175KM | 4,200M+ · Sunday 3rd September
Stage 1 gave a taste of some of the roads used by the Ötztaler Cycling Marathon, Austria’s answer to the Marmotte or the Maratona dles Dolomiti. Stage 2 will introduce us to another part of the 238km, 5,500m course, albeit in the reverse direction. Not for us the easy route into Italy, via the Brenner. We are heading for the Timmelsjoch (2,474m)!
This is the Queen stage and will be an epic ride, due to the 80km of cumulated climbing. It will be essential to conserve energy during the long approach to the Timmelsjoch by riding in a group at your level.
We start by the same route as yesterday, thankfully without the climb to Seefeld, and ride almost 50km along the valley floor before hitting the first gentle slopes that will rise eventually to the Timmelsjoch, the highest point of the week at 2,474m. It is not an excessively difficult climb from the northern side but will seem long, very long. By the time we get to the ski village of Sölden at km 86 we will have already climbed 600m over 40km. It gets steeper from here on, averaging around 5% all the way to Obergurgl apart from a couple of short sections at 11%. Keep something in reserve however for the final 5km, which averages 9% all the way… You will probably be feeling the altitude here. Expect your power to be down and don’t try to hold the same number you would on a lower climb.
The Timmelsjoch is one of the highest passes in the Alps, a watershed between north and south and attracts all the bad weather. The locals say it is unusual to get across in good conditions. Be prepared…
On the Italian side the Timmelsjoch is called the Passo del Rombo (which sounds ominous, and indeed the climb is much harder from the south…). Started by Mussolini, the road was only completed in 1968 and quickly became popular for its stupendous views. Trucks, caravans and coaches are banned, due to the narrow, steep descent on the Italian side. All the better for us.
The descent to San Leonardo is very fast and dangerous. The road is often in poor condition. Be sure to take it easy, eat and drink well and spin your legs during the descent, because likely to be a huge temperature difference between the summit and the bottom in San Leonardo, where it is often hot, and there’s another big climb to complete before the final descent into Vipiteno.
The Passo Monte Giovo (2,099m) is a spectacularly beautiful high mountain pass. From San Leonardo the climb is almost 20km at a fairly steady 7.1%. There are a couple of steeper stretches near the top, but nothing sustained at more than 9.5%. This is a relatively “normal” Alpine climb.
Once over the top it is an easy (but fast) freewheel down. If the weather is good it will be a delight… as will be the arrival in VIpiteno.
Stage description by Alpine Cols
Vipiteno will host the 2017 Haute Route Dolomites on the 3rd and 4th of September 2017