After the Transalp ended, I was very keen on testing out my shape on a clean bike ride, i.e. no extra weight from backpack, lock, mud guards, and a top tube bag for energy bars. So I used three occasions over the past few days with mixed emotions.
First, I went for a short 70km morning ride at Lago di Como on Wednesday, and while the views were stunning (I could see all the way to the Appenin and to Monte Rosa – both about 80-100km in the distance – and I could make out all the skyscrapers of Milan’s skyline), my legs felt terrible.
Next, I did a 90km morning ride between Lago di Como and Lago di Lugano, and while the views initially were a bit obscured by the overcast weather, my legs felt great. It might have been that the rough road surface on Wednesday had an influence, and Thursday’s climbs were less steep (but longer) and less exposed to the sun. Anyways, I finished the 90km faster in the same time as the 70km the day before, even though the total meters of climbing were the same.
Finally, I had half of a Saturday for yet another adventure. So I took a train to Stresa at Lago Maggiore, where I had not been yet this year. I then cycled up to a mountain called Mottarone that I had last been to in 2016 with Diana for a hiking day trip. Stresa lies at 200m above sea level, while the peak of the street up the Mottarone comes in at 1450m – you can also take a cable car all the way up from Stresa. But for me, that’s 1250m of climbing spread over a distance of 20km. At the Tour de France, this would qualify for at least category 1, if not hors categorie.
It was a big joy. Again, the mountain did not start too steep, so I had it easy to find a rhythm. About half-way, a short section with gradients up to 16% followed, and then it eased down a bit. At about that time, two cyclists caught up to me that looked like part of the weekend warrior elite, but for some reason, I then managed to stay with them for quite a while. In fact, I dropped one of them in the final section of the climb, where the gradient goes to 9.5% average over four kilometers. That’s usually not my terrain, but now it was. Looking at my Strava time for the climb, I had a position score of 17.2% (meaning that 17.2% of Strava users were faster than me, and 83.8% were slower than me). That’s massive for me. On mountain segments, I had never scored better than 50% before this Transalp.
Filled with excitement, I went down to Lago d’Orta. That’s in fact the last of the big lakes in Northern Italy (Lombardy and Piemont) that I had not been to yet. It’s a bit off an outsider. The Guardian enthusiastically calls it the lake that the Milanese have kept for themselves – but I would bet most Milanese don’t go there either. It’s in Piemont, after all. Instead, Lago d’Iseo might live up better to this label. Now, having seen it, it’s maybe not my favorite of all lakes, but it’s cute as well. I did like Orta San Giulio, however, and I think it is absolutely on par with if not more scenic than most lake villages (except for Varenna, Bellagio, Torbole, and my all-time favourite Malcesine). Will take my Mum here one time for sure.
From Orta, I had still about 50km left, but that was mostly a flat affair. There were just four hills to cross. On the descent from the last one, disaster struck.
I went through a pothole. Now, Italy has plenty of potholes, and this one wasn’t particularly bad, but because it looked so peaceful, I went through it with rather high momentum (45 to 50km/h). Two or three times this Spring, I had observed that a large pothole would move the phone half out – but this time it went all out. Too bad: The hard case of the phone was not holding tightly anymore the upper left corner of the phone, because a piece had broken off of it a while ago.
I should have mentioned: For about five years, I’m using my phone as my bike computer. In order to mount the phone on the bike, I’ve used QuadLock. To this date, I am very convinced of it. The phone never came off in any crash or even received any impact. In fact, yesterday’s incident should give credit to the QuadLock, because that was not the part that failed. So my next phone is just going to go back there on the handlebar stem.
Just this one said goodbye. It’s still working, but I can’t handle the screen. The phone was also still recording the ride, but I couldn’t open the map anymore. I was in unknown territory for 35km, but I’m a map nerd and knew the route rather well from memory. I made one mistake, which took me on a more busy road for 3km, but nonetheless in the right direction. After that, I admit I had it comparatively easy, as I more or less just had to follow a river for 15km and then find the right exit.