Day 9 – Innsbruck
Was looking forward to this day immensely, largely because I had heard good things about Innsbruck, but also because we had a few decent climbs to tackle – and I was looking forward to enjoying that. We set off early from Lermoos and made our way to Ehrwald – the small town at the foot of our big climb into the plateau by the Zugspitze. The Zugspitze is Germany’s highest mountain, although 90% of it is in Austria – the side we are on.
The climb would take us up in between the 2 peaks (from the above picture), climbing further up into the Ehrwalder Alm – then along the plateau and finally down into the Inn valley and onto Innsbruck. At least we thought it would.
We hadn’t had any breakfast, dreadful prep, and so were tackling this on an empty stomach. As we cycled through Ehrwald I noticed a bike shop that was open – nothing is open in Austria on a Sunday… And so I thought we might get some gels there… And it was a good job we stopped there.
Meet Alex (above) – top bloke. Not only did he advise us (strong local knowledge), that once we had climbed 1000 metres the path would end and become a gravel trail – bad times. But he also advised that there were metres of snow up there. We would have been absolutely screwed… Also, and this is very important to me, he made us coffee – great coffee. He was just a lovely bloke and I really hope his fledgling (2 years) business works out for him. If you’re ever in the Tirol and fancy some mountain biking – then he is your man.
Furnished now with this info we were left in a bit of a jam as the only alternative route involved the Fernpass – which is effectively on a motorway, or at least a massively busy road – the main route from Germany to Italy. Alex came through again – ringing a mate who has a van. He then took us through the pass and deposited us at the other side. Fear not though – we still had plenty, and plenty steep, amount of climbing to do.
The climb of Nassereith, through Auschland and Dormitz was brutal. That’s always the problems with the back roads – gradients apparently are not a consideration. You can’t quite see it from the picture above – but this particular climb was torture – and chapeau to Matt for making it without a granny gear.
After this climb we literally had a 25 mile descent into the Inn valley and into Innsbruck. I’m no descender – and so don’t have much by way of photos, given my knuckles were white and gripping the brakes for every mile of it. Nonetheless it was a great reward for putting the effort in up the climb.
Here is some of Innsbruck – a lovely lovely city. I think we maybe didn’t experience the full vibe as it was a Sunday – and the tourists were out in force (I guess that included us) – nonetheless we had a good time here, on a city that is very pleasing on the eye.
Day 10 – Italia (Vipiteno Sterzing)
Today’s ride could be summed up in 2 words, up and down. The big challenge of the day was the Brenner Pass. The big reward, Italy and the dolomites – or at least that was the plan.
We got off early after a decent breakfast and set off for our 25 mile climb to the Brenner Pass.
Unlike the back roads, this road carried a decent amount of traffic and so was built to accommodate such (was probably the main road before the motorway). Gradients were manageable and we twisted and turned our way up the valley – tapping out a decent enough rhythm considering the weight we are carrying. It was cold, but it was dry and lovely.
Stopping for fuel in Steinach, around 15 miles in, the going was surprisingly good. Not easy, but were were getting there. As ever though there is frequently a sting in the tail of this climb and the last 4 miles were a tad brutal.
As demonstrated by Matt above.
However we made the pass in good time. And personally I’m pretty chuffed that a) we did a climb we had planned and b) we did the climb full stop.
Brenner is an odd odd place – and there can’t be many passes with outlet villages and bars and restaurants. I guess it’s like this as it’s a frontier – and perhaps historically these would have been duty free shops etc. Anyhow, we stopped for a beer an prepared for the 25 mile descent to Fortezza our planned destination for the night.
At this point the heavens opened (again), and to be honest it was absolutely miserable. This was really beginning to get to us, and to add insult to injury I punctured again, nearly coming off in a tunnel on the descent – terrifying…
We stopped in Vipiteno for a coffee/beer and decided to re-think everything. The forecast for the Dolomites for the next 2 days was awful – rain rain rain. Riding in it is just about manageable, but riding in it and camping in it is no good. So a total re-think was hashed.
We decided to go to Verona – as you do!!
Yes yes yes, this meant more trains – but we really both had had enough of bad weather – and so getting far enough South and away from the storms seemed to make sense. Also we get to see some famous Italian cities and I will relish that – finally, we can hopefully ride across Veneto in good weather and still make Venice as planned.
I have to say I’m a bit gutted to miss the Dolomites, but this part of Italy is awesome, and I know the cycling will be great, finally, it is dry.