Stage 2 of the Tour of Suisse is in the books. The race itself and each individual part was nothing exceedingly fascinating. But the entire day, especially when registered collectively and seen in the grand scheme of life, just shows how surreal it actually was. Here’s a bullet point rundown.
9:15a Wake up. This in itself is out of the realm of normal for me – not quite “surreal” but since I typically wake up in the 7am +/- 15 minutes range, this is out of the ordinary. Must be the fresh Swiss alpine air.
After two stunning days in Switzerland, I also woke up to a righteous clap of thunder booming through the valley and impossibly hard rain that completely changed the landscape. It was like I slept in and woke up in an entirely new place.
10:50a depart for race. All things normal.
11:30a Arrive at race. Hurry up and wait was the order of the day. This town of Quinto was supposed to be the start of a 160km race with an HC climb right out of the gate. Which is a terrible idea, but they didn’t consult me on the matter. But given the gnarly weather still causing havoc among European races, the opening climb was removed entirely. So Quinto was the ceremonial start complete with the typical song-and-dance sign-in, amid fans clutching umbrellas and cyclists poorly dodging raindrops as we hustled between our team cars and the stage.
With time to kill before the caravan trek to the next destination, I have a sixth sense for coffee and spotted an espresso machine in the VIP tent. I escorted the team to painfully small espresso. It was sparsely occupied, the VIP tent, so everyone meandering around was psyched to see us. A vast array of tasty finger foods was there, but since crustini con lardo was one of the most appetizing looking bits, we all abstained for the sake of an impending bicycle race. There was also a thorough selection of wines, after all there’s a well recognized winery sponsoring this race. I was miffed, however, when I asked for a courtesy bottle as a gift to a friend (yes, that’s a lie; I wanted it for myself). Sure, I would wait until the end of the race, but I like souvenirs and what better kind than a nice Italian red. The cases upon cases of wine behind the servers, in tandem with a virtually empty VIP room didn’t leave me with the impression there was going to be a shortage of wine in the next hour. Nor 10,000 hours. Regardless, they chuckled as if I were kidding and said no.
12:15p Begin police escorted caravan drive to the next stop. This entails driving over one of the more sinuous roads I’ve experienced in recent decades. With walls of snow at the summit dwarfing all cars (as well as big snow removal trucks parked at the peak) I reckon it’s been a snowy spring. Temperatures were hovering around zero Celsius amid a cloud bank the size of Manhattan and it was pouring rain up here at 2,200 meters. Optimal race conditions.
After a lengthy descent ripping around blind corners trusting the lights of the team car in front of us just feet ahead, when we finally dropped below the fog a scenic descent followed. Continue to drive drive drive.
1:30p Arrive at a train station. Not just any train station, though. We have arrived in a petite mountain town with cliffs on all sides besides from whence we came. And since it’s obvious that this isn’t the actual start town, we wait a lengthy while before driving our cars onto a train car. Continue to wait, then we are shuttled through the mountain. Mind you, I have absolutely no clue where we are and I have only a 2% understanding of what’s going on. It’s around this time that I decide to read since that’s one of the few things I can control right now.
I’m just guessing it’s about 2:30 when we arrive at the start, but I really feel like I’m in the twilight zone. The “start” is a rudimentary runway; it’s very militaristic with buildings actually built as bunkers half-way in the ground and grassy lawns for roofs. Both fans in attendance seem chipper hunched under their umbrellas. Mountains surrounds us on all sides (again — it is Switzerland afterall), it’s pouring rain, it can’t be more than 8 degrees Celsius, and we’re told we have 15 minutes to kit up and race. Also, the race begins with a 35km descent, so get ready for a speedy start.
2:45p til who knows when: The race profile resembles a cartoonish mouth in the shape of a smug grin. We descend a long ways, race flat for twice that length, then stretch our legs up a 17km category 1 summit. With a tailwind up the entire valley, we covered the 105km leading into the climb in under two hours. And clearly not very stressfully since I did that with about 185 watts average.
So that’s my day. Yeah, nothing too weird. Just the waking up in a new strange land, traveling who knows where for three-plus hours including a train trip while in the comfort of our car through a mountain in who-knows-where, racing in torrential rain down a mountain pass, then a ferociously fast yet ridiculously easy two hours, followed by an easy cruise up a category 1 climb.
Adding to the surreal nature of the entire day is that the humid Swiss spring — and probably other times of the year as well — is like viewing the world through Instagram. Everywhere you look resembles some caricature of a scene from the Lord of the Rings. Except that it’s right in front of you in living color! Stunning vistas, sky scraping mountains draped in breathtaking clouds, waterfalls and impossibly clear rivers and lakes. Plus no trash. There’s simply no litter in Switzerland. That’s the law.