The Gloßglockner Hochalpenstraßen

Pitch subsides, marginally. It’s a sign of my disconnected from reality full AM sunshine twilight that the fact that the Garmin shows 11%, down from the last nearly two kilometers of 14, is a relief. Breathing feels far away and in the past the way it does after over an hour of climbing. Green and churched valley: ramps and distance and memory too now, to snow fields, matte grey veins where the frost has broken free, blacktop mostly dry flowing lift.

Austria’s Glossglockner Alpine Mountain Road, from Heiligenblut to its dual high points, then down to Fusch. Eponymous javelin tip in front of a collage of sharp hulks. Didn’t intend for this to be a great climbs of Europe trip, but. Accidentally back and forth with a pilgriming club from French speaking Switzerland, in their midsts pretending that I’m not in trail walking shoes and ankle socks, receive nods or grim smiles when they go by, when I go by, when our hubs are almost level against the tiny surges and shakes. Before the first tunnel they angle off to a box van for cut in half bananas, full bottles, vests. I carry on into the short yellow bulb lit span, ice stalagtites at regular ticks, cold shock and the amplified roar, cars entering the opposite side.

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A descent, another elevation gain, then the drop. Colossal valley splits vision, cramping buzz tingle freezing hands, tears, bright papercut reflected sunlight from rolling icepack. Rims chattering at the grab, point at apexes, atlatl out into straightaways. Cyclists spanning shapes and ambition coming up the other side, impatient crotch rocket motos, tour buses scaring everyone at every switchback. Apparently the vintage Volkswagen club of Saltzburg is here, steady stream of bugs busses karmann ghias, popping sputtering upward in a mechanical representation of how I felt. Free fall lasts a long while, and the views, the technical dimensions, the landscapes ranks this with the superlative ledger.

If you’re a fan or a student or a critic of such things, the Glossglockner upbound south side was used in the finale of stage 13 of the 2011 Giro d’Italia, Rujano crossing the line in front of a pink jersey clad Contador. The third stage of the Tour of Austria started in Heiligenblut yesterday.

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