The forecast (looking out window) looked a bit grim with light rain and 5 degrees so it was kit up time.
Not much "warm up" riding out from Hospental. The first climbing portion of the day started literally at the front step of Gasthaus Schafli and continued to the top of St Gotthard pass. I was told that the old road would be still closed with several meters of snow pack to remove but when I reached the 'y' intersection to veer off it looked ok to me and the choice between a reasonably busy asphalt road and an abandoned cobble road was an easy one. Especially considering the foggy conditions that I was riding in. While I was somewhat fearfull that I would climb for several km only to hit a wall of snow and have to return I'd also noticed on the map that the old road and new road crisscross a few times so figured it wouldn't be a big deal to jump over should need be. Luckily it wasn't necessary and I rode the old cobble climb through dense fog and cold drizzle/snow all the way to the top! The old road was however still closed on the south side but I was thankfull to have had a peaceful isolated climb.
Pulling on wind cover gloves I started the descent down the new road. Again the strong buffeting wind kept things interesting for the first part of the descent, but once down to the bottom of the steep section the wind levelled off, the temps warmed up and I got to enjoy a couple hours of continuous descent!
From 3 degrees and drizzle/snow with frozen bit, it was 2.5hrs later and I had lunch in Biasca under a palm tree to get shelter from the 28 degreees and hot sun!
From Biasca the road continues down to Bellinzona (Hotel California) where I had some navagational issues. I could not leave Bellinzona because the only road out of town to Lugano becomes a SuperStrada with bikes forbidden and following the bike route signs takes a ~8k loop back to exactly where I started. I did this loop 2 and a half times thinking I'd missed a turn, or sign, or something before giving up and imploring strangers for assistance with my challenge. The problem is I only speak a little german, and Bellinzona is in the Italian part of Switzerland.
I was helpless.
..and coming apart with the frustration of my 'groundhog day' loops of the town. At this point (2:30ish) I was about 110km into the day had arrived in Bellinzona at 85km a couple hours ago and had another 100km to go to Monza if things went well.
It was also stinking hot, I was still wearing my long sleeve wool base layer overheading a bit and I was losing my shit.
Nevertheless, one kind soul took up the challenge and the problem was not merely expressing the requirement, but that the bloody town is almost impossible to leave towards Lugano without driving on either the Superstrada or the Autostrada to get to the Monte Cenari road which is what I needed to do..
Still, he stuck with me and my problem and with a crude map and some enthusiastic hand waving directions assistance from various passer by's he devised a route through neighboring villages, a Migros supermarket parking lot, up a one way road in an industrial park and finally several km later to a point where I could rejoin the Monte Cenari road I that needed. it was a bit fucked up but it worked.
That guy has got karma coming in spades.
Me with my back to Bellinzona (bout halfway up Mount Cenari finally).
The most of the rest of the ride went pretty damn well considering. I full out hammered it all the way to Monza, flying through towns, getting lucky with navigation and thanking the velo gods for round-abouts that permit you to hold you speed through intersections. and hold speed I did. I blazed through a few towns during rush hours and while I'm normally pretty tame / respectful /orderly in traffic, I ripped through traffic in Mendrisio, Chiasso, Como, and a half dozen towns I barely remember splitting lanes, running up the yellow line, hopping curbs to sidewalk when gaps closed, (yeah, bunny hopping a loaded road bike..total wack) it was madness. I was astonished I didn't crash or shred a tire during the several impromptu curb grinds.. (front wheel curb grinds on a road bike. another first)
Thankfully the traffic jams subsided when I got away from the lakes area and despite using all my nine lives I'd made really great time. It was however, getting dark at this point and while I was only about 5-10km from Monza in a suburb called Seregno, it was again nearly impossible (so it seemed) to get there without the AutoStrada. but, it did happen after another lost hour or so doing loops to nowhere and I finally rolled into Monza at 9pm with 210km and 8.5hrs ride time for the day. Oddly I was feeling pretty strong still (and elated). 210km is my personal one day record and I finished feeling pretty good. weird.
And the evening was splendid. I found a great room for a decent price at the Royal Falcon, the Concierge recommended a fantastic restaurant where I had the highlight meal of the trip which started with a bacon salad!! I was thinking bacon bits or shavings or something and because my base layer looked like this:
I figured I could use the salt..
But the salad didn't have bacon bits or shavings. It had bacon steaks. great huge hunks of bacon on parmigiana shavings on a bed of arugula. It looked like this;
Best salad I've ever had. Incredible. I thought of Big Ring naturally because of the bacon and was sorry he wasn't there to share this.
..not that I'd have shared it at all, but he could have ordered his own and that would've been cool.
Salad was followed by huge bowl of homemade pasta and then a Lavazza cappuccino brilliantly prepared.
yep, I was really happy to be in Italy.
Numbers for the day 210km, ~8.5hrs @ 26.something average. A big day on all fronts.