Day 3- Hank gets the blues – Gaschurn, Aus – Sterzing-Vipiteno, Ita

After packing up my bivvy from the worlds least comfortable car park floor I went upstairs to the hotel to indulge in one of life’s most underrated pleasures, a buffet breakfast. Adam(#211) Stu(#194) Joseph (#165) and Danny (#9) were all enjoying the same fare, and it was good to chat to people after a second day spent mostly alone on the road.

The  mandatory parcours up the Silvrettastrasse are fantastic. It’s a toll road for cars so the traffic is minimal. The climb is long and hard but the scenery is stunning and I truly enjoy every moment of it. Its some introduction to the alps. At the top I stop for some food with a few of the guys from breakfast, everyone is in pretty good spirits.

 

The descent from the parcours was fun, as you’d expect. The fun soon dissipated as I began hitting the tunnels that were banned from the race. I negotiated these with Karl (#67) who was another face I’d become used to seeing. One of the detours cruelly dropped us down the side of the valley before climbing back up almost vertically. This particular tunnel I honestly believe would have been safe as I saw other (non-TCR) cyclists using it. However, them’s the rules and I know the organisers absolutely have our best interests at heart, so I obediently left the road at each tunnel and followed the diversions.

After the descent, its a long hard hot slog along the valley towards Innsbruck. It was another very warm day, and there was a hideous head wind. Coupled with the sleep deficit from the previous night, I didn’t really enjoy this part of the day. That’s a lie, I fucking hated it. A McDonald’s about a mile off route is the order of the day, and whilst it doesn’t really seem to help, the break from the hairdryer valley is welcome.

In my planning I’d avoided routing through cities where possible. In the case of Innsbruck this may have been a mistake as instead I had a pretty brutal climb to the town of Axams, following which I descended all I’d climbed to get to the bottom of the Brenner pass. The city suddenly seemed like the lesser of two evils but hindsight is a wonderful thing. So buggered was I by the route to Axams, I had to stop for about an hour, during which time I refuelled as much as possible and gave Katy a ring to have a moan about how hot and tired I was. The break and the moan helped, and by the time I got to the bottom of the Brenner Pass I felt vaguely human again.

The Brenner pass gets a bad press. Initially I didn’t understand this as the first part of the climb was quite quiet and gentle. However, it go busier and harder and less interesting. By the top I had aligned myself with the haters and I have no desire to revisit that particular climb.

IMG_4472
The Brenner Pass had its moments early on. I like a big bold piece of human engineering that somehow just works in an otherwise entirely natural setting.

The day had been tough. I’d read blogs about Day 3 blues, and I was certainly suffering myself. I decided that I’d find a hotel in a town on the descent off the Brenner and have an early night. I booked a room in Sterzing-Vipiteno and headed down. Here I had a fortunate run in with the archetypal cool Swede of #tcrno6, Adam (#211) who was coming in the opposite direction. We’d both routed the same bike path and neither of us liked the direction it was heading. If I hadn’t seen Adam coming back along it then I probably would have stubbornly followed it for a few more miles before admitting defeat and turning round. I owe you one. Like many towns I passed through I wished I was touring at a gentler pace. There was some sort of carnival on, and it was packed with people enjoying the evening warmth. I settled for two authentic Italian Calzones- one for dinner and one for brekkie. I also had a beer, which was ideal. I felt for the couple I sat next to in the pizzeria, I looked and smelt like death.

IMG_4478
Advice for any TCR riders. A calzone makes a fantastic breakfast that can be carried easily without mess.

I found my hotel, in the middle of a truck stop. Normally the noise would bother me but i was too tired to care. The receptionist was beautiful. But for reasons I can’t begin to understand I don’t think the attraction was mutual. After cleansing my filthy body I lay naked on my bed (I didn’t pack off the bike clothes and certain aspects required a nightly airing) and listened as a thunderstorm erupted in the valley. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so foolish for stopping early. I spared a brief thought for the guys I could see on Trackleaders who’d nobly cracked on in this weather before dropping into a deep slumber.

Third day blues, what a bitch.

Day 3 – 129.46 miles. 8,540 feet. 13.5 mph average speed.

134 bpm average HR   5596 calories

Total time: 12:46:34

Active Time: 09:35:49

“Cafe” Time: 3:10:45

 

 

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