Sunday, 2 December 2007

10CR2007 Day two ...

After breakfast in Dormoletto on Saturday morning it was time to start on the return journey. Although some teams first had to do some spannering before they set off ...


But by the time we left most of the entrants were on their way. Save for a lonely Scotsman who was left behind by Tim Bancroft ...


Again the weather was brilliant when we set of for the Alps. On our tail was Tim Hunt’s lovely white TR4, with Barry at the wheel. Plan was to drive together that day. The first part of the journey was over the A8/A4 motorways past Milan and Bergamo. Just after Bergamo we turned onto the S42 and into the foothills of the Alps. By this time we already had lost the white TR4 as they had taken another exit from the motorway near Milan. So alone again we headed deeper into the Alps until, just passed midday, we left the S42 for the S300 and passed through the village of Ponte di Legno. We were at the foot of Passo di Gavia.
Until recently large parts of this pass were just a gravel track up the side of the mountain. But even here times have changed, as the full length of the pass has now been surfaced with asphalt. They even went as far as digging a tunnel to prevent tourist from dropping of the face of the mountain. They could also have invested in some more solid crash barriers ...


The road itself was absolutely gorgeous, but probably due to the fine weather it was also rather crowded. Luckily nearly all the other traffic we encountered on the way up went the other way. Although passing this oncoming traffic could be rather tricky in places as the road is only one car wide...
But by 1.00 pm we arrived at the summit. As it was lunchtime that’s what we settled down for. So we ordered some lasagne which was sold out (as it always seems to be). Luckily there was more on the menu so we didn’t starve. During the lunch halt we shortly debated how to carry on. As we absolutely wanted “to do” the Stelvio we decided to carry on there and see how late we arrived at the top. Roger had figured out that it would take us a least 3 more hours to reach Cortina via the Stelvio. Which meant we wouldn’t reach Cortina till late in the afternoon. But first thing to do was getting down the Gavia ...


During the previous day the car had started making some slight noises that shouldn’t be there. First I thought it was a problem with the prop’ shaft, but as there was a slight judder/vibration in the steering wheel at certain speeds it was obvious something up front wasn’t as it should be. I did check a few things and I concluded that nothing really was very wrong or falling off.
Going down the Gavia I found out that the brake pedal had acquired a rather long pedal stroke before the brakes acted. Pumping the pedal would improve it a lot, so probably a wheel bearing on its way out. As I usually don’t carry spare bearings around, the only thing we could do was carry on and hope for the best. Which we did.
Halfway down the Gavia the brakes were tested indeed, they still worked. While coming out of a corner I saw two Porsche 911’s, a few bends down, coming up. But as I was backing of to make room for them, number three, which was a bit in front of the others, came flying round the next bend. I managed to get my car in between two of the Italian style crash barriers without damaging one of the cars. I think the Porsche wasn’t so lucky as I heard a rather nasty scraping sound, like rebuilding your bodywork on a rock face! As it was his own doing I saw no point in stopping and we made it to Santa Catherina Valfura without further incidents. Only 7 miles to Bormio and a few miles further to the foot of the Passo dello Stelvio.
There are actually three roads going up the Stilfsèrjoch (as it’s called by the German speaking inhabitants), One from the south and two from the north, one from Switzerland and one from Italy. We were coming up from the south side which is in my opinion the best driving road up this pass. This side is actually much wider in all aspects than the more famous north side. The south face also has the added bonus of some nice and very narrow tunnels. At some points they are less than two cars wide ...


We were again lucky on the ascend as there was hardly any traffic. Only a campervan that refused to pull over to let me pass. Luckily it was so slow that I could squeeze the car past it just after coming out of one of the hairpins. For the rest of the climb I can be short, very good fun. Even managed to slightly annoy a biker just under the summit.
At the top it was so crowded that we decided to just stop for a picture and carry on down the north slope and stop somewhere in the valley below for a drink.


A lot of people prefer the North face with its 48 hairpin’s for coming up the Stelvio, but unless there is absolutely no traffic in front of you, this will quickly become boring. If however you have a clean run up the mountain it’s a very rewarding drive indeed. But now we had to drive it from the summit down.
This time we had company from some other 10CR teams ...


... but they were quickly gone when we stopped for a little photo shoot at hairpin number 31.




From there it was rather straight sailing down. As we were now in the German speaking part and the weather was still very fine we decided to find ourselves a pub with a nice terrace, and order a nice pint of weißenbier. While enjoying the beer, the scenery and the weather we worked out all the options for the rest of the trip at a roadside pub in Sponding ...


As it was already 3.30 pm we decided it would be madness to carry on to Cortina or worse to Slovenia. So Roger came up with a rather nice alternative. On the previous edition the long and seemingly endless Autobahn stretch through Germany really was too tiring, so we decided to do it different. We would carry on along the S38 till Merano and from there head north into the Passeiertal and over the Timmelsjoch into Austria. Some of the other 10CR entrants that were passing while we enjoyed the beer clearly had other ideas as most of them turned left in to Switzerland.

The route sorted and the beer emptied we carried on towards Austria. The choice for the direct route over the Timmelsjoch was also prompted by the fact that this pass closes every evening at 20.00 h. But as we were on our way again at half past 4 that shouldn’t be a problem. We expected to be over the Austrian border by about 6.00 pm. Sadly no ...
To reach the Timmelsjoch we only had to follow the S38 through the Vinschau valley till Merano and from there drive north. Only thing we didn’t know is that this valley is teeming with apple orchards and it was harvest time. So the road was choked with little tractors, with hardly a chance to pass them. To make matters worse there was the odd accident which let to even more delays. But we did reach the foot of the Timmelsjoch in the end.

Being late proved to be a Godsend as there was almost no traffic at all. I have been over the Timmelsjoch before but this time really was great. Since last time the Italians had been busy so the tarmac on the south side was almost as smooth as the Austrian one, making for a very good blast up into the early evening light. But the higher we went the colder it got and just underneath the summit there were even some small patches of ice and snow. After a short stop to enjoy the fabulous views at the top ...






... we carried on into Austria. With just over 45 minutes to spare we crossed the barrier of the tollbooth and headed down into the Gurgltal. The second day was nearly at an end. After filling up the fuel tank in the ski resort of Sölden, we went in search of a nice typical Austrian restaurant which we eventually found in the village of Längenfeld, a few miles south of Ötz.
After a very nice meal, a good pint of beer and some coffee we were ready for the last leg of this journey, the long nightly haul through Germany ...

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