Jerry’s Tour of the Alps 2010 – Tuesday July 13th

Surava — Albulapass/Pass d’Alvra — Ova Spin — Ofenpass/Pass dal Fuorn — Glurns/Glorenza — Merano — Gampen Joch/Passo Palade — St. Felix/S. Felice (190 km, 3726m, 16%, 17-34°C)


In the morning I was told the same that the road up to Albulapass was closed even if they worked on clearing it and that maybe it could be open in the afternoon again. I started out somewhat slowly in the nice morning up to Bergün/Bravuogn (1367m) and there was not much traffic as expected. I went through the village to see if I found some barricades above here as there should be, but did not find any. Anyway I was under the impression as I did not really meet anyone that looked like they had come down the pass (that was not a road worker) that the pass has not been opened and that I might have to wait in Bergün or take a train up from here as I suggested to them in Surava, which they also though might work.

I asked a man coming in a car if he knew if the road was still closed and he said that it was (or at least that was what I thought he said). I went back down and tried to ask someone else, but found no one who knew for sure. I decided that I better take the train to not having to go back down again if the road was closed higher up. The nicest stretch of the train ride up here is also this part, so I was a little interested in having a train ride up here anyway. It turned out that I just has missed a train (saw it depart on my way up to the station). Well, I bought a ticket for the next train almost an hour later and got back to take a coffee. It felt like a long wait and I got a bit irritated that I did not try and go up after all. If I had gone directly up I would still not have had to wait longer than this if I had to return. But now I had bought tickets, so just to wait.


The train was also a little late this time. It felt like a long morning doing very little. Eventually the train left and it was a fun but very slow ride above. I could have walked up from Bergün to Preda in the same time I had been waiting and going with the train. Ok, relax, you are on holiday after all, I thought. The train ride had some good views, but the circles it goes through on the way up here make you loose all sense of direction. Anyway it was nice to have gone up here with the train. Irritatingly I saw a cyclist on the way down (or up) and it looked like they had just cleared the road now. Just when I continued up from Preda I met some other cyclists going down in full speed apparently knowing that the road was open again. Oh well, I still had a bit of the climb up to Albulapass/Pass d’Alvra (2312m) from Preda (1789m), but anyway felt a little like a cheater.

The weather was fine and by the time I reached the pass I was back in good mood about the cycling again and felt I was on my way again even though it was already lunch time by now. Time to do some real cycling I thought, and toward the end of the day I was a bit confused by how far I had gone after the slow start. For a long time this day I would travel already visited roads, but some roads are worth visiting again and some roads are difficult to avoid. The Albulapass is indeed one of the finest pass roads in the Alps and I have never been to the south side, so this part was new. The north side is the nicest one and the one to be climbed for sure, but the south side is pretty nice higher up at least.


Some Italians were at the pass height and after many photo sessions one of them took a photo of me also (as I was waiting to get a photo without them). I think they went up from the south side and back the same way again, but they had likely travelled a long way this morning up here. There are always more cyclists up here in the Engadin valley. The road down from La Punt (1687m) to Zernez (1473m) is one stretch of the Engadin valley I have not cycled through before. It is not very nice and there are also some traffic here. One could have avoided some traffic by going through Zouz and S-chanf, but I was not in the mood for roads that slowed me down now.

I had a big one litre of juice and something more at a grocery. Luckily there are some decent public toilets just outside Zernez in the direction of Ofenpass/Pass dal Fuorn (south). I went up to Ova Spin in good speed on this somewhat steep road. Ova Spin (1886m) is a little pass on the way here, which is no point to consider as a pass as it only crosses a spur in the mountain and returns to the same valley as before afterwards on the way to the real pass(es), and it is also not publicly or locally regarded as a pass and thus I do not include this in my lists of passes. I talked with a man about this at the pass. He pointed out that this was not a pass to me, but I explained that it was in fact sort of a pass, but of no big consequence in that capacity. (It is similar to Kasereck on the south side of the Grossglockner road in Austria, which I included in my list of passes as it has a pass name (‘eck’ does not always mean pass, but here it can be argued to do so).)


There is then a fast descent to Punt la Drossa (1711m), where the narrow tunnel to Livigno starts, which is no longer allowed access to for cyclists (do not know what happens if you get there out of bus shuttle hours, that can bring your biycle with it for a cost). But I was on my way to Ofenpass/Pass dal Fuorn/Passo del Forno (2149m). I have travelled here once before and it was somewhat similar weather then also. It started out nice in Zernez but got cloudier the clsoer I got to the pass. The pass road climb is only hard up to Ova Spin. The last part is quite easy with only some short sections that are a little steep. The road goes through a national park, which is why it looks like no one cares that trees are laying across on the ground and the river here. There is only one house by the road up here and it is the Buffalora (a big house which serves as a restaurant). This place was filled with people so not very inviting to stop here. (It seems like this house is just outside the border of the park.)

There were a little road work at the last stretch up to the pass and the smell was thick (I like it though). At the pass the weather was looking more gloomy, just like the other time I was visiting here (also coming from Zernez). There is a restaurant/hotel at the top, but I only stopped for some photos and talked shortly with people sitting at the bench there (probably about the weather). It was still not raining, so I hurried on down to Sta Maria, where one could climb the Stelvio pass on a nice road which I did some years ago. I had a little shower on the way lower down, but it stopped again when I reached Sta. Maria.

Ova Spin

Down here I saw some cyclists (I were getting closer to Italy now) apparently on the way to the Stelvio, which might have been a bad idea this late in the day with the bad weather, but I guess they could always turn around. It was all downhill into Italy now for a long, long time and that was relaxing, but I also felt that it was a long distance to go before I would be happy for the day. I stopped at the last Swiss village of Müstair to spend the remaining Swiss coins I had on some yoghurt, coca-cola and a new soap. They do not always sell soaps one by one, but a nice man in the shop split a package up for me.

After entering Italy it got a bit steep down again. Soon I was down in the nice mediaeval city (one of the smallest cities in Italy) of Glurns/Glorenza (908m). Here I finally escaped the lurching dark clouds above. A bike path went by the river, but it looked more fun to go through the city and then I took the big busy Reschenpass road down the Vinschgau/Venosta valley toward Merano. Now it was hot. This road is not very fun and shifts a lot in its width and how much traffic there are. There are bicycle paths down through almost all of the big valley and there were lots of signs suggesting I should go down to such a path, but who the hell knows where they go and if they are quick and asphalted and will not lead you wrong. I stayed as long as I could on the main road (a little longer than allowed, I believe), but then had to turn off the road before a tunnel (as I knew, but could not remember). I was led wrong at once (would you not guess it?). Eventually I found some other road to continue on that at least went in the right direction.

Ofenpass/Pass dal Fourn

I had wanted to do one of the BIG climbs in the Vinschgau/Venosta valley and had planned to go up the Martelltal/Valle Martello as it looks quite nice, but the weather was not optimal in that direction and I now wanted to go into the Italian speaking part of Italy as soon as possible (and save some time for later). It was also late in the evening now. I decided just as I passed by that I would not go up there this time. I think it was in Latsch were I stopped at a grocery just before 18 in case they were closed later on. Had a chocolate bar and coca-cola and watch some cyclists go by and thus I also figured out that I was supposed to take off the road here to get on a bicycle path down the rest of the valley.

It got easier to find the way now and after a while I got company with a local older cyclist, that I talked to and asked what he thought of my idea to get up the Gampen Joch/Passo Palade before the dark. Now the clock was like 18:30. He explained that it would take me 1h30mins if I was a professional and probably like 2 hours if an amateur. He doubted it was a good idea to go up this late, but would not rule out that I could not do it. We chatted a little. He stopped to talk to someone else he met and asked me to go ahead and that he would catch up with me. He just managed to do so before we took different ways again.

Ofenpass/Pass dal Fourn

I know I should take off the main busy road just before reaching Merano/Meran. Speed was high here and I just about managed to get off the road without an accident and instantly knew I was on the right road, which I was. (It is just after the Forst beer factories and then all of a sudden comes the turn off, which cannot be reached if not using this road (I believe).) The road goes on a balcony overlooking Merano and is a nice alternative to go through Merano. The road goes via Marling/Marlengo and Tscherms/Cermes to Lana (313m) (lowest point is 282m), where the climb up the Gampen Joch (Gampenpass)/Passo Palade (1521m) starts. I was recently in Lana when I had come over the Hofmahdjoch/Passo Castrin (1706m) tunnel into the Ultental/Valle Ultimo. Ultental is very nice.

As it was getting late, temperatures were good and after such a long stretch without any climbing, I really looked forward to climb this classic pass in the area, that I had neglected until now. This is also the side to climb as the southern climb is much more gradual and easy. It is however, not ever very steep, and it is also somewhat evenly steep on a good road. So it is easy to get into a good tempo and so I did. I really pushed it and doubted for a long time that I could keep the speed all the way to the pass, but I more or less did keep up a quite good speed all the way and was up after 1h45mins (so apparently I am just between the amateurs and professionals, just like I thought ;-)). Maybe the time we discussed was from Lana, I cannot remember, but it is a 17.5 km climb. The road is also quite nice with many views down over the Bolzano area.

Ofenpass/Pass dal Fourn

The pass itself is not so nice as there is mostly woods there. But it is nice before and after. The views on the south side are quite nice, but not as dramatic. The twilight was just coming in and I hurried down to St. Felix, but there were only some kids out and I saw no place to stop here. I continued and soon after on the side of a road I found a hotel with a pizzeria that was open and stayed there. This was, I think, the only time I had pizza on this tour (it was not a very good pizza either). I almost reached into the Italian speaking part of Italy. This was like the last house before they starts to speak Italian down this side, but it was well located for a nice start in the morning down to Fondo. I could probably have stopped at the hotel at the pass, but it looked as it was maybe not open and it was very gloomy up there and also a little cold. Now it felt like I had did a decent amount of cycling and climbing for the day.


Gampenjoch/Passo Palade