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my way home – part 4: Klausen/Chiusa-Rosenheim

207km; 1,400m ascent; 1 pass (Passo del Brennero: 1,370m); drank 6.0 litres

town passed:
Bressanone/Brixen; Vipiteno/Sterzing; Innsbruck; Schwaz; Wörgl; Kufstein

223km-218km-204km-207km – this seems to be the magic formula for getting from Nice to the Bavarian Rosenheim in four days by bike. So to keep it short: Yes, I made it back home on day number 4 – and am now happily giving a) my legs a rest for a couple of days, b) all my clothes a proper machine wash (not just the regular but never quite optimised hand wash throughout the tour), and c) my bike a proper service.

This day that would become the last one of my wonderful trip along/across/over/through the Alps started cloudier than the other days, however, invigorated by a nice dinner the night before together with my sister and her boyfriend who are currently on holiday in the Dolomites and therefore just round the corner of where I stayed in Klausen plus my last passroad ahead of me, signs pointed to another good day.

IMG_6361the very last pass of my journey

I was on top of the highest point of my trip back (Passo del Brennero, with 1,370m) around noon. A special feeling again as Brenner pass is the pass road I’ve cycled up by far the most of all passes in my life, it was my first serious pass ever I cycled in the Alps. And it definitely was the last pass on this journey from the east to the west and then the south to the north. A bit sad on the one hand. On the other hand, pedalling down to Innsbruck and then having reached Inn river valley gave me this special feeling of home really only being a stone’s throw away now. Not that I wouldn’t have enjoyed all the places I’ve been to – however, completing this trip by arriving at home made it even more special… and therefore it definitely was the right decision to not have finished this trip in Nice already.

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‘Europabrücke’ near Innsbruck (highest beam bridge in Europe) [above] and ‘Bergisel ski jump’ [below], both with – snow-covered (!) – ‘Karwendel’ mountains in the background

Even the last day wasn’t a piece of cake though. For the fourth day in a row, I had to fight the headwind (on the first two days only a very little and not continuously, but on day number three in an extreme way, and on this last day also quite annoyingly). Probably someone thought it’d have been too easy for me if I had tailwind all my way home?!

IMG_6395 IMG_6403Inn river valley towards and in Kufstein

Anyway, certainly not the time to complain – I arrived in Rosenheim, well, I would want to say ‘in IMG_6405the evening sun’… but that would be a bit too much of an exaggeration… yes, ‘evening’ is certainly true, ‘sun’… IMG_6410ahem, no. Dark clouds basically welcomed me when I crossed the Austrian-German border in Kufstein. But then again, who cares? I certainly didn’t – and my pack of sunscreen was empty anyway.

Obviously I finished in style: with a big cone of ice cream 🙂

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PS 1: the “windy videos” of day three are online in the post ‘my way home – part 3’ now too (five videos in one playlist)

PS 2: I’ll ‘complete’ this blog with a final summary, with uploading all the photos, GPS tracks, further comments etc. by the end of this week – just be a little patient please. First and foremost I wanted to let you know that I arrived home safe and sound.

accurate route details (incl. GPS track):
Vienna-Nice Transalp – ride home part 4 (Klausen-Rosenheim)
Start date/time: Wed, 3 Sep 2014 8:53, distance (km): 205.45, elevation (ascent in m): 1,087

all photos of the day:

my way home – part 3: Desenzano del Garda-Klausen/Chiusa

204km; 2,100m ascent; 1 pass (Passo del Ballino: 750m); drank 8.5 litres

town passed:
Salo; Riva del Garda; Trento; Lavis; Mezzolombardo; Bolzano

You wanna know what my day was like? This is what my day was like! ALL DAY LONG!!!
And consider two points: the thing with water is Lago di Garda, i.e. a lake and not the sea (which would be supposed to have big waves). And this wind is coming from the north – and I was cycling to the north…

Apart from this unlucky “wind timing” it all was very scenic: along the western shores of beautiful ‘Lago di Garda’ – as a friend said: “best lake ever”; and I think I agree with him.

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Lago di Garda in the north (near Riva)

Past Lago di Tenno with very intense colours and through the mountains, across a little pass, to Trento. And from there along ‘Adige’ river to Bolzano – the only junction point of my “double-Transalp” from the east to the west and then the south to the north.

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Lago di Tenno

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Passo del Ballino

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through the mountains towards Trento and the valley of Adige river

Due to a lack of accommodation along the route, I didn’t stay in Bolzano as planned but continued along ‘Eisack’ river towards Brennero and finished my day in Klausen/Chiusa. That last bit actually went quite well and it probably was the only time ever to be on the road towards Brennero pretty much on my own: due to a landslide, the road was completely blocked and traffic diverted via the motorway. As it didn’t seem to be particularly appealing to me to take the diversion along the motorway (which obviously would not have been possible, i.e. it would have meant returning to Bolzano), I tried it anyway, and despite some angry faces of road workers, it all went well 😊

Best bit of the day: I’m back in “Johannisbeerschorlen”-country (red current juice mixed with sparkling water – THE refreshing drink on such a trip)!

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in Adige valley

accurate route details (incl. GPS track):
Vienna-Nice Transalp – ride home part 3 (Desenzano-Klausen)
Start date/time: Tue, 2 Sep 2014 9:17, distance (km): 203.28, elevation (ascent in m): 1,737

all photos of the day:

my way home – part 2: Ovada-Desenzano del Garda

218km; 500m ascent; drank 8.0 litres

town passed:
Novi Ligure; Tortona; Voghera; Stradella; Piacenza; Cremona; Castiglione delle Stiviere

This second day on my way home was – as expected – a bit dull. It took me through the regions of Piedmont, Lombardy, and even Emilia-Romagna for a little while.

As it was basically completely flat (mainly on Strada Statale Padane Inferiore), I was able to move forward quickly, and simply focused on pedalling – and eating:

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500gr of real tasty Tiramisu kept me going almost all afternoon

As so often, the reward for another day with over 200km on the bike came at the end: my arrival at the southern end of Lago di Garda. So I’m back at the Alps now, and the scenery of the remaining trip is going to be very exciting. Looking forward to it!

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Oh, and for everyone living on the rainy north side of the Alps: I had a beautifully sunny, warm day again ☀️ Just thought I’d let you know.

accurate route details (incl. GPS track):
Vienna-Nice Transalp – ride home part 2 (Ovada-Desenzano)
Start date/time: Mon, 1 Sep 2014 9:08, distance (km): 217.97, elevation (ascent in m): 262

all photos of the day:

my way home – part 1: Nice-Ovada

223km; 2,300m ascent; 1 pass actually! (Passo del Turchino: 532m); drank 8.5 litres

towns passed:
Monaco; Menton; Ventimiglia; Sanremo; Imperia; Alassio; Finale Ligure; Savona; Varazze; Arenzano; Genova (western outskirts)

My “operation ‘getting back home'” has begun.

The first day was under the impression of the French and Italian Riviera. Never have I cycled along the sea before as long as I did on this day. And on a sunny and warm Sunday, the beaches and roads in all these famous holiday places were completely packed with people, scooters, cars, …

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taken in the morning after I’ve left, just east of Nice (Beaulieu-sur-Mer and Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat)

The most famous place I came trough, however, led me into my sixth country on this trip: Monaco! It was a “first-time” for me – and as if they wanted to show me what it’s all about, the first three cars which I saw right after I’ve crossed the border were a Ferrari 599, a Lamborghini Aventador, and a new Mercedes S-Class Coupe. And me on my bike 😉

The next border wasn’t far away – and made me enter Italy (Liguria), my main country for the next days.

At the western outskirts of Genova (from where one could well see the wreckage of the ‘Costa Concordia’ cruise ship in Italy’s largest port), I left the sea for good and headed north towards the mountains – which I have to cross in order to get to the wide valley of ‘Po’ river where I’m going to cycle eastwards. And in these mountains I actually climbed another pass – unintentionally… but as it was along my route I thought that a picture can’t hurt:

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So here I am now, in the southeastern region of Piedmont – after a long and very hot day on the bike.

PS: here are a couple of photos of my day in Nice – quite a nice place actually!

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accurate route details (incl. GPS track):
Vienna-Nice Transalp – ride home part 1 (Nice-Ovada)
Start date/time: Sun, 31 Aug 2014 8:16, distance (km): 222.31, elevation (ascent in m): 1,809

all photos of the day:

 

change of plan – I’m going to cycle back home!

I had a plan A, B, C, maybe even D about how to travel back home to Bavaria from Nice. But sometimes things change and plans don’t work anymore. And things have changed: or who would have thought that I arrive in Nice already 5 days earlier than I initially planned to?!? I personally certainly did not. Never ever!!

So an idea has grown over the past days, and it seems that I’m going to transform it into reality: I’ve got a week of holiday left now. Theoretically enough time for cycling back home to Rosenheim – on a more or less direct route, i.e. not across every single mountain I can find along the way.

So I’ll enjoy the bustling atmosphere of the French metropolitan area of Nice for a day. I continue looking at the Mediterranean Sea as I did this afternoon and evening already and think how big this world actually is.

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And the day after, I’ll start the project of “returning home”. It kind of feels the right thing for making this trip complete. You’ll probably call me crazy – but I’ll have enough time to holiday at the sea when I’m old. 😉

My plan is to cycle along Côte d’Azur/French Riviera eastwards towards Genova. Then cross over to the valley of the river ‘Po’. Further along the western shore of Lago di Garda and across to Trento into the valley of the river ‘Adige’. Along there to Bolzano. And then I’ll decide spontaneously whether I’ll take the easier route along the ‘Eisack’ river to Vipiteno/Sterzing, or whether I’ll settle old scores with Passo di Pennes/Penser Joch (which once beat me and made me turn around before I reached the top) and therefore cycle through Sarentino/Sarntal. From Sterzing it’s a well-known route across Brennero, through Innsbruck and along Inn river (remember day 8 on my trip when I crossed the Inn river in Switzerland?) to Rosenheim.

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my planned route back home (and from Vienna to Nice); ignore the lines into the sea near Genova, I’m not going to head towards Corsica

That’s the plan. And as you know, plans might change. So if the weather, or my knee, or my motivation, or anything else becomes too bad, I might just spend a couple of days doing nothing somewhere between Nice and Rosenheim and then just take the train back home.

Approx. 850km and 8,000-10,000m ascent to go (this is the optimised route, not one that particularly tries to include many hills – but there simply are a few hills between here and there anyway)!

Je suis à Nice!

So as mentioned in my previous post, I have actually reached Nice after having traversed the Alps from the very east (Vienna) to the very west (Nice). In figures: 43 mountain passes (including the highest one in Europe, ‘Col de la Bonette’), approx. 42,000m ascent, and 2,150km.

15 days are lying behind me (instead of 20 as I initially thought I’d need). 15 days of continuously sitting on my bicycle. And I have to say: it all felt a lot “bigger” before I set off in Vienna compared to now that it has been done. Of course, this ride was anything but easy.

However, as soon as I found my daily rhythm and caught up the lack of sleep from the days before the start, it all went quite well.

If someone asked me to provide a couple of “wise statements”, I’d probably go for these two things that ran through my head several times during the past days:
– Enough sleep is crucial! Whenever I managed to get more than 8.5 hours of proper sleep, my legs felt good the next day, no matter how much I cycled the day before. When it was less, it all was a lot harder.
– And one thing I told myself quite happily on a regular basis as after a few days I realised that it’s really true: you don’t have to be the strongest/fastest/best cyclist on such a trip. There’ll always be better ones. It’s a lot more important that you act tactically intelligent: don’t use all your power in the beginning, but use it when you’re feeling good; take a break when you need it, but don’t forget to keep pushing once in a while to get over the harder moments. Don’t commiserate with yourself too much, sing a nice song to get your smile back again. And enjoy the beautiful scenery (if it’s not hidden by clouds 😉). This is what I mean about good tactics. And (at least that’s true for me): eat whatever you feel like – and a lot of it… I have no clue how many calories I burned, however, I know that I took in massive amounts of food every single day. Apparently it worked!

Well, and what really helped me a lot during all these days on the bike: knowing that it’s not just for my personal pleasure, but knowing that it’s all for a good cause definitely motivated me again and yet again.

So now that my tour has come to an end (kind of… see also the next post), it’s time for me to say thank you again for this overwhelming amount of money you’ve all given for my fundraising project. And it’s not over yet: if you still want to make a donation, it’s still possible (despite having exceeded the target already [again]):
https://www.betterplace.org/en/fundraising-events/von-martin-2b6f2d8

Last but not least: my bike did an amazing job again. Did not think that it would go on such amazing trips together with me when I bought it in 2007.

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Looking forward to the next adventures 😊 And thanks a lot for all your support!

Day 15 (29/08/2014): Jausiers-Nice (140km/2,100m ascent/2 passes/drank 7.0 litres)

passes climbed:
Col de Restefond (2,680m); Col de la Bonette (2,802m)

towns passed:
Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée; Roussillon; Saint-Martin-du-Var; Nice

The day began in a cozy living/dining room where the B&B I stayed at served breakfast at a common table. Quite a nice atmosphere – and maybe the right time to mention that the French really know how to bake their bread. Not that I wouldn’t have been in France quite often before – but never realised the quality of bread over here. So I have to widen my limited “one-only-gets-proper-bread-in-Bavaria view” and admit that the French know what they’re doing also.

But this day isn’t primarily about bread, it’s about my last two passes to be reached – and about my final destination: Nice!

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view towards ‘Col de la Bonette’

The climb up to Col de Restefond and Col de la Bonette was extremely enjoyable (apart from partly feeling like cows or horses must feel like, being attacked by swarms of flies… don’t know where from and why those all of a sudden appeared). The scenery became more and more spectacular and rough. And my legs just loved the continuous pedalling. In less than 2.5 hours I finished my 1,600m climb and at a quarter past eleven, I reached the highest pass road in Europe: Col de la Bonette with 2,802m. I can kind of understand the controversy about this pass as it’s basically a ring road that seems to be primarily created in order to get higher up than Col de l’Iseran and Stelvio. But this all doesn’t really matter to me in the end. What mattered is that I’ve just reached my 43rd and last “summit” on this epic journey across the Alps. Quite an enjoyable and powerful moment at the same time.

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on top of the world – at least it felt a little bit like it in that moment

After having walked up to ‘Cime de la Bonette’ to enjoy the perfect 360 degree view, I began my final descent towards Nice (which all of a sudden was present on road signs and signposts everywhere).

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I might have romanticised these final 100km a bit before – but had developed a certain feeling during the past days already that it might not be the easiest descent, despite losing almost 3,000m altitude. And indeed, after the first kilometres to Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée were done, the headwind began its daily task of annoying Martin again.

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my descent towards Nice

Anyway, the countryside was very scenic, lots of hills and even more forest. But don’t you think I would have gotten a glimpse of the sea anytime before I reached Nice – not at all. I first had to enter France’s 5th largest city on busy Friday afternoon traffic-packed fast roads. It’s the second time that I finish a long bike tour on a Friday afternoon. And I have to say, Anchorage in 2007 was more of an enjoyable metropolis to cycle through.

However, I did find the sea in the very end and cycled along for quite a while before I reached the heart of the city… where all of a sudden, not unexpected but still a bit hard to believe, my journey across the Alps from the very east to the very west has come to an end.

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I have reached my destination

0km/0m ascent/0 passes to go! (Well, kind of… have a look at the following posts 😉)

accurate route details (incl. GPS track):
Vienna-Nice Transalp – day 15 (Jausiers-Nice)
Start date/time: Fri, 29 Aug 2014 8:43, distance (km): 139.53, elevation (ascent in m): 1,756

all photos of the day:

Day 14 (28/08/2014): Briançon-Jausiers (95km/2,400m ascent/2 passes/drank 8.0 litres)

passes climbed:
Col d’Izoard (2,360m); Col de Vars (2,109m)

towns passed:
Guillestre; Vars; Jausiers

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doing it the “French way” 😉

It’s hard to believe, but I can actually do less than 100km in a day! But on the day before the big final, I tried to take it as easy as it is possible with 2,400m ascent and, once again, annoying headwind.

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on top of Col d’Izoard (2,360m)

and my way down from Col d’Izoard towards Guillestre:

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So I continued following the “Route des Grandes Alpes” towards the south from Briançon onto two more passes with over 2,000m altitude. Both quite enjoyable to cycle up to as it wasn’t too busy. And the motorbikes and camper vans that keep overtaking me slowly become well-known acquaintances. It really is the same people/vehicles all the time that I see on my ride. One I can actually identify already when they’re still behind me: a motorbike with the German number plate “HU”. Whenever they get close to me, I hear the woman on the back of the motorbike loudly talking to the man (never him talking to her, by the way…). Also funny, the Czech and Slovakian motorcyclists who pull little caravans behind their three-wheeled bikes. So you see, it never becomes boring!

on the last 2km before reaching the top of Col de Vars:

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my second high point of the day: Col de Vars

And it certainly is summer now: on the day with the least kilometres I exceeded the 30 degrees for the first time. I am very, very thankful that I was mostly able to ride in “Martin-adequate” temperatures.

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Now that I’m in the départment Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and saw a sign to ‘Nice’ again, I can almost smell the sea already!

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I haven’t been lying: I’ll only get to the highest point of my tour at the very end – which at the same time is the highest pass road in the Alps and Europe

138km/2,117m ascent/2 passes to go!

accurate route details (incl. GPS track):
Vienna-Nice Transalp – day 14 (Briancon-Jausiers)
Start date/time: Thu, 28 Aug 2014 10:07, distance (km): 93.97, elevation (ascent in m): 2,319

all photos of the day:

Day 13 (27/08/2014): Val d’Isère-Briançon (161km/3,200m ascent/4+1 passes/drank 7.0 litres)

passes climbed:
Col de l’Iseran (2,770m); [Col de la Madeleine (1,746m)]; Col du Télégraphe (1,566m); Col du Galibier (2,646m); Col du Lautaret (2,058m)

towns passed:
Bessans; Modane; St-Michel-de-Maurienne; Valloire; Briançon

Lucky (day) number 13!

Today made very much up for the rainy day before. Sunshine all day long – combined with two main ascents that took me across five passes overall. My personal little Tour de France:
Col de l’Iseran, Col de la Madeleine, Col du Télégraphe, Col du Galibier, and Col du Lautaret.

A few words about those passes: with Col de l’Iseran I climbed the second highest pass road in the Alps in the morning. Very nice to cycle up to, despite quite some ski-lifts and cable cars around. And on my way down approx. 30 young people went up to the Col on these rolling skis acting as summer-equivalent to cross-country skis. That area seems to be a centre for biathlon – in any way it’s good to see that it’s not just me who is a little crazy 😉

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on top of the second highest pass of the Alps

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my way down from Col de l’Iseran

My further way led me to Col de la Madeleine. Now there’s the thing: I did not have that Col on my list of passes – and it’s actually not listed on any list or any serious website I found (after only a brief research, I have to say). But then again it can’t be denied that there was the sign pointing out that I have reached at least a Col de la Madeleine with 1,746m altitude. It’s a bit mysterious. The only thing certain is that it’s not its famous 1,993m high namesake that has been climbed during the Tour de France several times before. And because of all this uncertainty, I classify it as an “additional pass” rather than including it into the official count (with the positive side effect that I don’t have to change the numbers in all previous posts 😉).

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mysterious Col de la Madeleine – who knows more about this 1,746m high pass?

The remaining descent to St-Michel-de-Maurienne was extremely tedious and tiring. It was once more a fight against the wind that almost let me finish my day early exasperated in St-Michel-d-M. However, two slices of ‘Mille-feuille’ and a longish break brought me back to life – and the best part of the day began:

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passing Col du Télégraphe in the afternoon

The climb up to Col du Télégraphe together with some other charity cyclists, and the subsequent ascent to Col du Galibier were certainly a highlight on my tour. The evening sun whitewashed the mountain scenery into a perfect setting; and a little “race” against four road cyclists towards the end of the climb motivated me even further. It was a real treat and pure pleasure up there. And besides, with Galibier I climbed the 5th highest pass road of the Alps (4th highest point on my tour). Furthermore, I crossed the border from départment de la Savoie to départenent des Hautes Alpes.

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my way up Col du Galibier

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on the fourth highest point of my tour

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and my way down from Galibier towards Briançon

Col du Lautaret was passed on my way down from Galibier without any effort.

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it just “happened to be” on my way down

And now at the end of the day I had the wind in my back which blew me all the way to Briançon, Rosenheim’s twin town. In addition to that it’s a very historic city that belongs to the world heritage site “Les Fortifications de Vauban” (an aggregation of twelve of the best-preserved fortifications created by Vauban. Briançon’s title as “highest city in the European Union” seems to be quite constructed – as it wasn’t quite enough for the highest city in the Alps – which is the Swiss Davos. So let’s hope for the Briançonians that Switzerland doesn’t join the EU at some point 😉

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I went for the ‘maillot à pois rouges’ – thought that would be the most appropriate one for me

230km/4,930m ascent/4 passes to go!

accurate route details (incl. GPS track):
Vienna-Nice Transalp – day 13 (Val d’Isère-Briancon)
Start date/time: Wed, 27 Aug 2014 9:34, distance (km): 160.38, elevation (ascent in m): 3,142

all photos of the day:

Day 12 (26/08/2014): Aosta-Val d’Isère (106km/2,750m ascent/1 pass/drank 6.0 litres)

passes climbed:
Colle del Piccolo San Bernardo/Col du Petit St-Bernard (2,188m)

towns passed:
Pré-Saint-Didier; La Thuile; Séez; Val d’Isère

Rain, rain, rain… I so got soaked to the skin today… it was incredible. Not only did it rain all day long without cease. The only difference there was resulted in either strong, stronger, or extremely strong rain – especially on top of Little St. Bernard pass it lashed into my face that it actually hurt.

There is not a lot more to tell about my day today. I didn’t see much of the most likely wonderful landscape around me (first in Italy, then in France – my final country on this tour, and I’m not going to leave it anymore before Nice). And this day showed the limits of my equipment.

Even if my tour has not ended yet, this was definitely the wettest day, no doubt. More wet is not possible. Which makes me look forward to the upcoming days and places to be seen and travelled through.

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Remember the view from my hotel room the day before? This photo was taken from the same spot this morning. Kind of different, isn’t it?!

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Why?!??? It was raining cats and dogs, and they sprinkled the lawn?! Must have been a testing field for lawn sprinklers

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this was taken relatively low down – it was a lot worse higher up, but there I had to save my phone from drowning

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on top of my only pass for the day – nobody to take my picture anywhere near; I did actually not see a single other cyclist all day long

392km/8,850m ascent/8 passes to go!

accurate route details (incl. GPS track):
Vienna-Nice Transalp – day 12 (Aosta-Val d’Isère)
Start date/time: Tue, 26 Aug 2014 9:02, distance (km): 105.28, elevation (ascent in m): 2,574

all photos of the day: