We skipped the start opting instead to meet the race more or less at the bottom of the first major climb in the town of Salino at 99,2 k. We are packed for Slovenia, part of the former Yugoslavia, as the mountain top finish is half in Italy, half in Slovenia, and the nearest towns with accommodation are in either Slovenia or Austria. We chose Slovenia because the Ski Town of Bovec had vacancies, and Slovenia sounds tougher than Austria. As we pushed further and further into the mountains, nearing our exit and the spot where we wanted to link up with the course, the only working radio station began to play, at first, what sounded like Romanian Folk House before changing (for good) to a cross between Alps Polka and Russian Folk Music.
Also, now that we are in Northern Italy, when we stop to ask for directions or to take photographs, the locals invariably ask, with some visible concern, if I am German. This happens several times, this never happened in Southern Italy. This is a “new development.”
After photographing the very bottom of , we drove around an entire Dolomite, swinging through Austria (we think!?) for a few kilometers, rejoined the course well ahead of the lead group, and continued on to the top (1152 meters) of the second climb, Sella Nevea/Altopiano del Montasio.
The last four times we set out with the Firm Intention to find the best place on the last climb before the finish to photograph, we failed. We drove right past/through the most beautiful sections of the climb to the very end where we were forced to deviate and park. On the way up Altopiano, past the waterfalls, past the meadows, over the creeks, through the many tunnels, up the many switchbacks, the road more narrow with every turn, the seamless corral-like, banner-covered fencing already in place, it dawned us at that we had gone oh-for-five. After parking at the top, past the deviation, in the back of the top of the mountain, we walked 3k back down and onto the face of the mountain, where it didn’t suck. We had time, it was something to do, we needed the exercise.