Wednesday, September 07, 2016

The Great and First Torino-Nice Rally Day 2 - Condove to Assiette via Finestre and Strada Assiette 30 miles, 2854m ascent

Teenagers having parties was not going to keep me awake on my first night, not after all those mountains.  I slept soundly but I was amazed when I woke up with the sun at around 6:30.  I wasn't aching too bad so we packed up seamlessly.  No-one showed up at the campsite so we hit the road at 9am with the same money in our wallets as when we arrived the night before.  We hunted for breakfast and coffee at a bakery and cafe in Borgado then rejoined the route, passing guys 20 years younger than ourselves.

The road eventually and inevitably climbed a few short slopes through the villages which felt like mountains and I really wasn't sure then how the rest of the day was going to pan out.  We'd already had one day of riding over at least two Munro sized mountains.  Of course we also saw a better campsite but hey.

Bikes showing off at the second
breakfast stop

It's enjoyable riding next to a railway before uphill to San Giorio for a sit in the shade, a bottle of pop, ice cream and topping up food stocks for lunch.  Good times ahead.  Hours of road riding through trees  So many switchbacks.  Eating sandwiches on a wall in the sun - toasty warm.  I'm still not sure I can keep going like this but I'm not exhausted, just a bit tired so I do just keep going.  Raspberries by the roadside help and we all gorge ourselves quite a lot on the sweetest pink fruit I've ever eaten wild.
Up there.

The last water stop before gravel and I had a hair rinse in the wooden trough below the water fountain and leave with a wet mop.  Stu says I look like... I suggest "Toyah Willcox", he suggests, "A new age traveller".

I am duly passed by a motorbiker kicking up dust and I turn from "New age traveller" into a plaster cast of Worzel Gummidge.  Someone waves from above.  It's B, another of the female riders, looking for Cyrille who has already been resting lower down and taking a picture of me in my bedraggled state.  This isn't a race but I'm secretly glad that I'm not the last woman on the ride and at the top of the col I catch up the next woman - V, from Otley in Yorkshire.

The Col de Finestre is done as we are joined by a group of French motorcyclists who run around exclaiming noisily at the view.  It's time to get down and we descend the switchbacks faster than them.
Fun times ahead

We see a small campsite to the left which looks oh-so-tempting but it's only 3 o'clock in the afternoon.  "At least it doesn't go up there", says TSK, pointing at a track that turns off the road.  I look down at my Garmin and confirm that, "hell yes it does".

We briefly debate going down to the town and returning up the hill tomorrow but thankfully we dismiss that idea with the decision that we can do another 15 km today.  I look down at the Garmin and see that we've only done 20 miles today.  Potentially, 15 km is worth another 3 hours riding at least but at least there's a Refugio to look forwards to up there.  If it's full we can camp but we possibly don't want to as our 3 season bags and tent aren't really suitable alpine accommodation - even in September.  Still, some are carrying less.

Riding high above lakes in blistering heat is causing agony for a swimmer.
More climbing, during which both an energy bar and a gel are consumed - desperate times.  Only two more bends to go.  TSK stops to fill his bottles and balances his bike on the bridge wall next to a culvert.  The bike nearly topples in and leaves us both grabbing a wheel with the heavily laden bike upside down over a 6 foot drop.  One day we'll laugh about it.
TSK pushing ahead to the Assiette.  We'll stop just around the corner to take the coats off again after the descent.
Big groups are riding together, we're talking about cyclo-cross and audaxing.  There's no refugio at the top of the pass but it is, however the top of the pass.  A big group of us is gathered.  Some are waiting for their friends.  We have our first conversation with Lawrence who is waiting for JJ.  He's intrigued as to why TSK is wearing a Sheffield jersey and a "London fixed gear / single speed" hat.  I explain that I imported him into Yorkshire.

We progress, keen to get settled.  There's an instruction that we're to descend 25m.  There's some up and then some down.  Finally, we round a corner and against a lunar landscape there is a beautiful beautiful building.  It's around 6pm.

 A hairy hippy man welcomes and shows us around but he speaks no English, gives up and leaves it to an older man to explain 40 Euros for dinner, bed and breakfast and gives us the schedule for hot water, food and breakfast.  We're given blankets and shown our basic, unheated yet plush room - in terms of there being a bed and belvedere windows facing the mountains.

View from our window, all the luxury I need
It's cold with no heating on yet but much warmer than a tent.  We still eat our dinner wearing down coats but we're comfortable.  Eventually we're joined by JJ and the dutch guys who were on the campsite the night before decide to camp at the Refugio.  We hope the others are doing well, wherever they've decided to go. (they continued on down to Sestriere and booked into hotels).

After dinner we go outside to look at the stars and have a walk around.  It's quiet, it's wild, it's real.  I've always wanted this, always.

Last light

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