Day 11 (25/08/2014): Brig-Aosta (167km/2,400m ascent/1 pass/drank 6.5 litres)

passes climbed:
Colle del Gran San Bernardo/Col du Grand-St-Bernard (2,473m)

towns passed:
Visp; Sierre; Sion; Martigny; Aosta

Bit of a grey day today – weather-wise. And leg-wise, I still felt the battle against the wind from the day before.

The flat ride through the valley of Rhône river took me through vineyards and to the French-speaking Switzerland, still in the canton Valais/Wallis. It would be the last bit that I was cycling through Switzerland.

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river Rhône near Sierre/Siders

But before I finally left it, I spent my last francs on THE perfect cheesecake – if anyone asks me again what type of cheesecake I like: it’s either the one of the American Cheesecake Factory, or that one from Coop in Martigny! The main ingredients must be butter, cream and lots of sugar 😉

With such invigoration the Great St. Bernard pass could come (depending on sources the 10th or the 12th highest pass road in the Alps). All the way up to the tunnel it was a fairly moderate climb on a wide road – clearly more of a transit pass rather than a touristy path like e.g. Großglockner or Gávia. This could also be seen by the significantly lower number of motorbikes and bicycles going up there.

From where the road split into Grand-St-Bernard tunnel and the route towards the ‘Col’, traffic became a lot less busy for me (who obviously went uphill and not through the tunnel).

But two comments on that “junction”. It was the very first time that I saw ‘Nice’ written on a road sign! Less kilometres than I still have ahead of me due to a more direct route they measured, however, still a clear sign that I’m getting closer.
And what was most surprising to me: apparently bicycles are allowed into the tunnel! Probably not a very pleasant experience, but still interesting to see.

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Nice, prepare yourself, I’m getting closer!

The German family who took my photo on top of the pass mentioned they felt a bit sorry for me when they saw me cycling uphill. But they thought “when he’s up there, he’ll get a beer”. What they didn’t know: I still had a piece of this wonderful cheesecake 😋

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on top of the Swiss/Italian Great St. Bernard pass – it was another 2,000m climb up there

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my descent towards Aosta

Back in Italy the weather was “Italian” – warm and sunny. And I got great views of the highest mountain of the Alps: Mt. Blanc – or as it’s called in Italy: Monte Bianco.

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view of Mt. Blanc from my hotel room in Aosta

498km/11,600m ascent/9 passes to go!

accurate route details (incl. GPS track):
Vienna-Nice Transalp – day 11 (Brig-Aosta)
Start date/time: Mon, 25 Aug 2014 9:15, distance (km): 166.08, elevation (ascent in m): 2,163

all photos of the day:

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Day 10 (24/08/2014): Biasca-Brig (136km/2,950m ascent/2 passes/drank 5.0 litres)

passes climbed:
San Gottardo/St. Gotthard pass (2,108m); Furkapass (2,436m)

towns passed:
Brig

May I complain a bit, please? Thanks. Man, this was an exhausting day! Above all, strong headwind reduced me to despair. All the way up San Gottardo/St. Gotthard (2,000m in one go) the wind was blowing in my face – and I’m not exaggerating when I say that in parts it had a stormy character. And as it came kind of from the top rather the front, even the S-bends up the final stretch of the pass didn’t help reducing the “blocking wall of wind” much. Funnily enough this spook stopped right when I turned towards ‘Furkapass’ in Hospental (near Andermatt). Hardly any wind anymore, warmth rather than chilly 8 degrees…

But I’m not finished complaining yet: the ascent up Gottardo was tedious in any case – but in addition I decided to go up on the old pass road. Certainly a good decision regarding reduced traffic. However, a majority of the road was from cobblestone! Can you imagine how hard that was on me and my bike after two hours or so?!

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this was my ascent up San Gottardo – all cobblestone!

Then: my right knee is definitely causing me pain now. And knowing my knee, this won’t go away anymore for the rest of the trip – so I’ll simply try and ignore it as much as possible. Riding with a knee bandage helps, but isn’t particularly comfortable.

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as I cycled up the old pass road, you get the picture with the old pass sign at the former highest point – the new road and new sign are a few metres higher (where I went to as well, of course)

Further: the water I brought from my last accommodation tasted horrible – and I still couldn’t be bothered to refill my bottles with good water.

And above all, I had to learn in the evening that Mercedes didn’t win the F1 race in Spa…

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on top of ‘Furkapass’ – the door to the Swiss Wallis

So this was my day! But to be fair I have to add that after this energy-sapping Gotthard pass, riding up Furkapass was actually quite enjoyable again, sun was shining all day long, and from the top of Furkapass and further down in the Rhône valley I’ve been and will be riding along next, one had spectacular views towards the Weisshorn and Matterhorn range of the ‘Walliser Alpen’. So, I’ve reached the real high mountains now, i.e. the famous 4,000m ones: Eiger, Jungfrau, Matterhorn, Weisshorn, soon Mt. Blanc, etc.

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view from Furkapass towards my descent, the ‘Wallis’, ‘Grimselpass’, and hidden within this wonderful cloud formation one can imagine ‘Eiger’ and ‘Jungfrau’ mountain

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similar view as before, but now with ‘Weisshorn’ in the background – and ‘Matterhorn’ just left of it

Guess this was a conciliatory finish to probably the hardest day of my ride so far. And the four men from Germany standing next to the old St. Gotthard road on my way up and making a Mexican wave for me certainly cheered me up too.

660km/14,050m ascent/10 passes to go!

accurate route details (incl. GPS track):
Vienna-Nice Transalp – day 10 (Biasca-Brig)
Start date/time: Sun, 24 Aug 2014 9:20, distance (km): 135.69, elevation (ascent in m): 2,884

all photos of the day:

Day 9 (23/08/2014): La-Punt-Chamues-ch – Biasca (195km/1,800m ascent/2 passes/drank 7.0 litres)

passes climbed:
Malojapass (1,815m); Monte Céneri (554m)

towns passed:
St. Moritz; Chiavenna; Lugano; Bellinzona

Now this is what one probably calls a day to make some distance before the big names approach: almost 200km in a day brought me quite a bit further towards la Côte d’Azur/French Riviera.

The day started with chilly 10 degrees past famous St. Moritz, Silvaplana Lake and Silser Lake all the way to Majola pass – one of the easier passes as it was basically just along the river En more or less flat from where I started.

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on top of Malojapass – and the way down towards Chiavenna

The descent to Chiavenna then however changed everything: all of a sudden it was sunny and had 30 degrees. The country changed from Switzerland to Italy again. And the “contemplative” mountain spirit changed to a “Mediterranean” feeling. Lots of people, lots of cities and villages, in parts very bad roads (my poor bike – and taking pictures while cycling became quite a challenge), lots of tourists, lots of lake promenades, a very bustling atmosphere.

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Lago di Como from the west bank

And above all two great and famous lakes I cycled (actually “flew” with an average of 30kph) along: Lago di Como and Lago di Lugano (where the headwind and the hills slowed me down a bit).

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Lago di Luggano from the northeast bank

Back in Switzerland (now in the Italian-speaking Tessin), I came through two of the bigger cities on my trip: Lugano and UNESCO world heritage site Bellinzona. In between, more along the way, I passed Monte Céneri, the second high point of the day, after I got the squeaky chain of my bike lubricated again by a friendly bike shop man with whom I communicated via “Google Translate” on his computer.

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on Monte Céneri – for a change a picture with my bike only this time

And talking about the friendly Swiss already again, I want to add one more story: as every day I asked the host of the B&B where I stayed in La-Punt-Chamues-ch (actually, I can remember the name!!) whether it was ok to take some extra bread with me for the day (usually it is fine with them and makes it easier for me as I don’t have to start looking for a bakery or similar and stop in the morning already; then again one of the few times I wasn’t allowed to take any bread with me resulted in me getting the best poppy-seed pastry I’ve ever had in my entire life of a bakery in Zell am See). When I asked the lady this morning, not only did she allow me to take some bread with me, she even got me some foil to wrap it in!

I actually have to make one correction to what I wrote a few days ago: Bolzano was not the lowest point before Nice, it was actually quite a few places on this day: all the way along Lago di Como was lower (around 200m only), and Bellinzona is lower too. This has two consequences: for the very first time on this trip I was able to have dinner outside! On day 9! In August!

And the second consequence: I’ll have a very hard next day waiting for me: the way up to San Gottardo are basically 2,000m ascent in one go without any relaxing descents in between.

But now is not the time to turn back anymore: the remaining legs of the trip will, as I mentioned at the beginning, take me to all the big names now: San Gottardo, San Bernardino, Col de l’Iseran, Col du Télégraphe, Col du Galibier, Col du Lautaret, Col d’Izoard, Col de Vars, and as the final highlight Col de Restefond and Col de la Bonette.

Wish me luck!

795km/17,000m ascent/12 passes to go!

accurate route details (incl. GPS track):
Vienna-Nice Transalp – day 9 (La-Punt-Chamues-ch – Biasca)
Start date/time: Sat, 23 Aug 2014 9:19, distance (km): 193.57, elevation (ascent in m): 1,015

all photos of the day:

Day 8 (22/08/2014): Santa Maria – La-Punt-Chamues-ch (132km/3,700m ascent/3 passes/drank 5.5 litres)

passes climbed:
Pass dal Fuorn/Ofenpass (2,149m); Flüelapass (2,383m); Albulapass (2,315m)

towns passed:
Zernez; Davos

Even if I’m definitely not going to be able to remember the name of today’s destination, the Swiss have a new admirer: besides impressive prices for food and accommodation that can easily compete with Scandinavia, I am totally amazed by this little country I know so little about. The landscape is impressive – but then that is the case in the other countries I’ve cycled through so far too. But everything seems to work, all seems quite relaxed but still highly professional, everything works and is thought through, and above all, the people I’ve been in touch with are so extremely friendly. Even road-men greet when I cycle past them. All of a sudden I get thumbs-up on my way up pass roads not only by the Dutch who tend to be the most supportive but also by Swiss motor-cyclists. And I could continue that list. The French have to fight hard if they still want to win the friendliness-price; the Austrians, Germans and Italians have lost it already.
But in order to not create a wrong picture: in general I’ve been very much impressed how friendly all of the people everywhere were on my trip so far – the Swiss have just perfectionised it.
Oh! And they have actual supermarkets along my route that in addition are open at 14:00! 😉

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on top of Pass dal Fuorn/Ofenpass – my first pass of the day

The other thing that felt particularly special on another great day: I reached the Inn river; this close to the source still called ‘En’ in the Swiss Engadin. Knowing that this “green river” with all its different places and personal stories to tell now that I kind of know it from the source, along many kilometres in Austria I’ve cycled next to it, via my home-town Rosenheim, all the way to the mouth into the Danube in Passau (another place close to me due to many, many visits there), well, as I said, it was a special moment for me to cross it today, cycle along it a few kilometres, and stay in a town now with the ‘En’ running through it.

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the river “En” in Zernez – changing its name further down into “Inn”

The observant reader will probably have realised the latest by now if not a lot earlier that I often don’t take the most direct approach to move forward towards Nice. Stelvio and Umbrail yesterday would have been a lot quicker to reach from Bolzano via Merano. The place where I’m staying today (ch-ch-u-ch-mu-ch-ch or something along that line – basically just before St. Moritz) would have been reachable directly from Zernez without the “detour” via Davos. And that list could be continued. But as mentioned before, this is not just about getting from Vienna to Nice, it’s actually in particular also about including as many high mountain passes as possible. And this makes a potentially 1,300km-tour with 2 passes a 2,200km-tour with 40 passes – and might explain things for the ones looking at a map and asking themselves why I’m cycling around in circles.

on my way up to, on top of, and down from Flüelapass – the highest pass of the day:

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As I’ve got the feeling that I complained about the weather too often: apart from a bit too much rain on the first two days and two days in between (which was mainly a pity because of all the great scenery I’ve been missing out), it is actually perfect cycling weather! I prefer these comparatively low temperatures this summer way more than usual August weather with 30+ degrees and a high risk of daily thunderstorms. So if it stays like this (ideally as sunny as it was during the past two days) I couldn’t be happier.

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just climbed Albulapass in the evening sun

And as I wrote about my bike’s performance yesterday, I briefly mention my own performance today: I’m actually quite happy that I’m feeling so well. Possibly the 4,000km of cycling this year before the start of the tour helped – even if that wasn’t particularly “planned out”. I simply cycled whenever I found the time to, but also didn’t for quite a while if I didn’t find the time. A proper training scheme certainly looks very much different. In any way, here I am, halfway into the trip, and my body doesn’t seem to be hoping for an end to all the cycling anytime soon. My thighs which did hurt quite a lot on the first three days either got used to the daily routine – or simply gave up complaining because they realised they don’t have an alternative anyway. Heart rate is fine. The only thing I’m “listening to” closely at the moment is my right calf and my knees. They might want a rest day sometime. But for the moment, all good.

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Well, and here I am, on most 1,700 metres, after another impressive three pass roads today. One would think it might become boring after a while, all this up and down. But quite the opposite: every ascent “tactically” might be similar, but the scenery is always different. You’ll find out when I upload all the photos of my real camera after the tour. Albulapass, e.g., had its attractiveness because of a railway line with many bridges and tunnels running parallel a long way up along and across the road I was riding on. This is actually part of the route the famous “Glacier Express” takes. And as it was comparably late already when I arrived on top (almost half past six – somehow it gets later every day), the evening sun put the scenery into wonderful colours.

985km/18,850m ascent/14 passes to go!

accurate route details (incl. GPS track):
Vienna-Nice Transalp – day 8 (Santa Maria – La-Punt-Chamues-ch)
Start date/time: Fri, 22 Aug 2014 9:12, distance (km): 132.10, elevation (ascent in m): 3,387

all photos of the day:

Day 7 (21/08/2014): Mezzana-Santa Maria [Graubünden] (111km/4,000m ascent/3+1 passes/drank 7.5 litres)

passes climbed:
Passo del Tonale (1,884m); Passo Gávia (2,621m); [planned extra pass not directly on route: Stelvio/Stilfser Joch (2,758m)]; Umbrailpass (2,505m)

towns passed:
Bórmio

I’ve passed border control – and am now in Switzerland!

And now that the seventh day on the bike is over I keep asking myself: can it get any better? I don’t think so. This day was just amazing! For the first time in my life I did 4,000m ascent in one day (my bike computer and my Garmin GPS slightly disagree on that, but I decided the verdict), the sun was shining, I was climbing 4 passes, out of which three are amongst the top 10 of the Alps regarding altitude: Umbrail (number 8 and highest pass road in Switzerland), Gavia (number 6, and simply stunningly beautiful plus perfect bends for a fun downhill ride – and quite a steep uphill before that), and Stelvio (number 3 – and second highest road I’ve ever been on by bike… by anything with wheels actually).

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on top of Passo del Tonale

Of the fourth pass, Tonale – which was actually the first one I cycled up today – the main thing that got stuck in my head were yummy Sicilian specialities they sold on a market up there. And that it was a horribly built-up area – including apartment blocks! But I’m happy to repeat myself: the other three totally made up for that (although Stelvio isn’t nice either on top – but it has its impressive altitude to convince and spectacular views around).

my way up to Passo Gávia:

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on top of Gávia including a treat for myself:

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After 3 days in Italy (more will come), I now do understand the way Italians drive their cars on bendy pass roads: honk the horn before every turn, optionally flashing the lights too, particularly in tunnels, but never ever on your life reduce speed at all! There is actually a significant difference between Italian car drivers and basically all other nations. I’ve recognised this in Austria already too.
With motor-cyclists one can’t really generalise things that easily.

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way down from Gávia towards Bórmio

What else is worth mentioning: after 7 days I can say that my bike – as it has done in the past already – is doing a great job. It’s shaken quite a lot on all these downhills, and me forcing it uphill all the time is probably not a lot better either. Only problem so far is a broken bottle holder. But duct tape is doing its job well. A nice surprise for both my bike and me was to see that the descent from Umbrail is basically fully paved now – other than indicated in the version of the ‘Geser’-book I’m using as a rough orientation (although I kind of expected that quite a few things would have changed during the past 10+ years since I own this book).

Same story as the days before: trying to find groceries in the Italian Bormio at 14:30… impossible. But for the moment I’m in Switzerland – will see how things develop here.

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my way up from Bórmio towards Stelvio and Umbrail

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on top of the third highest pass road in the Alps (and Europe), Stelvio/Stilfser Joch

Besides having been to Geneva for the car show and just across the border on a mountain hut, this is actually my first proper visit to proper Switzerland. I like the friendly people already – and the language is just so nice to listen to (even if I only understand half of it). And my bad preparation concerning the exchange rates led me to ending up in a really nice, but quite pricey accommodation. Or that’s just what I have to get used to while being in Switzerland.

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my last pass of the day: Umbrail – being the border between Italy and Switzerland

Anyway, last story for today: guess what happened to me on the long downhill to Bormio? On the last, straight sections I just let my bike roll down with around 65kph – relaxing my muscles and giving my brakes a break by not using either of them. All of a sudden a mountain biker overtakes me! Just like that! Obviously he wasn’t leading a long time. (Yeah, I know what you’re thinking now: “Men!!”)

1,115km/23,150m ascent/17 passes to go!

accurate route details (incl. GPS track):
Vienna-Nice Transalp – day 7 (Mezzana-Santa Maria)
Start date/time: Thu, 21 Aug 2014 8:51, distance (km): 110.71, elevation (ascent in m): 3,797

all photos of the day:

Day 6 (20/08/2014): Pieve di Livinallongo/Buchenstein-Mezzana (156km/3,100m ascent/3 passes/drank 6.0 litres)

passes climbed:
Passo Pordoi (2,239m); Karerpass/Passo di Costalunga (1,752m); Mendelpass/Passo di Mendola (1,363m)

towns passed:
Canazei; Bolzano; Kaltern; Dimaro (near Madonna di Campiglio)

Oh bella Italia! I really enjoy my time in the country of the southern Alps. The landscape is extremely varied, the people are nice, and the cycling goes well. Only the weather is somewhat… let’s say “un-Italian”. I might sound a bit like a Brit because of talking about the weather all the time – but it’s quite a significant part of my trip. I was a bit over-optimistic when I put on sun lotion this morning. Not really necessary, but at least I reduced the weight of my luggage by a few milligrams 😉

climbing Passo Pordoi in the Dolomites:

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And one other thing I don’t quite get down here in Italy (“down here” sounds somehow funny when just having crossed a 2,239m high pass road): I have the hardest time finding groceries along the way when I planned to buy some. It was the case in Cortina yesterday, and today again in Bolzano: there are a million bars along my way, but a petrol station or supermarket which sell groceries and batteries for my GPS device… tricky. Especially around Siesta time as it happened to be during the past two days.

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on top of ‘Karerpass/Passo di Costalunga’ after one of many heavy rain showers of the day

Besides that it came true what I expected: very many cyclists on the way up to Passo Pordoi. But what else would one expect in that amazing area. One thing that’s obvious though is that I mainly see road cyclists without luggage or mountain bikers with day packs on some hike-and-bike-mission on the pass roads. The ones packed with luggage tend to be in the valleys only…

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on my way up to ‘Mendelpass/Passo di Mendola’ with ‘Kalterer See’ in the valley on the left

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And now that I have passed Bolzano (with 250m the lowest point of my trip before Nice, I think) and Passo di Mendola, I’ll only get to places I have never ever been to before (apart from Rosenheim’s partner city Briancon). So it continues to be exciting!

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Lago di Santa Giustina next to Cles (view from Revò)

1,220km/26,900m ascent/20 passes to go!

accurate route details (incl. GPS track):
Vienna-Nice Transalp – day 6 (Pieve di Livinallongo-Mezzana)
Start date/time: Wed, 20 Aug 2014 9:04, distance (km): 154.83, elevation (ascent in m): 2,806

all photos of the day:

Day 5 (19/08/2014): Hopfgarten i. Defereggental-Pieve di Livinallongo/Buchenstein (140km/3,200m ascent/4+1 passes/drank 5.0 litres)

passes climbed:
Staller Sattel (2,052m); [Passo Cimabanche (1,530m) – unplanned!]; Col Sant’ Angelo (1,756m); Passo Tre Croci (1,809m); Passo di Falzárego (2,117m)

towns passed:
Antholz; Toblach; Cortina d’Ampezzo

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my way up from ‘Defereggen valley’ to ‘Staller Sattel’

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I have arrived in the heart of the Dolomites – and I can tell you: it only partly feels like it. Last time that I was here was in October, with sun and 30 degrees (I’m not exaggerating!). This time it is August, but only 9-15 degrees, low hanging clouds, a lot of rain. A warm shower at the end of a long day was very welcome – and in that situation I was quite happy about my non-camping decision.

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in the Dolomites

With having climbed ‘Staller Sattel’ (which I reached perfectly in time for the 15-minutes window per hour when you’re allowed to enter the single-track road downhill), I have now left two countries behind on this trip: after Germany, now Austria is history too. I did enjoy my time there a lot – but I’m curious what the remaining countries (Italy, Switzerland and France) will have to offer.

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on top of my first pass of the day – perfectly timed

As for Italy I can say: definitely a lot of rain. I’ll leave the interpretation up to you, but right at the top of 2,052m high ‘Staller Sattel’ – which at the same time is the border – it started raining heavily. I’m not sure if it was Austria crying about me having moved on, or Italy about me now cycling there for quite a while…

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taken next to the ‘Hotel Drei-Zinnen-Blick/view of Tre Cime – well, this is the view I got…

Possibly the latter one – as I had to ask myself the question already whether Italy and Martin will ever become very close friends: I got lost today! Missed a junction in ‘Schluderbach’ and continued on the main road towards Cortina d’Ampezzo – which I realised 3km further on top of a – little – pass!! Silly me. But through that I would have missed two other, more serious pass roads. So I decided to turn around. With the second attempt I managed to find my way – i.e. watch my GPS-track and road signs more carefully. And I had my extra pass for the day!

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on my way up to the highest point of the day: Passo Falzarego

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Overall I can say that this day, probably also but not only because of the weather was a complete difference to the day before: I saw hardly any other cyclists and way less cars and coaches on the passes than the day before up Großglockner road. But especially with the cyclists, this might change on Passo Pordoi, one of the famous Dolomites passes which is waiting for me next.

1,385km/30,200m ascent/23 passes to go!
(By the way [in order to avoid my competence in numbers being challenged]: if someone adds up my daily statistics and doesn’t quite find this consistent with the remaining distance/ascent: this is because the one is taken from my route planning overview, and the other one from a combination of my bike computer, GPS, and maps… it’s all very complicated 😉 And the numbers will only be exact at the end of my trip when I can properly analyse my GPS-tracks. [For the ones who shake their heads now in disbelief with what kind of thoughts I spend a part of my day: no worries, that’s a sign that everything is going well still 😄])

accurate route details (incl. GPS track):
Vienna-Nice Transalp – day 5 (Hopfgarten i.D.-Pieve di Livinallongo)
Start date/time: Tue, 19 Aug 2014 8:41, distance (km): 139.37, elevation (ascent in m): 2,881

all photos of the day:

Day 4 (18/08/2014): Zell am See-Hopfgarten i. Defereggental (119km/2,800m ascent/2 passes/drank 6.0 litres)

passes climbed:
Großglockner high alpine road (2,505m); Iselsbergpass (1,204m)

towns passed:
Bruck an der Großglocknerstraße; Heiligenblut; Winklern; Lienz; Huben; Hopfgarten im Defereggental

In retrospect, my fourth day on the bike was destined to be a good one. During my – not particularly coordinated – training months (i.e. no planned training scheme or similar) for my Vienna-Nice adventure, the only actual plan was to do a 420km-ride across Großglockner High Alpine Road in a single weekend – and if I managed that without greater troubles, I’d dare do go on my Transalp. This “deciding” tour took place on the weekend of the football World Cup final. Well, and two things are well-known: the final was very successful for us Germans, and I’ve gone on my journey.

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With these two successes, I now was back at Großglockner High Alpine Road, motivated by great memories. And again, I could hardly have wished for a better day: sun was out, clear sky, 12-20 degrees, and on great distances of the uphill section no wind.

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on my way up on a very sunny day with Austria’s highest mountain in the background

The big difference compared to my tour in July was the significantly higher number of cars. Even if I don’t really mind all the traffic next to me, one could only summarise this as extremely busy. There was even a traffic jam at ‘Fuscher Törl’, the first of the two high points of the road.

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that’s where I came from

But it all was forgotten on my way down from ‘Hochtor’ (the other high point – and with 2,504m my fifth or sixth highest point of the tour [depending on how I feel and will or will not include Passo dello Stelvio – which would be a detour by simply going up and down the same route on my way to Umbrail pass])… so, this was a very long parenthesis… well, all the traffic was forgotten on my way down as no cars or coaches were slowing me down. Quite impressive to see that 95% of the tourists seem to focus on the Salzburg side of the pass rather than the Carinthian one (after the junction to ‘Franz-Josef-Höhe’).

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I’ve clearly reached the real high pass roads on day number 4

The rest of the day was another little pass, fighting against strong headwind but then also benefitting from strong tailwind, and then having arrived in the Defereggen Valley, a place where I’ve never been before. Seems to be a lot less overcrowded by tourists – nice!

Last but not least: I think, I’ll have to study the extensions of the Austrian ‘Bundesländer’ (provinces) a bit more in detail: it came as a complete surprise to me on top of Iselsbergpass that I was entering Tyrol. I was 100% convinced that I wouldn’t leave Carinthia anymore before I cross the border to Italy. Clear lack of knowledge of how far east Eastern Tyrol stretches out.

Anyway, the only thing I know for sure is that I’ll cross into South Tyrol on my next leg – and most likely in rain…
(The rest day is postponed for now, by the way.)

1,517km/33,400m ascent/27 passes to go!

accurate route details (incl. GPS track):
Vienna-Nice Transalp – day 4 (Zell am See-Hopfgarten i.D.)
Start date/time: Mon, 18 Aug 2014 8:33, distance (km): 118.99, elevation (ascent in m): 2,734

all photos of the day:

Day 3 (17/08/2014): Obertraun-Zell am See (185km/1,750m ascent/3 passes/drank 7.0 litres)

passes climbed:
Schwarzbachwachtsattel (868m); Steinpass (651m); Kniepass (560m)

towns passed:
Hallstatt; Bad Goisern; Bad Ischl; St. Gilgen; Fuschl am See; Salzburg; Berchtesgaden; Lofer; Saalfelden; Zell am See

A friend from the ‘Salzkammergut’ region called this day’s section of my route the highlight of my tour. I’m pretty certain there’ll be a lot more highlights, especially when I’m reaching the real high mountain passes – however, she didn’t promise too much: the scenery was very pretty, in particular around ‘Hallstätter See’ and ‘Wolfgangsee’. It certainly helped that this Sunday lived up to its name: it was a perfect day for cycling. Sunny, clear sky, not too hot; nothing else one could wish for.
What I didn’t quite understand is why there where so many Chinese in Hallstatt (VERY many) – now that they copied the town and rebuilt it somewhere in China?! Guess the original version including the real Alps surrounding it make it still one-of-a-kind?!

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‘Hallstätter See’ with the pre-historic town of Hallstatt

In Bad Goisern, I was stuck in a ‘traffic jam’ for almost 10 minutes – due to a blocked road because of an Oldtimer meeting. Wonderful cars of all kinds. It was worth the wait. In general my tour becomes more and more a car show too: Oldtimers, Youngtimers, modern sports cars – I get to see more than a car fan like me could have ever wished for. And if – like in Bad Goisern – I somehow, accidentally, happen to end up inside the closed barriers section of the course where the cars would leave the town later that day, it almost provides a little bit of a Tour de France feeling right before the finish line. With the difference that it’s still a long way until my day would come to an end.

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city of Salzburg

The city of Salzburg was pretty as always, but no big break for me there. Probably because Bavaria was calling 😉
Obviously my tour through the Alps had to lead me through Bavaria too! But it was a short intermezzo: maybe 2.5 hours including a “cake break” – and the most ridiculous “pass road” I’ve ever seen:

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if only all my passes had 50 metres ascent only and were located in the centre of a village… (then my tour would be a lot easier but a lot less worth the effort)

However, I’ll wish for such passes the latest when I’ll be climbing the big ones very soon (Großglockner high alpine road, e.g., the next day already – Austria’s highest mountain has been on the horizon for quite a while).

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search for an accommodation in ‘Zell am See’

Finally, status of my legs: quite tired. More than I thought and would have wished for. However, now that I’m a day ahead of ‘schedule’, I plan to take a rest day either the day after the difficult Großglockner climb, or the day after.

1,636km/36,200m ascent/29 passes to go!

accurate route details (incl. GPS track):
Vienna-Nice Transalp – day 3 (Obertraun-Zell am See)
Start date/time: Sun, 17 Aug 2014 9:11, distance (km): 183.49, elevation (ascent in m): 1,379

all photos of the day:

Day 2 (16/08/2014): Mariazell-Obertraun (173km/1,690m ascent/3 passes/drank 5.0 litres)

passes climbed:
Halspass (830m); Radstatthöhenstraße (637m); Koppenpass (690m)

towns passed:
Wildalpen; Admont; Liezen; Bad Aussee; Obertraun

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Rain is getting stronger, the mountains higher, and cycling not easier – despite a “relatively” moderate day leg. And as it was so moderate, combined with a tricky accommodation situation due to the ‘Maria Ascension’ holiday weekend, I prolonged the planned distance by almost 60km. So after having cycled through the ‘Gesäuse’ national park (the only place where it didn’t continuously rain), I have arrived in the ‘Salzkammergut and Dachstein region’. If the first mountains of the Alps in the ‘Wienerwald’ on day one might still have been less dramatic, I’m now surrounded by the highest mountains of Austria already.

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Gesäuse national park along Enns river

In any way: nothing can go wrong anymore with me getting to France 😉 When I left Mariazell this morning, a French couple asked me where they can find a bakery. Fluently I responded: l’église – là – dans le centre – boucherie – uhmmm boulangerie – peut-être – d’accord?!
So, Nice, here I come!! (And maybe I should use all the time on the bike for refreshing my French language skills…)

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Taken especially for the fans of the Eurovision Song Contest

1,814km/38,000m ascent/32 passes to go!

accurate route details (incl. GPS track):
Vienna-Nice Transalp – day 2 (Mariazell-Obertraun)
Start date/time: Sat, 16 Aug 2014 8:35, distance (km): 171.66, elevation (ascent in m): 1,106

all photos of the day: