Fifty-eight miles through the Alps. That's what was on the agenda for today when we rode the eighth stage of the 2012 Giro Donne. And about 50 miles of that was a climb—nearly 8,000 feet total—over two significant passes.
The owners of farmhouse bed and breakfast Acqua Fracta in Chiavenna stuffed us with fresh eggs, house cured meats, homemade jams and cakes, warm breads and steaming coffee. Then we started off on our route, which climbed for nearly the entire day. The grade was mellow for the first several hours, through farmland and cobble-street villages, and past craggy cliff bands.
At the bottom of Passo Maloja, Collyn’s shifter gave out. While Erin tried to fix it, the rest of us powered up the hairpin switchbacks individually, pushing through the 18-percent grades. Unable to fix her shifter, Collyn made the climb in a single gear (not her easiest) and then we scrambled to find a bike shop before siesta time, which seems to be somewhere between noon and 3 or 4 p.m.
We failed on the bike shop, but we did find an excellent patisserie where we had rhubarb custard before climbing some more. Collyn kept strong and rode the rest of the day in her single gear, through St. Moritz, spinning at high speeds on the flats, and standing to power up and over Bernina Pass and Diavolezza, through snowy craggy mountains and over the pass.
In Livigno, apparently the place in northern Italy to buy perfume, watches and Oakley—it's a duty free zone—we found a bike shop (I'M Sport: Livigno Bike and Sportswear, the best place to buy anything bike related if you're on the Swiss Italian border in this area) with an older shift lever they were willing to loan us for the rest of the trip. Owner Filippo Sensoli tolerated our broken Italian and made the fix in record time at a price that was more than fair.
Something about the day was strangely satisfying. It was slow and steady, we knew what we had in front of us, and we all just put our heads down and pedalled. There is quite a lot of excitement building for tomorrow's big climb, the 22km Passo dello Stelvio, an Italian classic.
My bike feels great, like an extension of my body. It's nimble on the descents, and even after miles and miles of bad roads, my shoulders aren't sore.
Today's stats: 59 miles, 7,749 feet of climbing, 80 degrees.