Day 2 - Claro to Andermatt - A Pain that I'm used to

I have a good mate in Lanterne Rouge called Mark who likes to remind everyone that 'outside of your comfort zone is where the magic happens'. In fact he likes this so much he saves memes of variations of this theme to send to us all on a regular basis. He's right of course. Progress requires a little pain. On that basis I must have made huge progess this morning. I climbed almost a thousand metres just to get to the foot of the real climb today, the Tremola. What I hadn't thought about was the effect of the wind. Of course in a valley you are always riding into a headwind which makes the climbing even harder. By lunchtime I was running on empty already. The gentle start over the first 15km had lured me into a false sense of security. At the sign for 27km to go to my lunch spot at Airolo the road rose up. What followed was two hours of tortuous climbing mostly between 4-8% with some light relief of 2-4% but more often a punch at 10%. If it's possible to love an inanimate object, I love my Campagnolo Potenza 32 tooth sprocket. I wondered if getting stoned would help me get over the afternoon task, but on balance decided not, even with my 10% discount coupon from my lunch menu. After a massive pizza and yet more Coca-Cola I am about to set off when a German guy rolls in on a very heavily ladden bike. We chat for a while and he can't believe I'm doing two weeks with so little kit. I can't believe he will get over the mountain with 40kg of kit! But he gives me extra motivation - no way is some fat bloke on a mountain bike beating me up the mountain. There are two ways to get over the St Goddard pass, the Tremola and a newer road. They start together and diverge after a few kilometres. I am opting for the new road as I'm told the old one is a mixture of tarmac, gravel, cobbles and dirt. No thanks. Much to my own surprise I am in control the whole way up, stopping when I want to rather than having to. The climb is brutal, averaging over 7% for 12km. But the views are so spectacular the pain is worth it. Corner after corner gives more amazing views and for once I'm glad Rachel is not with me. We would die of exposure on the mountain with Rachel 's final words being "let me get one more photo". I even cope well with the cobbled sections, although I decided there's no way I'm going downhill over them on the other side. About 2km from the top I have to ride through a freezing cold wind tunnel. When I emerge, I see to my right the old road with its amazing switchbacks. I have a pang of regret as it looks beautiful. But within 5 minutes I have reached the top and I'm elated. A German arrives at the top simultaneously from the other direction and we take photos for each other. He seems to think this is hilarious in a sort of 'what are the chances' type way. Pretty good I think as there are bloody loads of cyclists out. We chat for a bit and I tell him it took me an hour to climb up. That shuts him up and off he rolls. OK it was childish, but it made me laugh. If yesterday's descent was scary, today's is flipping terrifying. Not just the speed, but the wind buffeting me and pushing me close to the barriers. The brakes are squealing and I let them off. Within seconds I hit 87kph and I have one of those moments where you imagine the mess if you come off. I would take the familiar pain of climbing every day over descending.

Thankfully I negotiate the last two sharp bends and roll the last 5km into Andermatt. Half of the distance I covered yesterday, but every bit as hard. Today's numbers that count; 1. Time in the saddle - 5:47 and most of that was climbing 2. Meters climbed - 1,894 3. Cokes drunk - 3. Plus a Red Bull and 6 bottles of water 4. Germans overtaken on the climbs - 3 5. Number of people who overtook me - 0 (ha!)




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