The Ride. Day 2
Waking up in my camp, I was tired and groggy. It was 5am. I might have slept for 5 hours. The anticipated coffee got me out of the tent.
Today’s stage was 142km long with 3150m of elevation all done in two climbs: Spluegen Pass (30km/1817m elevation gain, 6% average) and Glas Pass (11km/1145m of elevation gain, 10.4% average).
This stage tested us not only physically but it had a huge mental component. The timed segment for this stage was on Glas Pass, the last 30km. The ascent was the same as the descent with the finish line conveniently located at the bottom of the climb. Thus, it was not necessary to climb up Glas Pass to reach the finish line. However, to stay in the overall challenge, you need to complete the cruel climb, no matter how much you want to turn into the finish line before that.
So what is Glas Pass? Chances are you never have heard of it. Me neither. Since the climb does not lead anywhere it cannot be incorporated into a loop. It starts from the bottom of Thusis and climbs up an exposed grassy mountain side with an average of 10.4%. Three of the last kilometers averaging 15%. (For comparison, Alpe d’Huez is 14km with 8% average, steepest part 14%).
Because of sunny and warm weather we would be getting baked heading up this climb. For me, there was no opt-out. I needed to do this climb. I wanted to stay in the competition.
I started with a group of guys which quickly left me behind. Now it was only me. I had to keep myself motivated. At first, thoughts crossed how much time I would lose in this challenge. I was going up in snail tempo. It was so hot. There was no single tree that would just give a second of relief from the burning sun and heat. With the exposed area comes that you also can see far ahead. It would stay steep. This is going to be a killer climb. Keeping my motivation and focus up was key!
I settled into a pace that I thought I could sustain.
A few kilometers into the climb, I found myself with a few other struggling cyclists. Looking at their faces I knew I was not alone. My thoughts about the challenge have evaporated. This climb was about completing it, that was an accomplishment by itself. Instead of focusing how I felt, I wondered what the other guys were thinking? Maybe they are struggling even more than I.
I started to thank my body for no significant injuries and for going through this struggle with me without major complaints. I told myself that I am fortunate to be out here and to do this. Just because it is tough is no reason to give up. Quite the opposite, that is the best time to excel, to show myself what I can achieve.
So instead of thinking of how many cruel kilometers are ahead, I celebrated the ones behind me. I also compared this climb to other challenges that were more difficult than that to gain perspective. Is it really that bad, Monika?
After the last brutal kilometers of 15% gradient I was approaching the finish line. Big cheering and clapping brought me across the line. There was a special atmosphere among the finishers waiting at the top. This was not just another climb. This was a true test for our physical and mental limits. And we did it!
Tomorrow will be another test – a test that required a bit more creativity to get me going.