Day 5 – Grand Saint Bernard





I woke up feeling pretty terrible, but once I got climbing things were good again. Unfortunately, if I wanted to cross the Grand Saint Bernard I would have had to ski. The road was covered with snow and I had to hitchhike through the tunnel. Considering the Petite Saint Bernard is nearly as high as the GSB I bailed on doing it, explored Aosta, and got a good train to Venice. Beautiful stage. Steady Climb. Shortened due to snow.

Day of Journey:

Stage 4 of 21, May 7th, 2009.

Time Traveled:

Bike 2h25m (65km)

Distance Traveled:

Bike – 65km

Travel Methods:

Bike – 65km

Total Distance Biked:

535km (4 stages)

Mountain passes & Hills

Grand-Saint-Bernard – 24.4km, 6.2 % – Cat H

Petit-Saint-Bernard – 22.6km, 5.1 % – Cat 1

Twitter updates: “Today, woke up feeling crap, no sleep. Climbed Grand Saint Bernard 30km up up up and then…CLOSED. BAM, hitched though tunnel, now in Aosta.”

“No Petite Saint Bernard for me, probably closed as well. Relaxing in Aosta until tonight, be in Venice 6am tomorrow. Mmm Gorganzola Gnocchi.”

“Oh yeah, 1h 50 from Sembrancher up the GSB, 32km. Then fast down the other side. Total day 60km 2h25m. Ha! White hands, very red arms.”

So What Happened?

I was warned to bring a sleeping bag to Verbier because of the mountain elevation could mean for a cold sleep. I didn’t have a bag, and I didn’t need one. I kept waking up burning hot and thirsty as hell. Needless to say when I set off for the ride I was tired. It wasn’t the way I had hoped to be for a hors category climb. To be honest with you part of me wanted a way out of killing myself in the sun that day, but again once I got going it was better. Grand Saint-Bernard is long but not very steep, and climbing higher and higher I was looking forward to having tea with the monks at the hospice and perhaps catching a glimpse of Barry’s young pups.

Now, life sometimes has a way of unfolding in an untimely manner. It’s sort of like needing to find keys to a locked garage with bikes inside — you will never find them when you need to — but, then, when the door is already broken down, guess what you find. Well, although I wanted my way out earlier, when I got to the top of the Grand Saint Bernard and the road was buried under meters of snow, I suddenly felt ripped off. No tea at the hospise. No Col into Italy, No Barry and his pups. The climbing was all but done and I got the prize of standing on the side of the road, wind tearing off the snowy pass, with my thumb in the air.

The descent down the other side was steep and fast and I quickly caught and passed the motor home which took me through the tunnel and wound my way down to Aosta. The descent was fun, but not very technical and it gave me plenty of time to weigh in on the decision that the Petite Saint Bernard would be a no-go. The likelyhood of climbing up and it being closed was high and that would mean turning around and going back to Aosta. Just not worth it. So instead, I spent the day walking around killing time until my night train to Venice. The weekend, the flaoting city and the Giro await.

P.S. I was eating dinner just after writing this, and I couldn’t help but be reminded of a feeling of discontent with this stage. While in Venice walking around it donned on me that I should have ridden the Petite Saint Bernard climb and done as much as I could. Then closed or not closed, turned around and gone back to Aosta to take the much cheaper and quicker train connection. I had it in my mind while on the bike that it was an all or nothing decision for the PSB, but with more time to reflect I realized my missed opportunity. Too bad.

Picture(s) of the Day:




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