Re-reading the last two blog posts, it's pretty clear I'm both out of blogging practice and at a loss for words that might actually describe this experience. Part of that is due to the nature of what we were all doing: how do you talk about exertion and sweating and momentary accomplishment in a way that might be even remotely interesting?

Sorry about that. Still tired, perhaps not fully processed. But I'll keep going just to get it out there.

It's funny, because I wrote a few emails to Zabeth to keep her posted on how things were going, and she replied to one saying "yes, but how do you feel?"

My only response was: kind of blank. I didn't mean that in a negative way, either. I don't do a lot of thinking on the bike. It's not exactly "downtime", but you're so focused on the activity, the beauty, staying upright, being considerate of others on the ride, etc, that there's not a lot of space for deep, meaningful thoughts.

You almost feel like one of those professional riders at a post-race interview. Asked about the race, the comments that come back are nearly always pretty simple and banal: "I'm just so happy", "I'm glad it's over", "We rode hard today".

But that's what comes to the front. You're happy it's over. You rode hard. Tomorrow's another day on the bike, another great meal, another beautiful climb, another fast descent, another hotel, another shower, another restless sleep.

They're all the same, but they're all different, and those differences are hard to describe. The shared camaraderie of the group, the little jokes and comments as we, separately-but-together, push and pull our way up thousands of feet, across the miles, struggling sometimes, spinning more easily others, trying to make sense of the rhythm and pitch of the road, the angle and curves of a descent.

Your thoughts, in the end, are simple, because you're part of a machine. You have a job to do, to partner with your bike and get up and over and down these mountains.

So you do it.


Terrible movie, if you've seen it. But it's hard to argue with the natural beauty all around–those mountains Stallone fake-climbed (he's afraid of heights) were the Dolomites. And they're spectacular. Huge, sheer limestone cliffs jutting up out of treed slopes; blasted and dug holes that were filled with soldiers and snipers during World War I as the Italians and Austrians fought and killed each other (not that any war is good, but WWI's trench and mountain warfare was just awful).

The result of Italy's victory was Sud Tyrol, northern Italy's unique combination of cultures, languages, architecture and cuisines. We rode from Bolzano to Canazei, up and down these roads, the limestone above turning the mountain streams a silvery-white, and not even the sweating and struggling could distract (much) from the beauty all around us.

Passo Pinei and Passo Sella—42 miles, 7750 feet of climbing

Despite the beauty, there was one thing on all our minds: today was the biggest climbing day yet. But even though both passes were difficult, the weather cooperated, the climbs varied, and the time passed more pleasantly than the day before.

Passo Sella is especially beautiful, and we'd be doing it again in the Maratona later in the week, so it was nice to get a chance to "scout" it a bit.

Due to my own total lack of knowledge, which you can read as "sheer ignorance/forgetfulness", I was constantly surprised at the number of ski lifts and runs all around us. Well, it turns out that this is all part of Dolomiti SuperSki which, with one ticket, lets you ski virtually everywhere we'd been and where were were going, all connected by an incredible number of lifts and trails. It's kind of like the Trois Vallées area, except, well, bigger (and, from what I can tell, more family oriented).

Anyway, we descended off the Sella into Canazei to a lovely hotel called La Cacciatore (right next to a ski lift, of course), had a delicious meal and slept like dogs.

The next day we'd be heading to Corvara and our final hotel (the first where we'd get to spend more than one night), to scout more of the climbs we'd be doing in the Maratona...and to get a feel for the incredible number of riders who were flooding the area during Race Week.