Monday June 6, 2005, 37 km (23 miles) – Total so far: 4,024 km (2,500 miles)
We set off having been told that today would be cloudy with no rain. Well, it did rain, and then it snowed. It was incredibly cold at the top and unfortunately it was far too cloudy to really appreciate the scenery. With an average 12% gradient for most of the climb, the Groβglockner Hochalpenstraße was steep. To say this climb was tough is something of an understatement. It would be difficult on my super-light aluminium road bike – but with all the gear, including the tent, my Roberts weighs close to 50kg and I’m not exactly a lightweight cyclist myself. Admittedly, I have very low gears but I actually ground to a complete stop a couple of times. The altitude may have been a factor too. The air has to be thinner above 2,000m. Though, this may have been more of a psychological factor.
The summit, at 2,577m, is the highest I’ve ever ridden on a bike by over 300m. it was cold too. Very very cold. I had to wear my gloves plus two pairs of socks and a plastic bag on each hand for the descent.
Then disaster struck. Agata wore through her rear brake blocks causing bare metal to grind down on the rims. Then her front brake blocks failed too – making the descent virtually impossible. We had no choice but to check into a guest house half way down the mountain. I will have to finish the descent alone tomorrow morning to buy replacements and ride back up. Fortunately, our guest house in Ferleiten is really nice – a 400-year-old cabin, it’s a little cold but full of character.
We met the Aussies again today cycling past our cabin. The mad bastards had done the whole climb from Lienz, they looked absolutely knackered. We may well bump into them again tomorrow.