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Ride: Alpine Roadie Adventure Day 1 - Andermatt - Furka - Nufenen - Gottard - Andermatt

Distance: Approx. 108 km.

Ascent: approx. 3200m

Start time: 9.30am
Finish time: 7.15pm

Rating: Difficult

I arrived at Andermatt at 8.10am, and found my hotel. They were nice enough to give me my room straight away, which saved me some trouble. I got myself ready by 9am , before getting a message that the train bringing Y, B, and Kate was delayed. Good thing too, as I was missing a glove. I raced into the local sport shop and purchased some climbing gloves, the closest thing to what I needed. There I ran into Chris, who needed a set of sunglasses. Chris and I then finished our purchases before getting to the train station in the nick of time to meet the others.

I realised at this point how badly organised I was; little more than picking a time and place was all I had accomplished. Fortunately Chris had all the maps and gradient charts, and he briefed us on our ride ahead. My group concerns faded immediately, as the group meshed immediately with immense team spirit and positive vibes needed for this challenge.

B and Kate set a fashion standard difficult to beat, with matching Assos Swiss jerseys. Y had brought his trusty tourer instead of a roadbike. This gave him a distinct weight disadvantage (5kg +) as well as added rolling resistance of bigger tyres. By the end of the day, Y's performance on this rig made him without a doubt the star of Day 1.

We kicked off very close to 9.30am, and headed out of town with a distinct morning chill in the air. After a group shot at the first roadsign, we glided along through Hospintal to Realp where the 900m climb to the Furkapass began. All smiles and full of energy, we all made relatively light work this grade, stopping to take a glimpse of the old steam train chugging its way up the old rack-and-pinion track with a load of tourists. That whiff of burning coal in the fresh alpine air was a taste of nostalgia that conveniently distracted us from the task at hand.

We paused at the top of the Furkapass to gear up for the descent, and we were all in awe that Yokine was never far behind. After a quick group picture we commenced the speedy drop down to Gletsch. However as soon as the full panorama over Gletsch became visible, we hit the brakes to wonder at the view...the Swiss Alps just don’t look better than this. The rain the day before had cleared the haze, and you could almost see all the way to France!

After snapping some more pics we continued our descent into Gletsch. The inner tube I had stashed under my seat came loose and caused a scare by ravelling itself around my rear axle at 60km/h; fortunately nothing came of it. With another steam loco puffing away at Gletsch station, we broke for lunch, finding a nice table in the sun. We ordered our meals of chicken breast and (dried) spätzli and soaked up the wonderful atmosphere and great company, leaving thoughts and stresses of our daily routines to another time.

When lunch was over, it was an easy run down into Ulrichen. The mercury was pushing 27 degree here, and keeping hydrated was a constant requirement. We hooked right towards the Nufenenpass. Chris and I entertained the others with an amusing but successful attempt at applying sunscreen whilst riding uphill. With an average grade of 8.5% for the 1100m ascent, this was a tough ask as we geared down and grinded our way up..and up..and up... . We made one or two stops along the way, as even a quick couple minutes break was enough to give us “fresh legs” as Kate called it. Once again the panoramas proved extremely distracting, and some of us developed a talent for taking pictures from the saddle.

ChrisW and Hillseeker reached the top of the Nufenpass first, with the rest of us not far behind. Once again, we had so much awe and respect for Y, as he powered on with his tourer. We celebrated the highest point in the tour with an ice cream, and the obligatory group pic. After that it was gear on again, and a tailwind for the drop to Airolo.

The combination a tailwind, concrete road and lack of hairpins gave us acceleration we hardly expected. Even without an 11 tooth gear, reaching 80km/h was no trouble, some of us even reached 85km/h or more. But a couple of us (including me) experienced a scary case of front wheel wobble, something that can result in a very nasty spill. Fortunately, we all made it to the bottom, and we took our jackets off to cope with the warm Ticino weather.

As we rolled into Airolo over some very poor road surfaces, we were all starting to feel quite drained...and the “contact points” , as Y likes to call them, were bitterly complaining. A water fountain was found near Airolo train station to fill up for the climb up the Gottard.

We had reached this far as a group, and it was great that nobody chose to pull out of the last climb. The team spirit and motivation was as unrelenting as the grades we were climbing, so all ten wheels headed on up the infamous Gottard, supposedly the “easiest” pass of the day.

We didn’t get far until we reached the cobblestone sections. After a day in the saddle this type of surface is hard on one’s contact points! Fortunately this section lasted a few km before we were able to rejoin the new road, which to this point was motorway classified (bikes not allowed).

The wind began to play a factor, often hitting us sideways or head on, draining what little we had left in our tanks. With the Panorama lookout in sight, we were hit with an exceptionally vicious headwind that almost pushed me backwards. With one last stop at this lookout, we topped up with water and pushed on as the shadows over the peaks grew longer and longer.

When we all reached the peak of the Gottard, the sense of achievement was euphoric, with High 5’s all round, as we knew it was all downhill from here. We had just enough time for a group pic, as the fading sunlight, the biting wind and falling temperatures added a sense of urgency to get going.

Back in town, we said farewell to Kate and Y, as they still had a trip home ahead of them.

As I put my bike away and headed back into the Hotel to freshen up, I was overwhelmed by the experience of the day. The Alps had set the stage, the weather gave us the perfect atmosphere, and the wonderful, cheerful and determined group made this day a truly memorable experience... a true team effort. I am glad that collectively we have plenty of photos to give others an insight, but even these can’t explain the feelings... the aches, the pain, the feeling of personal and group achievement.

Chris, B, and myself, staying for Day 2, enjoyed an evening meal before greeting HeatherM and contemplated Day 2 over dessert. The forecast meant doing the Days 1 and 2 back-to-back....

stay tuned for Day 2 ride report......

167 Posts
Good report and photos. I also like riding loops over alpine passes. And I did that one a couple of years ago -- for some different perspectives here's my
photos of Nufenen - Gotthard - Furka loop

My memories of climbing the old road up the Gotthard pass haven't faded enough . . .

. . . to make me want to ride that loop again.

Also I didn't find either side of Nufenen all that interesting. The road up from the west side is almost too well designed -- grade is too even.

But Andermatt - Susten - Grimsel - Furka I would do again, so l'm looking forward to seeing your Day 2 report.

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