So it’s been 4 weeks since I landed back in sunny AUS. It feels a world away and a lifetime ago that I was sitting in the Italian Alps, keeping pro hours and planning training rides to wherever I felt like riding.
I was based Varese, 55 kilometres north of Milan, in the far North West Alps of Italy. Located in the Lombardy region, Varese often plays host to the UCI world tours final major European race, the Giro di Lombardia. Varese has many famous neighbours such as; Lake Como (home to Cadel Evans), Lake Maggiore and Sacre Monte just to name a few. Varese thrust onto the world stage in 2008 when it held the road cycling world championships and it is plain to see how ingrained cycling is in the region.
[quote_box_center]I could write all day about different experiences I had in the Varese region, however, today I’ll pick one of my favourites; Mottarone.[/quote_box_center]
Mottarone is a HC climb with an altitude of 1,492 meters. The source of the impressive Agogna river, the mountain flanks the side of Lake Maggiore. It’s an amazing experience in itself to be able to ride along the side of a beautiful lake and simply turn left and climb for 20km. Mottarone was exactly this, 20km straight up, minus a 1.5km section at the 13km mark.
It’s all well and good to call yourself a ‘climber’ in Australia, but take a hint from me here… We have very few climbs in Australia that rival any of the HC climbs in Europe. 20km of climbing is not something to take on lightly.
This particular climb started beautifully! Hair-pinning its way up the side of a mountain that looks over one of the most beautiful lakes the world has to offer. At about the 8km mark I went through a small town where people still come to the centre to fill up their water bottles from the snow melt fresh water pipes, it’s a different world!
10km in, it all started to get very full on. With pinches of 15-19% lasting not just for the hair pin, but for 100-200m really dinted my progress. As I mentioned, at the 13 km mark there was a little reprieve of approx 1-1.5km, however as I was planning the ride I assumed the final 7km averaged approximately 10% due to the elevation gain… How wrong I was.
Because I hadn’t factored in this section of no climbing, the final 6km ended up averaging 11-12%, which after 13km of climbing is relatively demoralising! Having said this, the climb did suit my style, I generally (unless doing SE training) spin a higher cadence so it suited me to have a compact on the bike and I needed every gear!
Alas, I got through to the finish of the climb, and being 10 degrees cooler at the top didn’t wait around too long to saver the view. After taking a few necessary photos and having a bite to eat, I would tuck into my decent.
The decent was quite technical due to the amount of hair-pins at the top section and the bottom section (the middle was relatively straight forward). When I started the decent I had to don my gillet as it was about 14 degrees as opposed to the lake level which was 24 degrees. The first 6km went by quite fast, however when I had to start pedalling again I had forgotten to turn the pedals whilst descending and was incredibly stiff!! Put that one in the memory bank to remember for next time, always good to keep the legs moving even whilst descending so as not to cramp.
Not the most exciting ride to do solo, however, if I ever find myself back in the area with a bike, definitely a ride I would do again. The feeling of elation at the top of an HC climb is almost unmatched.
I have said in the past, and will write about it in the future, Strava is going to be a major hindrance to bunch riding etiquette. However, as a user of Strava and riding solo on this climb, I really dug deep and managed to secure the number one position on the HC climb section (20.1km). An achievement I am stoked with, making the day just a little more worth it!
Until next time, pedal well.