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On this occasion I have raised more than £13,200.00 thanks to my generous supporters, as my contribution towards the more than £600,000.00 raised so far by Dallaglio Cycle Slam 2014
Leaving the walled city of Treviso, home of Cicli Pinarello the route took to the quieter rural roads following the Piave river before heading into the hills. The main climb of the day was the Monte Cesen (1223m). Leaving the town of Valdobbiadene, the climb kicked off steeply but soon eased off into a slightly steadier gradient. An average grade of 8.3% made this a tough climb but the lack of variation made it a bit easier to manage than climbs with a varying grade. A picturesque descent followed with a final climb of the Paso San Boldo, 6.3km at a grade of 7.1%. Some traffic light controlled tunnels at the top were a great feature of what was originally a mountain track until it was paved in 1918 by the Austro-Hungarian army. But then the ice storm came and turned a gentle descent in to a challenging experience, with aching cold hands and feet. We all never-the-less arrived fatigued and surprised by the scale of the challenge we had just completed. Within seconds of a quick lie down I drifted off to Dolly Parton on my Dr Dre Beats!
A tough day in the hills awaited with the first climb starting within the first 20km. The Forcella Franche was a relatively short climb at 5km but the 7.4% average grade made it a good warm up for what was in store shortly. The Passo Duran was the first hardcore climb of the event. 12.5km at an average grade of 9.1% took us to just over 1600m altitude. A short descent and we were straight onto the next hardcore climb, the Passo Giau (2236). The main climb is 10km in duration at an average of 9.1% and by this time we were on extremely tired legs. We finally made it to Cortina following 12 hrs on the bike. The cold rains once again drenched us on the descents of the day, turning the rewards of the cycle down into treacherous painful grind. The hardest day’s cycling of my life. Could I ever do more? Deep sleep, but only until the 5.45am alarm!
The downside to staying at the bottom of a climb is that there is only one way to go, up! The relatively tame but very picturesque Passo Falzarego was our appitiser for the day, 14km long and 5.9% took us back to over 2000m. A very pretty wooded descent took us almost straight to the main climb of the day, the Passo Pordoi. For 9.4km at 6.8% we climbed to the highest point so far at 2239m. 20km of descent followed by a 10km drag and then 30km all downhill to Bolzano.
Day 4 Bolzano – Bormio
Just the one climb on the menu on day 4 but by no means a walk in the park. Once clear of Bolzano we rode in the valley for 80 kms looking apprehensively at the horizon because the days climb was visible from a long way off! The road rose gradually along the valley and through the apple orchards before we turned onto the lower slopes of the Stelvio. A long time favourite of the Giro d’Italia and favoured training grounds of many of the worlds best riders. At 24.3km long and a steady grade of 7.4% we soon rode through the trees and into some of the most breathtaking scenery on offer. The Stelvio rises to 2758m and is the highst paved mountain road on the eastern alpes. Completed in 1825 by the Austrian empire, the road is regularly used in cycling events and the ski resort at the top used for World Cup Skiing events. There are 48 bends from the eastern side. I had previously ridden up the other side but this was the tougher face. The day was long and hard. I thought of Sam, in who’s memory I was riding and remembered the message from Gavin at breakfast: ‘The mind breaks before the body’. Well we were never going to be beaton and the euphoria at the top was extraordinary. The weather had been favourable, but we still needed hot soup and all our clothes for the next descent, surrounded as we were by a snow base of 3 metres.
Day 5 Bormio – St Moritz
The final push turned out once again to be much more challenging than expected. We headed out of Bormio for a relatively flat start before starting the gradual climb up to the Passo del Foscagno, a steady 4.2% grade for 23km. The next climb was again a steady one at 5.1% grade for 8km leading to the last 2km of the Bernina Pass which was the first Swiss climb, a naughty 8% by way of welcome. A fantastic descent followed, broken periodically by level crossings of the Bernina Railway, the highest crossing in Europe. One last drag took us to the lake at St Moritz. Boom. Back of the net!
The Dallaglio Foundation is determined to create a legacy for those who need support the most, in areas where the Foundation’s impact can be greatest. In 2011, the Foundation set out to use the power of rugby to help young people tackle life’s challenges. The Dallaglio Cycle Slam also supports Teenage Cancer Trust, the Dallaglio Foundation’s charity partner. Teenage Cancer Trust is the only UK charity dedicated to improving the quality of life and chances of survival for the seven young people aged between 13 and 24 diagnosed with cancer every day.
Thanks to all my sponsors and supporters. To Lawrence Dallaglio. To all of the support crew from Dallaglio Foundation. To Halfords, Bidvest, Pizza Express and Livestax.
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