Devilishly Good Riding in the Alps
Antics on tough, long passes
Antics on tough, long passes in Switzerland
We started playing games early into the climb up Passo del San Gottardo. It started with Tim Mcdermott, technical consultant to this magazine, and I ratcheting up the pace and leaving two others behind. I tired to breathe through my nose as much as possible to show that I really wasn’t working that hard. Mcdermott often rode beside me, his front wheel just a little ahead of mine. I took to the smooth gutters when I could. The road, Tremola, is twisty with long sections of cobbles. Those stones were more jarring on the way down and made us use caution on our descent earlier that morning. On the way up, the cobbles added to the Type II fun of a 12-km climb with grades in the low teens.
“Picture time,” Mcdermott said at roughly three-quarters of the way up. It was a masterful move. Who wouldn’t want to snag a few shots of the Swiss Alps on a beautiful, sunny, late-summer day? It would be a waste to rip down Termola and then slog back up without stopping to look around and take it in. OK. Picture time. Also, picture time means taking a break – whether you need it or not – without having to say, “Let’s take a break.”
“Did you guys talk?” asked Sam Cohen, publisher of Canadiancycling Magazine, when he, associate editor Andre Cheuk and I were recapping the ride later that day. Cohen’s question was ridiculous. I’m pretty sure I answered with two words; the second one was “no.” Whenever Mcdermott and I ride together, we can’t help but duke it out on climbs. The ride up Tremola was the last opportunity on our trip to throw down. Also, I couldn’t stay with him on Susten Pass two days before. I didn’t want that to happen again.
We were in Switzerland at the start of September to ride bikes before heading to the Eurobike trade show in Germany, where we’d walk around for three days taking about bikes, but barely pedalling them. We landed in Zurich and then drove a little more than 100 km south to Hospental. The town is smack in the middle of the Alps. The location was a perfect spot to start the James Bond climb.
Of all the passes we had planned on riding, I was most familiar with Furka. It has featured in the Tour de Suisse a number of times and, probably more famously, in the 1964 Bond flick, Goldfinger. Sean Connery’s Bond zips around in an Aston Martin DB5 while Tania Mallet, as the character Tilly Masterson, zooms along the windy climb in a Ford Mustang. There’s a lot of speeding, swerving and even tire shredding.
We refrained from any antics on our first climb on our first full day of riding, although we did stop at the James Bond Strasse sign not far from the start of the ascent in Realp. Mark Cohen, a Canadian expat living in Zug and regular contributor to the magazine, joined us for the ride