Everyone knows the pleasure of pedalling for a long downhill, but when you face it the moment after you get on your bike saddle and for 30 km at -3°C, the pleasure is mitigated by the freezing air that, despite one tries to cover every inch of his body, it goes everywhere and goes to whipping the muscles and the blood of a body that has not yet set in motion. Cold that even freezing the humidity between the string and the sheath of the brakes, blocking them, as Gigi has had first-hand experience.
But a cup of hot chocolate/coffee in Villach sorted it out and we begun to climb up the Drava chatting away as though it has been a beautiful spring day, despite the freezing-puddles that come along our ride. After the downhill to reach Tarvisio yesterday, we had the feeling of pedalling downhill although it was clear to everyone that this was not possible since we went back to the river.
This morning Alberto, Stefano and Mario from “Pedale Veneziano”, Ivano from “Cicli Favaro”, Susanna from FIAB of Treviso and Franz from Marghera left us. They brought their bikes in the opposite way heading to Udine, enjoying the gentle downhill to Moggio Udinese that they conquered at every turn of pedal yesterday.
Together with the departure of Maurizio – from FIAB of Treviso – yesterday evening, the group has now been restricted to 16 cyclists, waiting for new reinforcements that will be joined us in a couple of days.
Our legs are starting now to know each other and we can proceed closely-knit in a perfect gait, without calling each other at higher or lower speed.
The bike path runs along the banks of the Drava which still has the signs of the recent flooding. This picture should inevitably be linked to the one before our arrival in Tarvisio; where the bicycles’ light allowed to glimpse a sequence of uprooted trees at the edges of the bike path: a probable effect of the wave of bad weather that hit the Venetian mountains only few weeks ago.
We know by heart how single extreme weather events cannot be considered a direct consequence of climate change, but what we went through in these two days leads us to reflect on how much climate change can influence the frequency and the extent of extreme weather events.We stopped to enjoy a hot soup in Spittle and then off again to ride along the banks of the river.
The sun goes down earlier in this time of the year, and at sunset we had to face the last obstacle of today: the 8 km downhill to reach Malinitz, where we caught the train to cross the mountain and finally reach Bad Gestein.
Perhaps riding this hill in a beautiful spring day does not represent such a significant challenge, but we had to ride it by night, after having pedal for 115 km, at a non-quantified temperature below zero. And additionally, the signs every hundred meters of our personal Golgotha, articulated in 8 hypothetical stations, reinforced the pure suffering that characterized this hill.
Here everyone experiences are divided into intimate, in fact, if the bike ride is itself a moment of personal experience in which be a group can help a little, this is even more truthful when you have to deal with cold and dark.
After the first km with a slope of 13% , the bicycle’ lights revealed the slope that awaits us for the next bike ride. A car arrival became a relief because it was able to make a glimpse of a greater stretch of road, perhaps with a reduction of the slope that becomes an important injection of confidence.
The swaying of the bicycle sometimes led to illuminate the masses of snow at the edge of the road, that did not bode great hope regarding the temperature that will find along the pass. The noises from the forest on our hips betrayed a swarm of life and sometimes one get the impression of being observed by some animals that will perhaps look curiously at our hill.
The eyes of these animals reflected just a moment from the centre of the road to Massimo’s, and then disappeared into the darkness, concealing an identity that cannot be disclosed.
Things went from bad to worse for those who threw up due to the effort along the hill or for those that had the chain stuck during an unlucky change. Luckily, these episodes happened one right after the other, thus it was possible to share the difficulty and hitched a ride to reach the station on the summit.
The belief that brought our bicycles on the train could represent the end of today adventure was questioned by the abundant snow and the freezing weather that greeted us at our arrival in the station.
Providentially, the excellent management of the road with salt and gravel allowed us to safely descend the 3-4 km that divided us from the centre of Bad Gestein. But still it was not time to put our bikes in storage, because a small misunderstanding gave us 7 km more to rife (downhill fortunately). In fact, we fixed the arrival at the Hotel Salzburg Hof in Bad Gestein, instead of the Der Salzburger Hof in Bad Hofgestein.
The last downhill finally led us to the our hotel where we took an hot shower after 122 km that everyone will remember still for sometimes.