Simplon Pass, Simply The Hardest Ride of my Life
Trip Start Feb 11, 2012
6Trip End Feb 19, 2012
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It started well enough, the standard European hotel breakfast of stinky cheese, stinky salami and croissants set me up well. I left Martigny confident that I would make it to Domosodolla on the Italian side and be in a good position to ride into Milan tomorrow afternoon for the game that evening. I knew that I had to get to Brig quickly however. This is where The Simplon Pass started and I needed to allow myself the afternoon to take it on.
When I arrived in Brig I was satisfied that 1:30pm was good enough. It had been a 5 hour ride already to cover the 50 miles and I was feeling really tired but I had to get over this pass today, otherwise the San Siro dream was over
The first hour of the climb was not good. The road up was much steeper than I had planned for and as I looked up the mountain, my heart sunk every time I saw a new section of road or tunnel perched higher up than the one spotted before. I also saw a sign which said Simplon Pass 28km. All of this pointed towards a meltdown and with only 4 hours light left, I was already weighing up my options.
My ears were popping as I climbed and the air was noticeably thinner. After an hour there was nothing to do but stop and have a little walk. I told myself that if I walked a kilometer and then cycled the next, I should at least get to the top before dark. As time went on though, it became much more walking than cycling.
At least the sun was out, the sky was brilliant blue and with very little traffic on the pass I was allowed to enjoy that incredible silence that only the mountains offer. Another look at the watch though and my concerns grew. There was still no sign of anything that looked like the top. I had now been going up 3 hours and still I could see concrete structures hanging off the side of the mountain high above me. I started to consider waving somebody down for a lift but after some more life-saving Toblerone, I kept on going. This was the dream to cycle to The San Siro to watch The Rossoneri. I had to do it!
I tried to cycle but due to the exhaustion I could not balance myself on the bike. Last year, Pols and I passed some guy walking down a road in the mountains of Austria with his bike
Then I saw a settlement. From experience I knew it must be the summit and I started dreaming of a warm room. Half an hour later I had reached the first building. It was a hotel but the doors and windows were blocked by snow drifts. A sign outside boasted 'Simplon Pass, 2005m'. I had battled every one of those two thousand and five meters. A couple more failed attempts and I saw smoke coming from a chimney. The café had rooms available and it looked like I was safe for tonight. I was worried that I am now facing an impossible task tomorrow to make it to the game in good time but at this point all I could do was collapse on the bed. A hot shower and some minestrone soup put me to sleep in minutes. I will worry about tomorrow when it comes.