On Dressing for Descents and Irrational Attachments
Ponte di Legno is a sleepy ski town in the Italian Alps. In the summertime, it subsists seemingly on wealthy tourists and the occasional cyclist passing through. By the time I’d reached it, the sun was peaking. I’d just come up the classic side of the Mortirolo, a nearby pass. I was spent and stopped to eat.
It was early September and usually hot. I’d left Mazzo di Valtellina that morning without so much as a gilet, thinking the weather would stick all day. By the time I’d climbed the 2,621-m-high Gavia, that all changed.
The Gavia is relentless. The early slopes are well-maintained and full of alpine views; the narrow and intermittently cracked roads and tunnels up top can challenge even the fittest cyclists. Maximum gradients from the Brescia side aren’t Mortirolo-tough (less consistently steep), but the length of the climb (18 km) makes it hard.
With the combined climbs that day, my legs were heavy, my pedal strokes resembling squares. Two thousand metres from the top of the climb, the skies changed from sunny and blue to ominous and evil grey. Focused on reaching the end, I barely noticed a shift in temperature to around 12 C. By the time I reached the restaurant at the pass, I was cold and chilled from golf ball-sized hail that fell for the last 15 minutes of climbing.
I walked in with the look of a man at his end. I reached for my layer to cut the wind on the descent while crushing a Coke. The shell is an inexpensive, well-made Sugoi piece I got at the Five Boroughs Bike Tour in New York, a piece I usually carried because of its size and seeming weightlessness. But it wasn’t there. The gaff created an irrational attachment to a jacket, or lack thereof, and left me freezing while descending that particular day.
I think about the Gavia everytime I pack that shell. There are many others like it in my kit drawer, but that one – the one I’d left back in Mazzo – that one’s mine.— Markcohen