Wednesday, 8 May 2013

My own private cronoscalata - Mori to La Polsa!

On a recent trip to Lake Garda I decided to try out what is effectively stage 18 of this year's Giro d'Italia. I picked up the cycle path from Riva del Garda, where I was staying and followed the signs for Rovereto. After around 10km I arrived in a small town called Mori. From there it was an uphill ride to the mini ski resort of La Polsa.


I had been quite apprehensive about taking on this challenge since I had no idea what the route would be like, and from my knowledge of the Giro d'Italia, organisers make the hill climb stages, or cronoscalata pretty tough. I still remember how riders had to use a 34 x 29 gearing in order to ride up the 25% Plan di Corones on a wet day a few years ago.

The area in the immediate vicinity did not appear to have any serious hills, however the upper sections of the climb are only just in the shadow of Monte Baldo - the main mountain range in that area. So this climb would certainly be challenging towards the end.

So off I went up the numerous hairpins. This was all very straightforward with unchallenging gradients and parts of the climb went through the trees so on a warm day it would be nice and shady. As I rose further and further up the mountain the town of Mori became smaller and smaller. Eventually, after 9km I reached the town of Brentonico which had more life going on than I would find for the whole 20km - which wasn't that much at all. I imagine that there'll be alot of crowds here on the day, of the race given the number of cafes and hotels, but on the day I rode up the place was quite deserted.

It was nice to get a little respite on my arrival at Brentonico, for in this town the road levelled off and then dropped downhill quite steeply for around half a mile. Some climbing specialists might feel a little short-changed finding some downhill during a hillclimb, but I wasn't complaining!

Once out of Brentonico the road began to climb gradually again, and after 5km I reached the village of Prada. If I were spectating this event, I would hang out here. It's not a very big place, but there are a few shops and bars. There is also a great view back across the valley where it would be possible to see the riders snaking their way up the road way in the distance. There are also some areas where you can sit in the woods and enjoy a picnic. Even though it was nice and sunny on this Sunday afternoon, the temperature was a little bit too cold for a picnic though. So I pushed on.

Once past Prada, the proper work began. The narrow road rounded a corner and the gradients became steeper, as Brentonico was well and truly left behind and my views were now of the mountains near Monte Baldo.

As I rode up the climb I felt myself become more tired as my breathing became more laboured, and the air became crisper as I scaled past the 1000m altitude mark. There were more and more switchbacks, there was a greater abundance of fir trees, and the carpet of snow showed no sign of going away any time soon. It was a pretty desolate road. Once at the summit I was glad to see a little life at Polsa - even if it was just a handful of sledgers!

Overall, the climb had not been so tough. I have had worse experiences on hills in the south of England! It was a nice and steady climb, with pleasant views of pastures at the bottom and an alpine resort at the top - nothing horrendously challenging, but nothing spectacular to look at, like what you might find in the Dolomites proper either.

One memorable thing did happen though - as I was riding up I saw a BMC car riding down the hill, with a certain Cadel Evans zooming down to Polsa. I smiled and said "Ciao" to him and he managed a quick wave back as he negotiated a hairpin. Surely he should have been the one going up the hill?? Well, I can only imagine he was finishing off for the day after having done a few reps of this road earlier in the morning! I'll let him off!

My planned onwards itinerary had been to drop down the other side of the hill towards San Valentino and San Giacomo and then rejoin a the high road back to Desenzano del Garda (possibly with a stopover for some Bardolino)!
Sadly, it wasn't meant to be. I'd been struggling to find the road back to San Valentino. According to my map I should have been able to ride through the resort to continue my journey, however I appeared to be in a cul-de-sac. On asking a local for directions he said, "You want to go to San Valentino? That's the road over there!" And he pointed to a ski track through the snow! Err, that wasn't going to be an option for me on my road bike! My plan B and plan C alternatives were also dead in the water (or rather in the snow) for they also made up part of the network of pistes for La Polsa ski resort! I hadn't expected to see quite so much snow on the roads in mid April. Hopefully that snow will be gone by May or the team cars will need snow ploughs on the front!

So I resorted to plan L - lunch in Rovereto, but not before enjoying the long descent back to Mori. I wasn't complaining about that! 

This climb, like all climbs in the Giro will be interesting to watch. The fact that it is a time trial means lots of time to see lots of riders grinding up the road, as opposed to seeing 200 riders zoom by very quickly. Even if this cronoscalata is no Plan di Corones or Alpe d'Huez it will still make for an exciting scenario by that stage of the competition when the likes of Signori Nibali, Evans Uran Uran and Co battle for vital seconds so close to the end of the Giro d'Italia. 

Out of interest, I timed myself. Including stops for taking photos, eating, fettling my bike and general faffing, the ride up with a rucksack, took me 2 hours and 20 minutes. Most people will do this quicker than me, as I am the queen of faff and fettle, much to the irritation of my ride partners! Anyway, this snail pace will be no comparison to the 40mins or so that the pros will take! That's why they will be riding up the hill on 23rd May and I will be putting my feet up and watching!
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