Posted on July 20, 2008 by rodney
Tags: tour

No time to write any other entries, but here is the high point of my tour so far: The Großglockner High Alpine Road. As you can see in the photo, all bags bar one were off.

It took about 5 hours of cycling to get to the end of the 50km road, and I certainly had my doubts about finishing, in fact these doubts were well formed at the 11km mark – before I even reached the toll gate at the entrance of the national park. Somehow things got better even though the road stayed a pretty much constant 12% (I think) until Fuscher Törl (2400m). At about 1200-2000m I went through some clouds and visibility was at worst about 15m.

A quite thrilling descent after Fuscher Törl, though I regretted dumping my hard-earned altitude so quickly. Of course I checked my brakes before going down. Next up through two tunnels to the highest point, Hochtor (2504m).

Here were some breathtaking views. In the sense of being astonishing as well as causing breathlessness. All the time I wish for another gear on my bike. I never seem to have a granny gear easy enough for the present slope. I adopted a strategy of “micro-rests”. That is, climbing a short distance then stopping to take a photo, or eat something, or pretending to admire the view. Probably not optimal from an athletic perspective but it got me there.

It was a very quick ride down from Hochtor through endless switchbacks. A few times I dared to take my eyes off the road and look at the speedo, and it was by far quicker than I’ve ever gone on two wheels. The view opened up over a valley, impressive.

Now, down at the bottom, below 2000m again, and passing the 36km mark. It wasn’t long ago I was battling past the 12,4km mark, then 12,5km, etc. From this I gained the mental energy necessary to complete the final ascent… well except for pushing the bike the last 500m because it was so f. steep and I was knackered.

At the end at 2369m, seeing a glacier for the first time, and revelling in my personal triumph, I felt like I could do it again, but nonetheless opted to take a bus back to Fuscher Törl. This somewhat diluted the purity of my pedal-powered victory over petrol, but I bowed to pragmatism and sensibility.

It was a beautiful seeing all I had conquered once more, from the comfort of the bus. However I was quite worried that the driver would drive the bus over the side, he was that quick. Also I wondered what peril awaited my bike which was rather flimsily attached to the rack on the back of the bus.

Nonetheless, bus, bike, and myself survived, I was dumped on the top of the hill, and the bus sped away. I took off my beanie, jacket; put on gloves, sunglasses, helmet. Checked the brakes again, then rolled down, to take revenge on Fuscher Törl. As I dropped altitude it got much warmer, and I could feel it had been a lovely hot day by the lake.

When I got to Bruck, the town at the very start of the road, a big dark storm was gathered over the Zeller See. I rushed towards camping, but about 3km from home, had to shelter under a bridge while hailstones bigger than 1cm diameter pelted everything. I found hailstones under the opening of my tent when I got back. Had a nice hot shower then went out for a pizza.

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Dep 7:30, arr 1:30 at Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe, dst 55km. Bus to Fuscher Törl dep 3:10. Fuscher Törl to Zell am See, arr 4:45, total dst 86km.

(Unfortunately my GPS “froze” due to some software problem, just before the end. So the profile and map only show my ascent… I suppose that’s no big issue but I’ll never know what my max speed was going down.)