Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Italian Adventure - "Not for Girls"

To make sure our friends visiting from Colorado remained "happy campers", we decided to pick up and move camp down to Italy for a few days with hopes of some sunshine and warmer temperatures... and luckily we got just that! We headed toward Lake Como, with destination Bellagio - No, not Las Vegas, and no dancing fountains here, just some beautiful old Italian buildings overlooking the lake and the mountains beyond, which were calling our name...
As always in Italy, the drive to get there was pretty crazy. At times it didn't seem like we could all fit on the tiny road at the same time - somethin's gotta give...
We were relieved to make it there in one piece, and the car too - actually especially the car, since it was brand-new! (our friends bought it through the overseas delivery program)

After we arrived and checked in to our hotel, we threw our stuff into the rooms and immediately headed out to the local bike shop to ask for suggestions on local biking routes. The little cobblestone streets in this town are gorgeous...
The local bike shop owner was very nice and helpful, and immediately got out several maps to show us the local training routes. The landscape around Lake Como is obviously hilly and the best places to ride are away from the busy road that goes around the lake, so of course that meant the best routes involved going uphill (as always!). As he thought about what route would be best to suggest to us, he pondered for a minute, as if trying to decide whether or not to tell us something...
Then he pointed out - "Well, this is the best route, but it's not for girls. It's too hilly and steep. The girls do a different route because this classic one is only for boys. It has a section that is 3km long with an average grade of 23%, so girls can't do it."

Whaaa?? "Not for girls"?? Of course this just made us want to do it more!! (although that does sound pretty tough - 23%? for 3k??)

So the plan was set (even though he kept telling us it was impossible). Paula bought a commemorative jersey for the ride with the assumption that the impossible would be done.

We figured some quality carbo-loading was in order in preparation for tomorrow's "impossible" ride, Italian style (or is it Coloradan-style)...
The next day Kelly (on the left below) kept reminding us girls how we'd better not try to follow him on the "boys route", or else...
The good thing is that both the girls' and the boys' route pass by the famous "cycling church" - That is, the shrine of Madonna del Ghisallo, the known as the patroness of cyclists. The tiny church is located at the top of a hill which was made part of the Giro di Lombardia bike race.
Inside there burns an eternal flame for cyclists who have died.
Kelly seemed to think this was a kind of church he could really get into (especially since the "proper" way to get there is by biking up the 10km, 14% hill to it).
It was quite interesting and something I think every cyclist would be interested in experiencing if you come out to cycle in Europe.
After "church" we continued biking, down the hill and making the turn TOWARD the "boys" route - That's right, we're ready to tackle the impossible. We passed the van for the Professional Women Cycling parked on the side of the road - Guess they couldn't go any farther. But that's still no deterrent to us -- On, on, on!
Finally we crossed over some writing on the pavement with the name of the climb: "Muro di Sormano". We must be at the impossible part! But it wasn't steep yet, so we kept going, thinking it must be around the next corner...On and on we went, looking for the 3k/23% section, thinking it must coming up any minute, trying to save our energy as much as possible but with our heartrates sky-high with the anticipation...

Then after about 5k of this, we got to the top of the road and realized we were on the wrong one! We saw the "real" climb down to the side, with painting all over it... Darn!
Well that's ok, we all decided - We'll just ride down it and then back up! (These are our Original-Hillseeker friends after all, that we first started biking with in the mountains of Colorado) As we went down, I made a couple stops to take pictures of the writing on the pavement, since I knew there was no way I'd be able to take them while trying to go back up (only SuperPhotoninja could do something like that).
It showed the times for some riders in past races... Of course no girls' names were on there...
By the time we got to the bottom of this climb we were worn out from all the anticipation and ready to just do it (at least to try). After all, you never know what you can accomplish, especially when someone tells you that you can't! So we were determined to prove the old bike shop owner wrong, no matter what it takes.

And we did - With a smile!! Yay!
It wasn't easy. But it wasn't 23% for 3k either - That was a slight exaggeration. It was over 20% for a lot of it, with a max of 25%, but the average was "just" 17% for 2k.

Anyway here's the picture we took back to the bike shop the next day to prove to the owner that girls can ride up big hills too :)
That night some celebration was in order, Italian style...
...and of course one of the best things from Italy...
The next day was a travel day back to Zurich, with a short side-trip to check out one of the small Italian villages along the way... including a climb (of course!). Seems like I'm always behind Paula, either on the bike or off...
We drove over the St. Gotthard Pass, where the guys had biked over just a few days earlier. The weather had changed a lot since then, and now the grass was covered in ice and there was a fresh dusting of snow all around (and the wind was so cold we could hardly stand out of the car long enough to take this picture):
Back in Switzerland, after conquering the Impossible, we decided some Swiss fondue was in order (always looking for an excuse to have fondue)...
A great way to top off another exciting adventure with our hillseeking friends from Colorado.

Next adventure -- Oktoberfest in Munich... A very different kind of challenge!

Prost,
Becky

5 comments:

chocolate girl said...

Fabulous! That Signore did not know who he was messing with...these Ragazze CAN climb the Wall of Sormano! It all looked perfect, from the ride, to the scenery, to the food. Thanks for letting me escape to dreamland! Photoninja loves the pictures:-)

Roger said...

You left out the 2 most important bits of info: a pic of their car and how fast it could go on the autobahn. Well, most important to me;-) Great pics and report!

Brian said...

Ah, the inside of the Ghisallo. When I was there last summer I didn't even know where to look for it. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Beck, your posts are awesome! I love reading them and just mentioned your blog to a guy from here who wants to go biking in Europe. So just like my Zuerich pics on Facebook, your blog becomes a travel guide for others!!!
Can't wait to see you Friday!!!
Martina

Sandy B and Dick said...

Impossible for girls??? There is no such thing! Awesome!!! Love the travelogue...love the area. Big hugs, honey.