From Cortina d’Ampezzo we biked a little over 23 miles to San Candido, known to the Austrians as Innichen. One of the things we like about Zephyr Adventures is that each day there are options as to how hard you want to ride. There are typically short routes, medium routes, and long routes. In this case there were two options, medium and long, but the difference was primarily elevation, not distance. That is, the long route was only two miles longer than the short route. The long route, though, took you up over a mountain while the short route took you around the mountain.I chose the long route, since, well, that’s just who I am. And it was definitely challenging; the first five miles or so was just a steady climb, sometimes up a 12 percent incline. That’s intense. But it was also rewarding: there were great views of the mountains and a classic Alpine lake. And of course if you work like hell going up there’s also the thrill of the long descent. Great climb, great trails, nice lunch, then off to the hotel in San Candido.
The next day we biked into Austria. San Candido is only about five miles from the Austrian border and from there we continued another 22 to the city of Lienz before turning around and heading back. The ride there was about as perfect as any bike ride could be: mostly sunny, temperature in the low 60s, following a small river on a fantastically well-kept bike trail surrounded by Alpine mountains and brilliantly green hills. It was heaven, a biker’s fantasy. Of course, if you’re following a river, and going with the current, you’re also going downhill, which is part of what makes it so great.
We got to Lienz, rested for a bit in a cute little park, and then the four of us – me, Mark, Marc, and David – headed back. Apparently that modest slope down to Lienz had changed into a much steeper incline as we headed back. And the weather had turned so now it was overcast and occasionally raining on us. It probably took us 75 percent longer on the return than it did on the outbound and we were beat when we finished the 54-mile ride. But finish it we did and all-in-all it was a great ride. Just tiring.
Tomorrow we head southwest to Brixen, another 50-mile-plus ride if we do the long route, which we probably will. On balance, though, it’s downhill from here, so probably easier than today’s pretty challenging ride.