Day 25: The Gotthard Pass - Heidi Ho - CycleBlaze

July 3, 2012

Day 25: The Gotthard Pass

The Gotthard pass was on my trip bucket list. Not because it is the highest, or the most difficult, or even very famous. It just looked cool! Though it was also on the way to where I wanted to go.

From the pictures I've seen, it has the most interesting switchbacks. Forty-something of them, one after another, with a cobble stone surface.

But I had to get to there first, and I was on the wrong side of the mountains, as you may recall from yesterday. I was also days behind schedule. The weather had improved somewhat from yesterday. It wasn't sunny, there were still a few sprinkles, but the storm was not as intense and the passes were open.

"One way to Andermatt," I told the driver. It was farther than I would have gone yesterday, which was to the top of Susten Pass, but, like I said, I'm behind schedule. And riding to Andermatt in wet, foggy conditions didn't interest me at all.

So off I went, on the bus, over the pass and beyond, to Andermatt, where I got a bite to eat and set off towards Gotthard Pass.

Down Susten Pass on the bus. The fog was clear at this point. It was thicker at others. I was glad I wasn't riding in it.
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The climb was difficult but not horrendous; not as difficult as the Puy Mary or some other climbs. I was a little bummed, though, when there the number of switchbacks seemed few and far between.

Going up The Gotthard pass. Not many switchbacks yet, but it was a beautiful valley.
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At the top
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There was a religious statue at the top. I think they were praying you would spend a lot of money on their souvenirs?
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I made it to the top, looked around, ate some more, and headed down. And it was THEN I got my wish. First the cobbles...

Starting down the other side. No switchbacks yet, but there were cobbles.
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Then the Switchbacks. The COBBLED Switchbacks!

WOO-HOOO!
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Near the top. Notice the tunnel in the background. That's where the cars go, keeping the riffraff off of the old road I was on.
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Those of you that know me know I'm not a big climber. In a group, I start near the front, and slide back as slowly as possible, in the hope that, maybe, by the time we go over the top, I MIGHT still be on contact with the back of the pack. If the climb is long enough, I'm usually not.

In fact, given a choice, I'll ride twice the distance on a flat road to avoid a hill. But this, my friends, was a COOL climb. Switchback after switchback, as far as the eye could see.

"Do you want me to take your picture," someone said from behind me, while I had stopped to take in the views. It was an Australian cyclist, with a Green Edge jersey, who was just being nice. After pictures and some small talk he told me more about the descent.

"The switchbacks just keep going. You think you're done, and there's more. They seem endless."

The picture the Aussie took
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So I set off. Bouncing around some, because of the cobbles, though they were not as bad as I was expecting.

Right, left, right, left, all the way down the switchbacks. And then, just like the Aussie said, when I got to the point where I thought they ended, more switchbacks appeared. And then the cobble ended, but the switchbacks didn't.

Closer to the top
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...and then there were more! And they kept going further down.
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Not only that, the other side of the pass opened up to a wider valley, and SUNSHINE! Just as I had hoped!

Finally past the cobbles, and into the next valley, where it was sunny and warm.
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It also truly felt Italian, in sights, sounds and architecture. I rode on, past the pass to the base of the climb on the other side and, finally, the end of the switchbacks.

From there the pedaling was easy. I rode on smooth roads and bike paths, following the Ticino River, towards Bellizona, my goal for the day. The weather warmed, the sun shown brightly.

The memories of torrential rains are all but gone. I arrived in Bellizona warm, after peeling off all my outer layers.

It was a beautiful ride; a beautiful day.

It turned out to be a beautiful day.
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The towns looked more like Italy than Switzerland
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Yes, definitely Italian speaking...
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So pretty too!
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This guy was on the side of the road selling cheese and sausage. Not the kind of stuff you'd see being sold on the side of the road in the states, that's for sure.
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Whoa, now that's a big beer! I don't even think Bob could finish that beer?!
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Today's ride: 118 km (73 miles)
Total: 2,029 km (1,260 miles)

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