Thursday, July 22, 2010

Race Report: TransALPs Stage 4 - Scoul, Switzerland to Livigno, Italy

Note: This post is getting posted two days after Stage 4, when we finally had internet again.  I also must apologize for spelling errors throughout this trip's posts. When I run spell check, almost every word comes up as misspelled because Blogger must realize I'm not in an English speaking country, and I can't seem to find the setting to default to English.

We said goodbye to Switzerland, the gorgeous scenery, nice people, and immaculate towns to enter Italy today. The race stage today was to have a good bit of climbing and the riders would end higher in Livigno than they started in Scoul.  Here is pic of the page of the race magazine to show you the elevation profile.  I think today's distance was 73 km.

We saw the guys off in the streets of Scoul

This video of the start of Stage 4 shows the leaders lined up on the start line in their matching leaders jerseys and gives you a feel for just how huge this race is as the 1100 riders pass by. Drew and David ride by at 2:45.

Scoul has been our favorite town so far because it was beautiful, clean, and surrounded by unbelievably gorgeous mountains. The streets of town were narrow and the cars were small. Check out Tracey in comparison to this garage.

Tracey and I then hit the road.

Driving in the Alps is an adventure in itself. This 2 minute video gives you a little bit of a perspective on how windy the roads were, but it doesn’t really do them justice. Check out the bit starting at 1:25.

We crossed to Italy via this crazy tunnel. You need only to watch the first 30 seconds or so to get a feel for the madness. 

But finally we came out the other side.  The first 30 seconds of this video shows us emerging from the tunnel 6+ minutes later.  Post-note: I later learned that this tunnel is called the Munt la Schera tunnel (or maybe Forcola di Livigno tunnel?) and the one-way traffic is controlled by traffic lights on a 15 minute timer.  It was built in 1968 for transportation of materials for construction of the dam we pop out onto, Punt dal Gall dam, on the border of Switzerland and Italy.  The lake (Lago di Livigno) is almost entirely in Italy, but the dam supplies power for Switzerland.  We paid a toll at the station on top of the dam after we came out (about 20 Euros I if I remember right) for use of the tunnel

Which put us into Italy. The town of Livigno was larger than we imagined and it took a while to find the hotel and unload before meeting the guys at the finish line. The guys had a reasonalby good day today.  There were lots of flats and pavement, which is David's forte, so they ended up in pacelines pushing a good pace.  They are getting werrier by the day.  David’s rear wheel had had enough of the Alps, so he ended up buying a new set from Shimano for a really great price.

After we got that all sorted and ate some really fabulous lasagna at the finish line, we headed to the Hotel Pare, complete with pool and sauna.

The view wasn’t bad either

Especially for $59 Euros, including breakfast.

This is the first hotel we’d booked that had a pool, so we took advantage of it for a refreshing swim, and a bidet, which we didn’t take advantage of.

It also had the smallest elevator, or "lift" if you are with a couple of Irish folks, of any we’d seen.

Drew and I were both hungry, so we ate at the race pasta party, where we were just a little too tired to stick around for these local performers giving a show.

One thing we are thankful for is that we did not choose the camping option of the race. Folks that “camped” were in a gymnasium room with everyone else on the floor in sleeping bags. Shoes were not allowed into the camping room and had to be left outside, presumably because of the mud and smell they give off.

We did, however, have a few minutes in the evening to walk around the duty free shopping area of Livigno, where we didn’t buy anything, but got a flavor of the building style.

It is quite striking how different the Italian town of Livigno is from the area of Switzerland and Austria we’d just been to. It has a drier climate, the buildings look older and are built with more wood and stone, and they are not as well kept as we’d been seeing. The people are not as friendly and helpful and forgiving of American tourists either.

Tomorrow will be the hardest stage of the race, and I am hoping that the guys stay strong.

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