Riders and Associates of The Institute!As a sailor on a concrete sea I noticed something of interest in Italy. When one sees the green 'Autostrada' signage one must prepare oneself for the fact that said Autostrada can be up to 50km away! When one does reach said motorway the journey is then swift and efficient - necessary when one is on a quest for glory.
The aperitif went well at the local Gasthof, this part of the country being less like Italy than Austria, but with nary a restaurant open and having rapidly tired of pizza (anchovies on cardboard!) by this time, I felt I couldn't go wrong with dining in on local produce and a fine red from up the valley, so having plundered the Salumeria on the square I returned home to digs to have dinner and brush down the kit with EuroMTV throbbing in the background.
Narrowing sharply and at times hitting 17% the road seemed never ending and after reaching the bare slopes above the treeline at every switchback I half expected to see Hannibal and the Elephants camped on the tundra. Very few cyclists but lots of motorbikes.
Finally, through the pitch dark tunnel at 12% gradient, I reached the pass after three hours. A quick photo op followed by a brief search revealed no Grail shrine or similar, but the irony of the ride was that inside the Refugio Bonetta at the top there was a veritable party, the place crammed full of sharp German motorcyclists in and on the latest motorcycle gear all gathered around a roaring fire. The intention was to do the Valtellina circuit off the summit, a ride of 80kms but as I finished my apple strudel and second Cafe Americano the weather took a dramatic turn for the worse in less than ten minutes and hail and sleet peppered the Refugio windows. Mounting up with all haste I got off the Passo the way I came, a ride at least as difficult as the ascent. An hour and a half later I was taking a twenty minute shower and heading off to The Sporting Club restaurant over the river where a delectable pork shin and a tasty Rhine Moselle were the Specials of the Day!