Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Great and First Torino-Nice Rally Day 6 - Refugio Priet to Limone Piemonte via Priet, Colletto and St Roinas 43 miles, 2360m ascent

The ying yang of starting in a refugio.  You're half way up the hill already.  You've got yesterday's hill in your legs already.

Breakfast isn't quite as spectacular as dinner - mostly because the coffee is instant.  The boys have had a bit of a lie in so we set off piecemeal but mostly within an hour of eachother.  We half expect to see runners coming up the road but we seem to miss the different waves whilst we're on their route although we see plenty of marshalls on turns.  We leave Cyrille drying his tent.  My damp clothes are on the front of my bike as it was cold overnight - not good drying cold either.  I lose a pair of socks as I forget to change into riding socks and set about getting my "clean" socks sweaty on the first climb of the day.

Near the top of the climb someone almost drives into my handlebars as they overtake and I call them a very nasty word.

They stop a little further up and it's two women.  I feel slightly bad for swearing at them but it is justified and I soon snap at their yappy little dog too who seems to be intent on ruining the peace and quiet.  I'm not sure what they do to / with it but it soon stops yapping.  When they're walking below me later they seem to have left the poor bugger in the car.

It seems odd that we're so far above civilisation and yet there is this constant stream of traffic passing us - all heading for the carpark where the road stops and we are going to continue riding out across the landscape, all boulders and gravel.

A rare moment of me in the lead.
The peaks at the top of the Priet rise like prehistoric creatures from the plateau and the plateau road is littered with boulders and short challenging climbs.  These little kickers are immensely entertaining - as are the rambling downhills.  

Prehistoric rock
There's the occasional runner (must be back markers) and the occasional support family member and some hill walkers.  One Europen lady is a big fan of Nicky Spinks and Fell running and is planning to come to the UK next summer to, "Learn how to run".  Odd.  A lot of people are stopping for a chat.  At one point we meet up with the checkpoint for the runners who are about to de-camp and offer us as much food and drink as we'd like to save them carrying it off the hill.

Leaving the spine of the mountains behind.
Let's just say that in future long running events I will be carrying a small piece of parmesan in my rucsac.

Two mountain bikers are impressed by Andrew being the only person on a fully loaded bike to ride the short climb to the checkpoint (anything for free cheese) and they ride with us for a short time before disappearing off up a ridgeway path.  We start our descent to Demonte, after a little more rambling across the hillside.
"As if it's not hard enough you have to put all that crap on your bike too!" Justin makes friends with the locals.
When we hit tarmac it's time for lunch.  We avoid a few motorbikes on the hairpin bends then roll into the much anticipated Rifugio Carbonetto.  I order something off the specials that I don't understand and am rewarded by a delicious veal steak and deep green salad.  Perfect Iron-boosting food.  Those who opted for the more comprehensible ravioli are similarly happy.

Demonte is a lovely place but we ride through it because Verdante is our chosen destination for the night.  JJ stopped to stock up.  We leave the town on a flat road heading through big open fields of wheat and some dark green produce.  It's a verdant landscape that's difficult to leave but after starting at 1700m elevation, we've only done 700m climbing today and feel we have to earn our dinner.

We're soon at Festina which is summarily free of icecream... or people, but we fill up our water from the source in town and leave another couple searching, in desperation for an open source of ice cream.  Travelling by bike we have no option but to keep going up the Colletto for 1300m and over to Valderi which yields on the ice cream front, for all its high-rise buildings and big major road.

Valderi - Beautiful, and later will yield some really amazing icecream
Then follows the tortuous ride up the SP108 for 5 miles through areas of quarry workings.  We get the distinct impression that most people here work in the quarry and it's Sunday so everyone is out enjoying their day out.  As I start to think about stopping for the night, the parks and rec areas are filled with families playing and teenagers making out and drinking and it becomes clear that stopping here is not an option.  We climb up through the Tettos - each "village" establishment looking like the next 1980's horror movie of development mantle-holding, services-lacking surburbia I have paid to avoid on this trip.  There's one campsite but it's right by the main road and the signs at the gate clearly indicate that there's no tenting facilities so we continue on.

Finally back into the forest and roads where you can see where you're going to be in 400m because it's 50 m above you up the cliff.  We make it to the top of the Roinas after another 600m of up and a bit worse for wear but it's too early for us to think about wild camping and we have no food, despite a few tempting-looking car parks / churches / picnic tables.

More like it
We persevere onto Vernante and back into ski-resort-ville.  TSK cooks his brakes on the downhill and sends me ahead to forage the town for fresh food whilst he waits for the breeze to cool down the bike.  It's a pretty place despite its high-rise flats and the first place we've been to which seems to be alive and well at 5pm on a Sunday.  There's a market going on and I go into a greengrocers to buy fresh vegetables for our evening meal.  The shopkeeper is amused by the excitement I am displaying at buying fresh plums, green beans and tomatoes.  TSK turns up just as I'm walking out of the store and we wind our way through the market-goers and some street artists.  It would've been nice to take in the atmosphere but time was against us although the little park on the edge of town would have made a lovely camp spot.

There was clearly no legal site so I set off down the road at a clip for Limon Piemonte  which TSK considered to be a good bet for a legal campsite.  I was desperate to stop and so enraged at his decision that I both time-trialled the 3.5 miles along the road and failed to notice that we were travelling in the opposite direction to the river (ie. it was uphill).  I spent my time noseying at ski resort apartments and retreats and TSK did his best to sit on my wheel.  We were vaguely concerned that batches of vehicles were passing in the opposite direction and worried that we were going to get caught up in some sort of convoy going the other way.  However, our fears were unfounded and we rolled into the Limon Piemonte campsite / ski lodge next to the bus stop and the river at about 6:30pm.

Two of these bikes are ours.
A lovely Italian couple on the adjacent spot shared their garden tomatoes with us (yay! more fresh tomatoes) and we finally resorted to eating the emergency food because we had no desperate need to find out if Limon Piemonte had any restaurants (open or otherwise) by the time we'd set up camp at 8pm.  What we did have was an enclosed marquee tent complete with stove and electricity on which to brew dinner, green tea and charge some Garmin batteries / phones and sit on an *actual* chair.

As I was walking back from the shower and TSK had already snuggled into his sleeping bag, the thunder started.  We busied ourselves with battening down straps on luggage and moving our laundry (now hanging on a proper maiden) into the marquee tent then snuggled in to enjoy the storm and hoped that the boys were OK and had made it somewhere safe for the night.

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