“If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” This sentence is true, and especially for 2020, it fits like a glove. Unfortunately it hits many people around the world very hard. But I don’t want to dwell on the consequences of the Corona crisis. I would like to show how short-term plans can become an amazing experiences.
My season’s highlight should actually take place in August 2020. Holiday plans were mixed up with Corona and suddenly the season highlight should appear in July 2020. So I had a few days off in July and of course a cyclist only wants one thing: to cycle. In summer, racing cyclists are drawn to the Alps. Passes are only open a few months a year and can be ridden without frostbite. But you can’t choose the weather and this year at the beginning of July there were some thunderstorms in the house. Once you have been caught in the Alps by a cold front with thunderstorms, you will never forget the experience for the rest of your life. In 2017 I had the pleasure in Switzerland and had to drive 55 kilometres from Andermatt to Biasca in freezing cold continuous rain with thunderstorms. 15 degrees drop in temperature, shivering with cold, wet to the skin and hardly any braking effect with rim brakes on slippery asphalt.
In 2020, the holiday destination was chosen within a few minutes on the map with a finger on the pulse of luck. South Tyrol, not too far in the higher altitudes, which could have meant increased risk of thunderstorms and cold temperatures. But also not too far away from the beautiful Dolomite passes. Tesero was initially chosen as the location for a few days before a new location was to be chosen in view of the weather conditions. Tesero, a small town with about 3000 inhabitants in southern Trentino, nestled between the passes of the Giro d’Italia.
Only a stupid tourist at Manghen Pass
Right on the first day I started early, because the first thunderstorms were expected at noon. I decided to drive up to the Manghen Pass. My plan was to check the weather up there and, if the conditions were good, to risk the descent to Castelnuovo in the Suganertal valley and then to return over the Manghen Pass by the shortest route. The northern ascent of the Passo Manghen is moderately steep and leads through forest for a long time. The traffic of cars and motorbikes was very limited, even though it was Sunday. The Corona situation attracts relatively few vacationers to northern Italy. Arrived at the summit, I met the first mainly Italian cyclists, who climbed the pass from the south side. On the descent I saw more cyclists struggling up the mountain with painful faces. A warm wind was blowing towards me on the south side. Wind vest, at most arm warmers, was all you had to put on in the downhill. When I arrived in Castelnuovo I got myself some new water and immediately started my way back. The sun was still shining, but thunderstorms can develop in the mountains in no time. In 2019 I was at the Manghen Pass for the first time and also rode up from the south side. The hot conditions were still in my memory, but this year it was especially gruesome. The air stood still and with the measly speed uphill, there was no cooling wind. The sun was popping. My Garmin showed almost 35 degrees. Thank God I had enough to drink. The sweat was running in streams. I was as wet as if I had been sitting in a bathtub. Even at 1000 meters above sea level it was unbearable. Meanwhile no cyclist was to be seen far and wide, only a couple coming downhill towards me I saw on the road and another couple sitting halfway up in a mountain coffee. It was only shortly after noon. Of course! How could I be so stupid as to underestimate the heat! No local or Italian comes up with the idea to drive up the south side of the Manghen in summer after the midday bell. I was just a stupid tourist. The last altitude difference at Manghen is steep with double digit percentages and also here it was still super warm. In the end I arrived dry and after a fast descent I was back in my accommodation with the first thunderstorm drops.
The next days the round with the thunderstorms went into the next rounds. Every day we had to leave early to avoid the thunderstorms. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it worked less well. A tour from early to late was therefore not planned. Nevertheless, the passes Manghen, Redebus, Rolle, Valles, Pordoi and Colle Santa Lucia were mostly driven on dry. But at the Passo di San Pellegrino I was caught by a heavy thunderstorm one day. Completely soaked and dirty but safe and sound I came back.
As a weather forecaster, you try to get the most out of the weather forecasts, even if you can’t influence the weather, you can still better coordinate your plans with the weather. Every day I watched the weather forecasts to see how the weather would develop and which destination could be chosen next. As the Tesero location was ideal for pass tours, the stay was extended by two more days, after consultation with the owners of the accommodation. This would mean that the day of departure would fall on a day with a very high probability of rain.
The most beautiful tour of all, was a lonely round trip with highlight Nigerpass. From Tesero to the west over very lonely roads, small passes and deserted ski villages you reach the Nigerpass from Bozen. During the ascent you have the rose garden in view and up on the pass summit you can enjoy a delicious apple strudel in the restaurant. On the day of departure from Tesero, I use the gap in the early morning hours to do a little round trip over the Passo di Pramadiccio and climb a bit up the Passo di Lavaze and admire the Reiterjoch, which was already visited by the Giro d’Italia in the lower part. It is highly recommendable to take the road between pastures, which is getting smaller and smaller, all the way to the top. But I had to hurry, as already in the morning, the first hailstorms thundered down. But for this, one could pack the suitcases in peace and quiet without missing anything and there was some advice from the owner of the accommodation, who was an old-established racing cyclist. For the next days it was time to go to Arabba, to the Sella Ronda.
Maratona dles Dolomites
Like so many other cycling events in 2020, Covid broke the neck of the Maratona dles Dolomites. At the beginning of July, the popular round trip on the various routes should take place. Many cyclists, however, did not let the fun of Corona be taken away and still travelled to the Sella Ronda region. The famous passes are beautiful and should be the end of the summer holidays. In the Dolomites you can really let off steam as a mountain climber. In different combinations you can heat over the Sella and Gardena Pass, the passes Campolongo, Fedaia, Pordoi, Falzarego and Valparola. But you are never alone.
The emperor weather on the first day should be used for a big round. Over the Passo Campolongo and the Grödner Joch to the famous and beautiful Sella Joch, which I should visit two more times during the days. The asphalt at the Pordoi is not really good, but nevertheless it is fun to heat towards Canazei.
The thing with the brakes
Down the pass my disc brakes made a lot of noise. Loud squeaks at every turn. Arriving in Canazei it became clear that my brake pads on the rear wheel were already completely worn out and the brake discs did not go back completely, so that a constant grinding noise accompanied me. But there were more passes on the agenda. The braking effect was still good and so I tried to use only the front brake for the next three descents if possible and to brake as little as necessary. Although I had a queasy feeling in the next downhills, everything went well. Back in the holiday flat, I wanted to change the brake pads. But what was that? I had accidentally put in the wrong brake pads. Good advice was expensive. The next day was Sunday and there were hardly any shops on site anyway. Where can I get new brake pads? Our accommodation consisted of a combination of several holiday flats, which were fully occupied by racing cyclists. In the bike room there were some racing bikes with disc brakes. Maybe someone had spare pads for the disc brakes with him? I went and knocked on the doors. And I was lucky. An Italian, who wanted to leave the next day, agreed to sell me his used brake pads. The deal didn’t come cheap, but this way the lively roundel at the passes could be continued the next day without any problems.
My most beautiful discovery was the Passo di Giau, which I cycled this year for the first time, from both sides. And what can I say? The landscape is a dream. The ascent is not very steep and the descents are nice and round, curvy and fast. A small side trip to the national park Drei Zinnen was also included. As the last full day tour on day 10, the Würzjoch was visited and as a reward for the steep ascent we had our annual goulash in the restaurant on the Passanhöhe. On the day of departure, I got up early in the morning and enjoyed the Sella Ronda as a farewell tour. Thus, 1200 kilometres and 30.000 metres were achieved in 10 days. Nothing was intendet, nothing was planed in that manner. To be honest, it was a lousy planning. Who would have been thought that it would end in a great story!? What a wonderful and unforgettable landscape! My highlight 2020… so far 😉