Sunday, August 13, 2017

"You, Okay"

It was somewhat of a prophetic statement.

A group of us set off from Bormio yesterday morning, heading down-valley to Tirano where we would begin our ascent to the Aprica Pass. From there, we would ascend further to the Mortirolo Pass before dropping back down to Grosio and back to Bormio. It would be a long, challenging day. After my performance earlier in the week, I was questioning whether I was up to it. But my friends rallied me and promised they would look out for me, so off I went.

It was a beautiful day, a bit on the cool side, but certainly warmer than what we had previously experienced. While heading down the valley, I picked a beautiful spot overlooking a quiet stream to spread some more of Mark's ashes:

At some point further down the valley, I'm not sure where, we met Giuseppe, pictured below, at an intersection. We weren't quite sure which way to go, and he happily volunteered, in English, to lead us to Tirano. He zipped around, leading us down beautiful bike paths, and it was a bit of a challenge at times to keep up with him. We later learned that he's 80 years old.


When we reached the point of ascent for Aprica, we all made a pit stop and shed much of the gear we had worn down the long descent from Bormio. As I was standing in front of Giuseppe, he said to me, "You, okay." I thought there was a question mark after his statement, and I didn't know what he meant.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"You, okay." 

Still a quizzical look from me.

"You," he said, pointing to my midsection, then looking down toward my legs, "okay. You got a good body." 

I laughed out loud and thanked him. It's always nice to receive a compliment, regardless of where it comes from. If I am in as good a shape as he is when I'm 80, I'll be very grateful.

The ascent to Aprica was challenging, but was primarily in shade and offered stunning views looking down the Adda River valley. The mountain air was invigorating, but it's also a lot thinner than what I'm used to, even when living and cycling in Salt Lake and its mountains. I had to stop several times near the top on challenging grades to catch my breath and bring my heart rate down, but I finally made it to the top, where my friends were waiting for me.

After an espresso, a cappuccino, a Coke and eating the sandwich I had brought with me, we set off again, climbing higher, higher, higher through beautiful forests, glades and meadows, eventually reaching a shelf road that skirted the edge of a mountain, offering stunning views down into the valleys below.

At one point, I fell a ways behind the others in my group. Coming to a fork in the road, I wasn't quite sure which way to go, but followed the advice I had been given: "When in doubt, climb." One road led up, the other down; so I took the road up, and within 10-15 minutes, I had caught up with the others.

The Chapel of St. Agatha, where I caught up with the others.

Regrouped, we proceeded on to the Mortirolo Pass, stopping again for coffee, then headed down, down, down, several thousand feet to the valley below.

It was then time to begin the long ascent back up to Bormio. It was a bit of a struggle at times, especially on the 10% grades that late in the afternoon. But I made it. 75 miles, 7400 vertical feet. I haven't climbed that much in one day in three years - since the day Mark and I climbed Mont Ventoux in France in early September 2014 - and I've only exceeded 7500' four or five times, all in 2012, my first year of cycling. So I was proud of what I accomplished (and a bit incredulous).

It was a good day. As Guiseppe said, I'm okay. Regardless of what I do the rest of this tour, I have yesterday and what I accomplished and experienced. It's a good feeling.

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