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Tour 1997,  21 - 25 July

stagedistance (km)climbing (m)
Giraniga - Ilanz + Samedan - Bernina - Tonale - Mezzana1522650
Mezzana - Méndola - Mánghen - Strigno1413110
Strigno - Brocon - Cereda - Duran - Forno di Zoldo1193540
Forno di Zoldo - Cibiana - Monte Croce - Rina/Welschellen1473030
Rina/Welschellen - Würzjoch - Brenner - Innsbruck1251730
total68414060

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Stage 1 (21 July 1997): Giraniga - Ilanz + Samedan - Bernina - Tonale - Mezzana

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The main goal of this 1997 tour was to ride some passes in the Dolomites. In order to do an interesting one-week tour it was obvious that i would have to take the train for part of the way. I started from Obersaxen-Giraniga (Grisons) where the parents of my girlfriend Catrina have a vacation house. I wanted to take the first train from Ilanz and therefore got up already at five o'clock. This left me enough time for a rich breakfast. I reached the train at Ilanz as well as the connection towards Samedan. I must admit that i was still very sleepy during this train trip (after a short new- moon night, if you know what i mean... ) and missed some of the superb landscapes along the Rhine and Albula valleys.
Up at Samedan it was still chilly and i was glad that i had to ride first uphill as a warm-up. At about half past eight i was on the way towards the Bernina pass. Glaciers and snow on the Piz Bernina were blinding white and gave the mountain a very impressive look. The road over the pass is good, broad and not steep. The slope down to Poschiavo was nice. Further down in this italian-speaking valley of the Grisons, however, the traffic was rather important and nervous.
After crossing the border, i reached Tirano and had to ride a while along the main road of the Veltlina valley. Dangerous. I therefore did not like the Veltlina as much as some of its wines. Soon i took to the left towards Aprica and was out of the big road again. All the remaining of the stage was on good roads because they had been repaved before the Giro d'Italia 97. There were two passes along the way to the east: Aprica and Tonale. The first one may not be high, but it starts from a low valley and goes through a really mountainous landscape. Passo del Tonale was no big problem either. The slope down the Val Vermiglio was also very nice. The region is touristic and i stopped at an hotel when i reached Mezzana. I was early enough to watch the stage of the Tour de France on television. Marco Pantani won at Morzine after a fabulous climb.

 distance (km)altitude (m)climbing (m)
Giraniga01250 
Meierhof3132070
Ilanz14700 
>>> Samedan141710 
Pontresina20179080
Pass dal Bernina282320530
Poschiavo521020 
Madonna di Tirano68440 
Stazzona72400 
Passo d'Aprica851180780
Èdolo99690 
Ponte di Legno1191260570
Passo del Tonale1301880620
Mezzana152900 
total152 2650

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Stage 2 (22 July 1997): Mezzana - Méndola - Mánghen - Strigno

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The weather for this second stage was nice and warm. I had to wait till eight o'clock for the breakfast to be served at the hotel. I rode along the Val del Sole ("sun valley") and then on a broad plateau over it. The forests, streams and lakes as well as the numerous orchards made a very attractive landscape. From the town of Fondo i climbed to the Mendola pass. It has also a german name (Mendel) as it is on the border to the region of Südtirol which belonged to Austria till World War I. The descent was very nice and i had to review my judgement about italian roads: in that region i saw almost only roads in good or very good state.
From Kaltern / Caldaro to Auer / Ora i crossed the valley of the Etsch / Adige and its orchards and vineyards. Then i had to climb again to a very nice valley with meadows and woods. I was glad to find the cold fountain of Kaltenbrunn / Fontanefredde to refill my bottles. After San Lugano the road went down to the Val di Fiemme which i crossed towards the Manghen pass. This is one of the most beautiful passes i've ever ridden. The road is narrow but good and there is very few traffic. The first part is all in the forest and i appreciated its shaddow. Overall i saw very few bikers during this tour. Here, however, i was caught up by a local cyclist. It was good to speak to somebody, even if my italian is very poor, and we went on together up to the end of the woods. Then i was no longer able to keep his pace (he did not ride so far and had no bag on his bike). The last part of the climb was in alpine meadows. Steep but extremely beautiful. While riding down on the other side i saw the road i wanted to take the next day. It was not far at all but on the other side of a deep valley. No crossing by bike! I had to ride down to Strigno and take a room in a (cheap but not too bad) hotel.

 distance (km)altitude (m)climbing (m)
Mezzana0940 
Mostizzolo19590 
Scanna2263040
Ponte S. Gallo23560 
Romallo28740180
Arsio3281070
Brez33790 
Vigna3585060
Birreria36820 
Fondo39960140
Passo di Méndola491360400
Caldaro63440 
Adigio (Ora)73220 
Passo di San Lugano901100880
Molina99810 
Passo Mánghen11520501240
Telve136530 
Scurelle139380 
Strigno141480100
total141 3110

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Stage 3 (23 July 1997): Strigno - Brocon - Cereda - Duran - Forno di Zoldo

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My first idea was to begin this third stage with the Passo Cinque Croci ("five crosses"). But somebody at the hotel told me that 5 km at the top were not surfaced. This sounded to me (with my race bike) a bit as having to carry five crosses. Then i decided to ride over the Passo del Brocn, which is less high but leads to the same point. There was almost no traffic on that road and i was able to enjoy the landscape with its narrow deep valleys, steep forests and green meadows. It was only around Fiera that i encountered numerous cars and lorries. I had almost no stretch of flat road on that day, even less than during the rest of this tour.
The next passes were Cereda, Aurine and Duran. I feared a bit the last one because it meant climbing again 1000 m at the end of the day. Since i paid attention to drinking and eating during the day (excellent soup at the Cereda!) everything went just perfectly. I almost wanted to ride further than planned, but the lady at Forno's touristical information told me that there was no hotel on the way to Cibiana. And riding so far would have been too much.

 distance (km)altitude (m)climbing (m)
Strigno0480 
Pradellano6900420
Lago di Pradellano8880 
Forcella991030
I Molini (Tesino)12780 
Le Forche251560780
Monte Ágoro26164080
Passo del Brocòn301620 
Fosse Ronco44740 
Canal S. Bovo4676020
Passo di Góbbera51990230
Imèr57640 
Fiera6171070
Passo di Cereda701370660
Mis741120 
Masoch76120080
Gosaldo781140 
Forcella Aurine811300160
Valcozzena (Ágordo)93590 
Passo Duran10716001010
Dont115950 
Forno di Zoldo119840 
total119 3540

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Stage 4 (24 July 1997): Forno di Zoldo - Cibiana - Monte Croce - Rina/Welschellen

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After a thunderstorm the evening before, the roads were still wet this morning. The stage started right away with a pass, the Cibiana. Nice little climb, mainly in the woods. Then, between Venas and Auronzo, i was riding along the valleys and there was a more important traffic. At least the roads were still quite good (there is nothing so difficult as avoinding pot holes while being passed by a truck... and its swinging trailer).
It was getting warm when i started to climb to San Antonio, that is to the Passo del Zovo. I stopped at the pass to drink and had the opportunity to talk with people from Switzerland (hikers, not bikers). After a short descent it went up again to the Kreuzberg / Monte Croce pass. It is not steep at all. It began to rain when i was riding down. For a short time i was in a thunderstorm, but then the rain receeded. There was much more traffic after Innichen / San Candido. Thanks to the downhill slope i reached Bruneck / Brunico in a reasonable time. Then, however, i lost time because of a mistake. I did not look precisely enough at my map to see that at a particular point two roads were almost joining but not really. The distance was only a matter of 200 m ... horizontally but also vertically. This lead me further than intended to St. Vigil / S. Vigilio. I had to come back down to Zwischenwasser / Longega before being able to attack the next climb. Because it was raining again, i chose to stop at the next possible place along the road. This happened to be at Welschellen / Rina. It was a nice little Gasthaus and the meal was according to my appetite: this is seldom enough to be mentioned.

 distance (km)altitude (m)climbing (m)
Forno di Zoldo0840 
Soccampo1810 
Passo Cibiana111530720
Ponte la Chiusa21770 
Venàs2286090
Valle27820 
Pieve3188060
Vallesella35740 
Val di Croce (Domegge)3881070
Lozzo41720 
S. Caterina48830110
Passo del Zovo561480650
Padola611200 
Passo di Monte Croce721640440
S. Candido871170 
Sella di Dobbiaco91121040
Brunico119820 
Brach (Marebbe)1341300480
Longega1431000 
Rina1471370370
total147 3030

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Stage 5 (25 July 1997): Rina/Welschellen - Würzjoch - Brenner - Innsbruck

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I wanted to start early from Welschellen / Rina in order to catch the afternoon train from Innsbruck to Zurich. Fortunately i got a breakfast already at seven at the hotel. At half past seven i was on my bike. I was glad that the climb to the Würzjoch / Passo di Erbe was no longer as steep as the first part ridden the day before. The sky was overcast and the temperature ideal for climbing. The next pass (Kofeljoch / Passo di Eores) was no big deal from that side. Then there was a long nice descent towards Brixen / Bressanone. It was the last opportunity to really enjoy the beautiful and well kept landscapes of South Tirol. The rest of the stage was indeed along the Brenner road and there is not much to tell about it: traffic, head wind and (on the italian side) road works. I arrived at Innsbruck early enough to write the draft of the day's report before taking the train to Zurich, where Catrina was waiting for me. This had been a nice tour in a region i didn't know before. It is on purpose that i rode around rather than into the central part of the Dolomites. I was thus able to largely avoid roads with heavy traffic. And this leaves me some high and famous Dolomite passes for a next time...

 distance (km)altitude (m)climbing (m)
Welschellen01370 
Rié2145080
41340 
Antermëia61510170
Würzjoch112000490
Gunggan141810 
Kofeljoch16186050
St. Anton (Palmschoss)221570 
Palmschoss251690120
Brixen41560 
Sterzing72950390
Brennerpass871380430
Steinach1001050 
Innsbruck125580 
total125 1730


PS / 28.7.1997