the Hotel Oasi, we met Signor Euro, the proprietor – ‘It was a great shame for Signor Aldred – that will be 70 Euro please; and desperate bad luck that Signor Smith had cramps preventing you arriving last night – 210 Euro please; no discount for uneaten breakfasts, then.’

Earlier in the year your reporter spotted the following in a Lakeland pub; ‘Watership Down Pie – you’ve read the book, you’ve seen the film, now eat the cast!’  What’s the connection?  This is when the TreCime bunny got serious.  The B Team stated categorically that they couldn’t/wouldn’t tackle the 18% TreCime.  This riled Frank who then got seriously tetchy when the B team did not meekly accept its role as a support team; at one stage it looked like the evening entertainment could involve two or maybe even three separate groups.  However, the B Team members solved the problem by proposing their own downhill tourist route involving many stops for coffee, beer and pizza while the A Team punished their bodies – an amicable compromise.

Cortina on a Friday night was not exactly buzzing.  However, the local birreria was uncovered; unfortunately this was a misnomer as it appeared to stock just two beers, one of which was completely devoid of any taste.  The other dark beer was potable and the atmosphere acceptable, so it’s a Friday night session.  Mike retired after a couple of pints, joined by M*** to prepare for the TreCime.  Now, for that improbable event!  So it’s ‘quattro birre, per favore’ then; JR ‘Not for me, I’ve had enough’.  Blimey, your reporter’s ears must be malfunctioning.  Let’s try again.  So it’s ‘quattro birre, per favore’ then; JR ‘Not for me, I’ve had enough’.  Really, yes honestly guv’.  Frank recovered from his early tetchiness to celebrate his first ever victory in sibling competitive drinking in over 25 years of trying.  JR stayed to watch us consume our beers; we really should have had a few more just to press home the point!

Day 4 Cortina d’Ampezzo to Ampezzo

It’s important to warm up before tackling a climb; the warm up comprised 10 metres in the Hotel Oasi car park before an assault on the Passo di Tre Croce (we all have one to bear) at 1805 msl – good to see a decent crowd camping out to greet us.  Then down to the crossroads – left over the Rubicon to the TreCime for the pros, and right for the tourist ride to Ampezzo.  M***, ‘I’m not going to the TreCime; I’m not sure I would make it’.  Ear problems again – must have one of those tests they advertise at Specsavers.  ‘Come again, Guv’’.  ‘I’m not going to the TreCime; I’m not sure I would make it’.  It’s not often your reporter is lost for words, but…….. (maybe you would like to insert your own feelings here No.1).  To be fair (a rare event), JR and FR were on excellent form and would have raced up TreCime and caught the B Team in a bar on the road to Ampezzo.  M***?  Who knows!  Who cares!

The B Team route really was excellent – scenery, downhill cycling and plenty of time for refreshments and general socialising. Your reporter moved from the written word to photojournalism to take an excellent action photo…at the cost of a puncture!  Mobile phones are useful for these unfortunate events, especially if you have the numbers of the other cyclists!  Chapeaux to Dave and Mike for starting the ascent to effect a rescue or pick up the body.

The weather forecast had been threatening serious rain for days, and on Saturday evening it finally arrived in niagaras.  Confined to quarters in Ampezzo; fortunately the hotel was also the pizza parlour and probably the liveliest bar in town – however, it would have been nice to check this out.

Day 5 Ampezzo to Venice

A ‘Grand old Duke of York’ start – halfway up, halfway down – then the whole way up – this was a serious final climb to 1100 m from a start of 300 m.  Frank enjoyed the Team’s second bout of good luck – a nasty tyre gash that did not cause a crash and was just about cyclable after serious running repairs, as long as the front brake was kept inactive.  Chapeaux to Frank for a descent in the pouring rain with just a back brake – your reporter may have taken a while longer, methinks.  The scenery on the descent through the gorge was stunning – pity about the cold and pouring rain.  However, watching the Giro a few days later confirms Good Luck No. 3; on the following Tuesday, the Gruppo had to stop in a tunnel for 45 minutes to thaw out after a descent – the passes appeared to have a dusting of fresh snow.

Now then, it’s time for a multiple choice quiz.  You have (a) a bar bag firmly attached to your bicycle, (b) a small rucksack that you have regularly attempted to leave in various en-route hostelries.  Where do you store your valuables and passport on the ride to the airport?  Blimey, a failure to find appropriate words again…(maybe you would like to insert your own feelings here No.2).  The delay caused a loss of lunch – serious!

When Gianfranco got up on Sunday morning for his regular ride, he probably wasn’t expecting any excitement, especially involvement in an international diplomatic incident.  Furthermore, he probably didn’t think much about overtaking a gruppo Inglese, even when Dave decided this was an ‘attack’ that needed to be controlled.  Gianfranco probably saw little significance in the road sign for Citta di Un Cavallo; he was probably not expecting to become engulfed in a frantic sprint.  However, he may have got slightly worried when Dave overdid the power and dropped his chain.  Good luck 4 – a nasty accident narrowly avoided; Gianfranco cycled on wondering if he had lost touch with reality.  Of course, M***, full of contrition for delays and missed lunch, wouldn’t have dreamed of being involved in that sprint!

Sometimes it’s good to see your train coming down the track, sometimes it’s great; in Sacile, it was wonderful!  After 70+ miles, there was little enthusiasm for a further 40 to the airport.  The train, complete with an innovative bike rack, took us through some horrendous weather to Mestre, and a further 10 wet miles cycling to the airport.

Now, M*** had visited the Sacile carabinieri who had kindly issued him with form ALB07, normally issued to illegal immigrants; it basically said ‘To all concerned – deport this idiot off Italian soil, pronto’.  This proved useful at the airport, where with our fifth example of good luck, M*** was deported forthwith.

Summary

Distance:                                              289 tough miles

Food:                                                   Too much pizza really

Drink                                                    Potable but nothing special

Postscript

So who is the man of mystery M***?  You have two choices:

1.      After recording a ridiculously fast time in the Etape Anglais, the UK immigration service finally caught up with M*** - Marco Gonzalez, a Columbian professional cyclist, specialist climber and cocaine smuggler.  He was deported to Bogota.

2.      The UK immigration service identified M*** as Mark, who was given temporary permission to remain in the UK.  Subsequently, he has been spotted on a brand new Colnago, in training for next year’s attempt on the Tr…..aggh!

Il Rivestimento

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