"Luck did smile upon me though in 2021, at least twice! First, I was elected as a Pactimo Ambassador, a great joy and privilage! I also found an organized ride to the Stelvio Pass. "
by Menelaos Karamichalis, Pactimo Ambassador
My current residence in Europe seems like a great opportunity to ride in countries famous as cycling destinations. Knowing little about these areas, I started looking for organized rides and an email in mid-November of 2019 caught my eye. Start a ride in Bergamo, Italy, where the Giro Di Italia often starts. By mid-December I had signed up for the event, had rented a bicycle and was looking forward to my ride in May of 2020.
Not surprisingly, this May event was canceled, Bergamo being the Italian epicenter of a newly discovered virus that was affecting our lives. The cycling event was rescheduled to May of 2021, the bike rental adjusted and I still had my Italian cycling goal to look forward to. I went on solo training rides, as my local lockdown rules allowed that. And yet, my communications with the bike shop in Feb 2021 cast lots of doubts the cycling event would occur. Indeed, it got postponed to 2022. At this point, it seemed like May was not a good time for an organized cycling event.
Luck did smile upon me though in 2021, at least twice! First, I was elected as a Pactimo Ambassador, a great joy and privilege! I also found an organized ride to the Stelvio Pass. As a loyal TopGear fan and cycling enthusiast, I knew many consider this a bucket list item. I was signed up and had a Colnago rented in no time. And I trained hard.
The stars were aligning, my luck was changing! The event was not canceled and I was on a plane to Italy. I could not have imagined what a great backpack for a cyclist my Black Diamond Nitro 26 hiking backpack would be. Lightweight and secure, it packed all my street clothes, cycling kits, shoes and tools easily. In addition, the cycling shop, Bormio Bike and Ski, was extremely helpful and I realized I could take my Stages power meter along with me. A friend lent me an extra bike computer mount. I really was set!
The bike shop folks were truly good sports. I grabbed my tools to install my pedals, Stages crankarm, Wahoo mount, and adjust the seatpost. Not only did the shop not complain, they offered me several great ideas for some fun road rides in the area. I dropped off my backpack at the hotel and was riding the switchbacks to the Cancano lakes in no time.
I lived in Denver, CO for years….Bormio is completely different than anything I had experienced before. Combine the lush green of the valleys around Breckenridge and Vail with the cycling culture of Boulder. Cyclists, both men and women, were everywhere. The cafes were full of folks grabbing a pre-ride espresso or a post-ride bite. This was cycling heaven and the weather was perfect.
The Stelvio event itself was absolutely memorable. The scenery was stunning and the pavement quality very high. Unlike the US, some small rural Italian roads peaked at an 18%+ incline without much warning, as they followed the natural terrain. One had to pace well. My power meter’s battery died mid-route, but one of the ride stops was next to a Cube bike shop. My incompetence with the Italian language did not stand in the way, they understood what I wanted and provided impeccable service. And the Stelvio climb itself? Take elements of the Triple Bypass, add some from the Copper Triangle, sprinkle in some Summit Country trails and you get the idea. The fatiguing slow and steady climb back to Bormio was after some long miles.
By the time you were actually riding up Stelvio, the thin air taxed any energy you still had. I could not push past 150W, my body was no longer used to this altitude. Yet, it was an absolute pleasure. Everything I had seen in the videos I had watched was unfolding in front of my eyes. The tunnels, the streams, the transitions from wooded hillsides to alpine tundra and eventually bare rocks. I have only ridden one other route which offered a similarly rich variety of vistas and environments, the Monarch Crest trail by Salida, CO. It deserves to be a bucket list item.
Once at the top, I celebrated with both the customary picture next to the Passo Dello Stelvio road sign and also a cup of hot coffee. Carpe diem, the day had certainly been seized. I took it all in, enjoying the coffee and staying at the top for a long time, before pulling on my Ulta-lite rain jacket for the descent.