The room in Bergamo was booked. So quickly continued, over the 2208 m high Passo Euro followed by the 2291 m high Passo Foscagno two more passes, until around 10 pm I could finally shower again and there was time to wash my clothes and blow dry.
On Friday morning I had an early start in Bergamo, or rather 6 km south of it. I was able to enjoy a decent breakfast with coffee at the Airbnb before heading up to the Stelvio Pass. The high Alpine pass, a mecca for cyclists, is known for its many switchbacks. At 2757 m, it is the highest pass in Italy and the highest point of the entire TCR. The south ramp of Bormio is 21.5 km long, and with 1540 meters of altitude it pulls up with an average of 7.2%. Around 6am I started, as I said, a little south of Bergamo, and the sun was still waiting behind the mountains. At 9:13 I reached the top of the pass, and after a few quick photos I went down the many hairpin bends to Prad, just under 25 km and 1844 meters of altitude. Only marred by a construction site at which I, like everyone else, had to wait several minutes. Arrived at the bottom, it went first to shop in a small store. In addition to bread and goodies, there were also apricots and east from the Vinschgau.
I continued on familiar paths (I had already been on the road with the bike in the Vinschgau several times) in the direction of Merano. I had decided to stay on the well-maintained bike path, and not on the perhaps faster, but also busy road. Only around Schlanders, the main road is the only reasonable option. The fields were irrigated, and so I thought the splashes on my shin came from the irrigation systems. Unfortunately, no, because it was the sealant from the front tire that coated my bike and me with a sticky white goo. I stopped, and was glad that the sealing milk had done its job. Fortunately, I was able to continue without any problems, and without patching. Along the Adige River, I headed toward Merano, and continued along the Adige to Bolzano. A short break at one of the many rest stops, and I passed Sigmundskron Castle. Inconveniently, my route in Bolzano did not work at first. I ended up in a private street where there was no way through. Then stop in the middle of the city. Meanwhile it was noon, and for the first time since the start last Sunday, it was really hot. The thermometer rose to over 35 degrees Celsius. After I had passed the construction sites in Bolzano, I continued along the Eisack River towards Bressanone. The bike path was at first less good, but then later well passable. Only the number of gas stations or stores was poor. So it took some time until I found a larger supermarket to fill up my provisions.
After a short power nap on the way, I passed Brixen and finally the bike path of the Pustertaler Straße. The road itself was excluded from use. So all participants who had chosen this route looked for different paths to the left and right of the busy road. It was Friday and the start of the weekend. I slowly got hungry, and desire for something warm, but had to realize that all pizzerias and restaurants were full to bursting. Long on something to eat I did not want to wait, and so I just drove on. The bike path became a dirt road for many kilometers after Bruneck. I was worried whether the front tire would hold. Unfounded, as it soon turned out. According to Google should also be on the coming kilometers an excursion restaurant. Maybe I should eat something sensible after all? And indeed, the restaurant had opened and it was not crowded. The pizza and the non-alcoholic beer tasted very good, before it went further into the twilight and night. The road went steadily uphill. Not steep, but permanent, with a few percent of incline.
At Innichen I passed the border to Austria around 22:30, it was already dark. It began to rain lightly, and a flicker on the horizon heralded a thunderstorm. The weather app predicted even a heavy thunderstorm. The lightning became more, but there was no thunder yet. Still, it was getting too dicey for me. Nowhere a suitable place to brave the thunderstorm, and set up camp for the night. No Airbnb or hotel anywhere close. On the grounds of a sawmill, I sought shelter between high stacks of wood. Was that shelter enough? Or would the artfully piled up wood piles rather collapse in strong gusts? I drove rather first of all further. About 5 km further in the direction of Lienz, it now began to rain harder, I found a perfect place. An excursion restaurant with a covered terrace. I was not the only participant who found shelter there. In front of me, Johann Bollen, a participant from northern Germany, had the same idea. I joined Johann. We each spared two benches together, which served as a bed. And shortly after, early Saturday, I fell into a well-deserved sleep. Neither lightning nor thunder could keep me from it.
The alarm clock rang at 4 o’clock. In the meantime, two more participants had joined us, both totally soaked. I packed up my stuff and drove on towards Lienz. A construction site toilet only a few kilometers further was gladly used. It was foggy and very damp due to the heavy rain during the night. In Oberdrauburg I found a bakery where I treated myself to breakfast. Two warm cocoa, rolls, croissants and coffee. After breakfast, I immediately bought a few more pastries, which found room in my backpack. Further over the Gailberghöhe in the direction of Hohenthurn and from there south and back for a few kilometers to Italy. At the Shell gas station just before the border I stopped to buy water and refresh my cereal bar supply. There were also baguettes and rolls with meatloaf. Resistance was futile. It had to be. I ate the roll in front of the gas station, where there were appropriate tables and chairs. Another ice cream and quickly on. The ice worked, the fast further unfortunately not. The front tire was flat. Was it due to the heat? Sometimes you just have to pump up again if the valve was not properly closed. But no, clearly a hole, which the sealing milk no longer managed. So unpacked the kit for tubeless bought in France, and patched the front tire. Inflate and continue. The air held, but only for 500 m, then there was another hole in the tire. Again, the remaining sealing milk did not make it, and I rolled slowly back to the gas station. Once there, I changed from tubeless to tube. So valve out, tube in. Fortunately, I found at the gas station a piece of construction protection mat, from which I cut small patches to put them from the inside in the tyre. The holes were too big otherwise. I don’t know what caused the cuts and holes, but it did a great job. Now, however, finally on. Including the break, almost two hours had passed by now, and I really wanted to reach the second checkpoint on the same day. Directly behind the border the cycle track changed from tar to Gravel. And it shot me, about 2 kilometers were covered since the gas station, this time sealing milk from behind to the calf. My mood slowly approached the zero point. But the rear tire held, at least something. Then it went on the supposedly most beautiful bike path that I was allowed to ride so far in my life, from Italy into Slovenia to Kranjska Gora and beyond. Although there were many cyclists on the road, there was still enough space for everyone. Unique asphalt, I would really long for it later …
In Kranjska Gora I stopped at the first bike rental I found. Right at the bottom station of a chairlift. The guys knew exactly that I was participating in the TCR and I continued with a new Erstaz tube in my luggage. I would have liked to buy new tires, but suitable tires, in the quality I was looking for, they unfortunately did not have. Also the other in the place resident wheel rental had no more appropriate tires. Quickly to the supermarket, bought everything for the rest of the day, and continued towards checkpoint 2. It went well, even if I stupidly did not trust my bike computer. Somehow my gray matter didn’t really seem to work anymore. Why did I leave my route and end up riding exactly on the mountainous route that I wanted to avoid by a long way? When I realized what nonsense I had done there, it was too late to turn back. So off I went through the mountains.
Then I went on the second course towards checkpoint CP2, somewhere here it had to be. People wave to me from the edge, I wave back. A few kilometers further Gravel. “That was behind the checkpoint, wasn’t it?” I thought. Well, why do you think they waved a few miles down the road? So I turned around and went back. Arrived at CP2 in Zgornje Jezersko I was happy to get the stamp and some entertainment. There were sandwiches and drinks for sale and a campground with washing facilities. This I used with pleasure. Photos were eagerly taken of the bike, duck and backpack and shared by the organizer and photographers on Instagram and Facebook. And after the short recovery break, we continued on the course in the direction of checkpoint 3.