Tour 2002,  12 - 20 July

stagedistance (km)climbing (m)
Kilchberg - Sattel - Oberalp - Giraniga1542620
Giraniga - Julier - Bernina - Poschiavo1512810
Poschiavo - Foppa - Tonale - Campo Carlo Magno1163370
Campo Carlo Magno - Tione - Croce Domini - Maniva - San Colombano1212260
San Colombano - Zeno - Presolana - Zambla - Mezzoldo1653490
Mezzoldo - S. Marco - Splügen - Giraniga1903910


Stage 1 (12 July 2002): Kilchberg - Sattel - Oberalp - Giraniga


It was the third time that i was riding on the way of this first stage and i did not yet need a map... the reason why i almost forgot it at home. My main concerns were about the lack of training (so far not even 2000 km this year) and an aching wrist, an aching shoulder and an aching ankle. Obviously, i have a few more years than when i rode over the Oberalp for the first time in 1991! All these small pains, however, were rather less as soon as i was riding towards the foothills of the Alps, then to the Alps themselves.
The weather was nice on this Friday morning. And even if the forecasts were bad for the Saturday, i started the ride. I wanted anyway to take a day off already after the first stage, at Obersaxen. The same day, Catrina, my girlfriend, was indeed also going to Obersaxen, but by car, with her father. She could therefore take my small baggage, and we could meet there at the chalet.
The beginning of summer vacations brought some more traffic on the roads, but nothing too bad (at least on my road; on the highway to the Gotthard i could see some traffic jams). I stopped in Göschenen, to have a drink on the terrace of a restaurant, which i could enjoy it since the main road now goes around the village and no longer through it. I continued the climb with no hurry and reached the Oberalp pass in the middle of the afternoon. In the descent, i lost the cap of one of my bottles. Not so terrible, as this would be the only incident of the whole tour!
The final climb from Tavanasa to Obersaxen was steep, but done at a good pace. I arrived at Giraniga before the car drivers... but i had also a key and could already take a shower.

 distance (km)altitude (m)climbing (m)
Oberer Mönchhof (Kilchberg)0450 
Grund (Schattdorf)6849060
Ried (Schattdorf)70450 
Mustér / Disentis1321140 
Punt Grondo1361030 
total154 2620


Stage 2 (16 July 2002): Giraniga - Julier - Bernina - Poschiavo


Even if the first idea was to stay just one day in Obersaxen, the uncertain weather let me wait two more days. Finally, the sun reappeared on Tuesday and i left early in the morning.
Like the first one, the second stage was entirely on roads I already knew from previous tours. The only novelty would be to ride over the Julier pass from the north, a long climb with flat parts in between. It is during this climb that the sun already disappeared behind clouds. As I reached the pass, rain drops began to fall. It was noon and I decided a pit stop to refuel. Fortunately, the rain was nothing serious and i could ride down to the Engiadina without any problem. The air was just a bit cool.
The next stop was St. Moritz, just to take some euros from a money machine. Then i crossed the valley and climbed towards the Bernina. There were many big trucks on this broad road because of construction works near the small lakes at the pass. And busses because a crack in a railway bridge prevented the train to run. Apart of this, the gentle climb was easy. I was rather early and thus allowed myself a longer pause at the pass, drinking tea and reading newspapers. The descent was easy too, and this was appreciated by my aching right wrist. I stopped at Poschiavo, as planned and after a second stage with actually not much to tell about. I was there already at three in the afternoon. The rain arrived later.

 distance (km)altitude (m)climbing (m)
Carnifels (Versam)24940240
Versamer Tobel28730 
Sils i. D.51680 
Valmala (Alvaschagn)60960280
Pass dal Güglia9822801430
St. Moritz109186060
Pass dal Bernina1332320520
total151 2810


Stage 3 (17 July 2002): Poschiavo - Foppa - Tonale - Campo Carlo Magno


To start the third stage, i continued along the valley of Poschiavo, riding down to Tirano, in Italy. There, i turned to the east, but soon left the main road, preferring to climb along the orchards of Sernio. Then, after a few kilometres of descent or almost flat roads, i was between Tovo and Mazzo as i saw a road sign towards the first new pass of this tour. Not a piece of cake: the Foppa, often also called Mortirolo... actually by a mistake of some 500 m. Climbing from Mazzo, it is very steep, with almost no place to catch breath for kilometres. The Giro d'Italia took that way already several times, as can be seen from the cyclists' names written on the road. If you're not as strong as these guys, a triple crankset may be better. I did it with 39/26, but it was tough! Some cyclists consider this climb as the hardest of the Alps... and i'm not far from sharing this view.
Not far from the pass, the road joins the less steep one from Grosio. I caught up with a group of mountain bikers from Austria. We chatted a bit at the pass and took pictures. I never took my reflex camera for bicycle tours because i fear too much for it because of shocks and humidity. I was therefore glad that one of these cyclists took a digital picture and promised to send it to me. Tanks!
As they went on trails, i continued on the road to Monno, then joined once again the route of my 1997 tour towards Ponte di Legno. The Tonale pass was very easy compared to the Mortirolo/Foppa. In the descent, however, it began to rain, remembering me the wet climb i had there in 1999. Fortunately, the shower didn't last and, in spite of wet feet, i didn't really suffer from it. In the Val di Sole, as the name requires it, the sun finally reappeared. Then i took a small shortcut climbing on the right side of the valley and joining the road towards Madonna di Campiglio. This is quite an easy climb, but for me it was the third of the day and it appeared really long. I stopped at Campo Carlo Magno (camp of Charlemagne), just after the pass. There are enough hotels in this touristic region, including expansive ones. Again, it began to rain just after my arrival.

 distance (km)altitude (m)climbing (m)
Passo della Foppa3818501310
Ponte di Legno621260360
Passo del Tonale761880620
Campo Carlo Magno1161680870
total116 3370


Stage 4 (18 July 2002): Campo Carlo Magno - Tione - Croce Domini - Maniva - San Colombano


The sun was back as i left for the fourth stage. The first two hours were easy, mostly in descents. There was only a short climb between Tione and Bondo. All the way towards the lake of Idro, however, was on main roads, with a corresponding number of cars and trucks.
Before reaching the lake, i turned right to the small road climbing to Ricomassimo and Cerreto. It was steep, but the chestnut trees kept me mostly in their shade. There was almost no traffic. After a short descent, i reached the town of Bagolino. From there, after a short stop at a grocery store, i went straight north into the Caffaro valley. There, again, i encountered very few cars. The climb was sometimes very steep, sometimes less, but always in nice landscapes. I only worried about the dark clouds forming around the mountains.
After the long climb, i arrived on a ridge with many small summits separated by small valleys and passes. The Goletto di Cadino was the first of these passes. Even if this would rather be for mountain bikes, i left the road at the Croce Domini pass, taking a way unpaved for several kilometres. It went up and down over Giogo della Bala and Goletto di Crocette. From the Dosso dei Galli, it was paved again. But then the thunderstorm burst out. And it was no fun any more. This time, the rain had won the race. It was quickly decided not to try the way towards the Passo delle Pòrtole but to ride after the Maniva pass directly down to the valley. After a careful descent on the wet road, i arrived completely soaked at San Colombano and stopped there at a cheap but nice little auberge.

 distance (km)altitude (m)climbing (m)
Campo Carlo Magno01680 
Madonna di Campiglio21500 
Sella di Bondo38820250
Goletto Gàvero8818001080
Goletto di Cadino911940140
Passo di Croce Domini931890 
Goletto di Rondinino942010120
Passo di Lavena981980 
Passo di Vaia1002110130
Giogo della Bala101214030
Sella dell'Auccia1022100 
Goletto di Ravenola1032070 
Goletto di Crocette1042070 
Goletto dei Zocchi1081800 
Giogo del Maniva1111660 
San Colombano121950 
total121 2260


Stage 5 (19 July 2002): San Colombano - Zeno - Presolana - Zambla - Mezzoldo


I didn't sleep well in San Colombano. Nothing to do with the room or the bed, just that i worried about the weather (it was still raining as i went to bed). Fortunately, in the morning, there were still some clouds, but no more rain.
I hit the road at 8. After a few kilometres of descending or flat roads, i arrived at Lavone and turned right, starting to climb to the Zeno pass. I had doubts about the state of this small road, but it was quite good, at least for this hillside. There was very few traffic, the temperature was ideal and the landscape beautiful. For sure one of the nicest climbs to remember from this tour! There was then a long descent to Pisogne, at the north end of the Iseo lake. The road was often still wet, requiring a careful ride.
After crossing the Oglio river, i was able to catch up with a team of young cyclists on training. I left them later at Corna, as i started to climb to the Moro lake, trying to take a shortcut. Just after the lake, however, there was only a very narrow and extremely steep way up, near 30% slope i'd guess. I joined the normal route into the Valle di Scalve at Ángolo, riding then for some 12 km along a canyon, with several tunnels. The first one was long (about 1.5 km) and without light. I preferred to try the old road along the river. It was abandoned and in bad shape, but still just sufficient to ride with a race bike. The second tunnel was shorter (600 m) but also unlit and with no alternative route. There was a curve in the middle, and, as i was no longer able to see anything, i had to walk along the wall for a while! I let you imagine what i was thinking about these damned italian tunnels. At least, the third one had light. I also avoided the forth one by taking along the river, but this time it was worse: i even had to climb over fallen rocks or tree trunks, carrying the bike. That was adventure.
I arrived at Dezzo just before noon, just to buy a bottle of lemonade. Then, the road went back, but climbing along the slope of the valley. It became very steep up to the Presolana pass. The first part of the descent from this pass was good, but then there was much traffic. Just after Nossa, i turned right on a quieter road towards the third pass of the day, Colle di Zambla. Now it was really warm, but the climb was not too hard. After the pass, the road went twice again a bit up and down before i found the small road descending from Dossena to San Giovanni-Bianco. From there, i went north, along the Brembo river. I finally stopped when the slope was getting steeper, at Mezzoldo, the last village in this valley. The stage had been long and i was quite tired.

 distance (km)altitude (m)climbing (m)
San Colombano0950 
Colle dello Zeno271420910
Giogo della Presolana811300560
Colle di Zambla1181270820
Oltre il Colle1221010 
La Forcella124104030
Passo Crocetta1311050130
S. Pietro139600 
S. Giovani Bianco143390 
total165 3490


Stage 6 (20 July 2002): Mezzoldo - S. Marco - Splügen - Giraniga


I could not start earlier than 8:30 for the last stage because i did not want to miss the breakfast at the hotel. The road was climbing from the very beginning on. The climb to the San Marco pass was quite steep and long (1100 m of climbing), but not as steep as the remainings of the Via Priula, the old way built there by the Venetians to join central Europe. There was few traffic and the view over the Alps of the Bergamo province became better and better. From the pass, the view opened also to the north, over the Valtelina.
The descent was even longer than the climb, but the road was not very good, requiring much braking. Arriving down in Morbegno, i crossed the valley and the Adda river to turn west. There was headwind, but i caught up with another cyclist and we could then relay each other. Near the lake of Como, my road turned north to Chiavenna, and the wind was then from behind. There were two tunnels along the lake of Mezzola but, unlike for those of the previous day, a road for bicycles was indicated to avoid them. From Novate, i crossed to the other side of the plain to find a road with fewer traffic. It was already noon as i arrived in sight of Chiavenna, at the south foot of the last pass on my programme. Last but not least: the Splügen/Spluga. In 1995, as i was coming the other way, i found the descent very long and steep; now i had to climb it, from about 300 to 2100 m! In the middle of a long stage, i preferred to take my time, making several stops to drink, eat, and look at the landscape (including some breathtaking steep and narrow hairpin curves). Most of the climb was in the sun and i sweat a lot before reaching the small lake and finally the pass and the border.
Then came the reward of a very beautiful descent (from the landscape as well as from the perfect state of the road). Once in Splügen village, i expected headwinds... which didn't fail to brake me along the flat parts of the valley. I reached Thusis after the beautiful descents in the Rofla and Via Mala canyons. The loop of the tour was thus closed, but i still had about 50 km to go.
It was 7 o'clock as i finally arrived in Obersaxen, after the last climb from Ilanz. I had been exactly 9 hours on saddle, certainly one of the hardest rides i've ever done in one day. As i arrived at the chalet, the sauna was already hot, but i went in only for ten minutes: i had already transpired enough. I was obviously glad to see again my girlfriend Catrina after these 5 days... and to be able to tell her that the whole tour had been without accident or technical problem. Just an aching neck that i was bringing back from this tour, but along with good memories.

 distance (km)altitude (m)climbing (m)
Cola di Ancogno101750870
Passo di San Marco131990240
Monte Spluga1041920530
total190 3910

PS / 5.8.2002