Tour de Suisse 2019 Report – Part 1

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Today, we have moved to Sedrun, a small town on the Oberalp, between Andermatt and Disentis.

This means that the first week of my Tour de Suisse 2019 has come to an end.

Although I eventually cycled almost every pass I wanted, that didn’t go as planned.

I already knew beforehand that my road book was something I was most likely not going to stick to anyway, but I didn’t anticipate the actual reason why I had to make changes to my stages…

(For the details on the various passes, I refer to my earlier posts in which they are all described.)


The route of my first ride was changed due to an oversight on my behalf.

When I looked at the travel time required to get to my starting point, back in March or something, it was around 90 minutes.

However, I didn’t factor in that during holiday season, or probably any Saturday, it is best to avoid the Gotthard tunnel.

As there was a delay of over an hour before that tunnel, I decided to alter my stage and ride straight to Splügen, to start my Tour de Suisse there with the Splügenpass.

Which means I let go of the idea to first tackle the Bernadino from the north, but so be it.

The descend to Chiavenna was altered – and longer – due to road construction, but after a lunch down there, I also climbed the Maloja, which I originally wasn’t sure I’d do.

TDS 2019 – Prologue: Splügen and Maloja, 90 km / 2,190 m D+

Link to Garmin

During my ride, I noticed a discomfort in my nether region, which turned out to be a small nodule.

I immediately realized this might well turn into the feared cyclist’s nodule (or PNI), which I also developed last year.

That kept me off the bike for two weeks and I had to take antibiotics. Of all the things that could go wrong, this was the least expected…

Stage 1

Despite the nodule, I decided to ride my first stage as planned.

This meant the Julierpass from our doorstep, an endless descend to Tiefencastel, followed by an equally endless ascend of the Albulapass.

On our way back from La Punt, I took the cyclist’s lane for just a short stretch, between Samedan and Sankt Moritz.

That turned out to be a silly mistake, because that path was going everywhere, except where I wanted to go.

So I ended up on the Bernina, which I didn’t realize until I was some 7 kilometers in.

This extended my trip to over 115 kilometers and when I got home, I was not surprised to see that my nodule was rapidly becoming a big(ger) problem.

TDS 2019 Stage 1 : Julier and Albula, 117 km, 2,369 m D+

Link to Garmin

I was now on the verge of panic attack, because I saw my Tour de Suisse come to an end, before it had seriously started.

So, on Monday, I found and went to see a doctor and he prescribed me antibiotics.

Obviously, he told me it would be best to stop cycling, unless I enjoyed having pain.

Well, guess what?

Stage 2

Nevertheless and also because it was already past noon, I decided to cycle a short stage, originally planned as a recovery.

Obviously, my perception of a “traditional” recovery is way off, but today’s trip did have the least elevation difference of all trips this week.

I rode up the Bernina, took the side trip to Forcola di Livigno and returned the way I came.

Unfortunately, it started to rain by the time I was halfway down the Bernina, a taste of what was to come the next days…

TDS 2019 – Stage2: Bernina and Forcola di Livigno, 46 km, 1,103 m D+

Link to Garmin

At the end of this trip, I was noticing the effects of my attempts to spare the nodule infested part of my sitting area.

Trying to ease the pain means shifting into other – and mostly wrong – positions on your saddle and as a result I had developed a nasty back pain.

My back is always a weak spot and I was off the bike because of a complicated hernia between December and March, so this was not an encouraging development either.

Stage 3

I looked at the alternative stages I had left and that were not much longer than 70 – 75 kilometers.

The epic shit I dreamed about while drafting my road book, was definitely not going to happen – any 150 kilometer stage was just out of the question…

I decided to prioritize the Flüela, so we headed to Zernez by car and I cycled to Susch as a warming up.

During the ascend of the Flüela, it started to rain – not too bad, but annoying enough.

After a coffee at the summit, we descended to Sankt Moritz, where the weather was just fine, and I returned the way I came.

Sure enough, two-thirds up that climb, it was raining again and I didn’t pause long at the summit before continuing the descend back to Susch, where I was glad to get in the car.

TDS 2019 – Stage 3: Flüela, 58 km, 1,721 m D+

Link to Garmin

Despite the weather and the physical discomfort, this ride wasn’t all that bad, which gave me hope for the next days.

Stage 4

Some days are best forgotten quickly.

Hoping for better weather later on, we left for Zernez, to climb the Ofenpass and Umbrail.

I really wanted to get all the way to the summit of the Stelvio…

But instead of better weather, it rained harder by the minute, although every now and then I’d get a five minute respite.

At least on the way to Santa Maria – not so much on the Umbrail and during the return…

The Ova Spin and Ofenpass were already giving me more trouble than I hoped for, apart from the weather.

My back was playing up ever more, maybe also getting worse because of the cold.

I stubbornly started to inch my way up the Umbrail – a very hard climb under the best of circumstances – only to find that it was closed halfway, due to avalanche danger.

Needless to say, I would have appreciated a sign at the bottom, but I had no choice and returned…

When I started to climb out of Santa Maria, my Edge insisted I was descending at 12% – while I first thought I was delusional and the Edge was right, I quickly realized that this was a phenomenon I had already experienced with my 810, back in 2015 (on the Giau).

Apparently, Garmin (Edge) units do not respond well to sudden / drastic changes in barometric circumstances. As a thunderstorm was now passing, like it was back then, I guess this is influencing the unit.

I returned, climbed an descended the Ofenpass from the other end, but it was raining so hard by now, that I forfeited the Ova Spin on the return.

TDS 2019 – Stage 4: Ofenpass and half an Umbrail, 71 km, 2,462 m D+

Link to Garmin

Stage 5

I reversed the trip I made on Sunday, including the Albulapass from La Punt and the Julier from Tiefencastel.

As this would be more than 100 km – and thus too long – I shortened it some 15 km by going to Bever, close to la Punt by car.

By the time I was halfway up the Albula, I was ready to give up, but I never will, so I didn’t.

After a short stop at the summit, I descended to Tiefencastel, shooting a few pictures of breathtaking views along the way.

I then started the Julier ascend, which is quite steep the first 6 kilometers or so and I was now forced to halt every now and then to ease the (back) pain.

Unfortunately, a side effect of this back problem, is loss of power, which doesn’t help much either.

Luckily, the weather was much more agreeable, with no rain and temperatures that were okay, albeit a bit chilly, especially higher up.

I made it to the summit of the Julier, had a coffee and descended back to the apartment, less then 8 kilometers down.

TDS 2019 – Stage 5: Albula and Julier, 86 km / 2,122 m D+

Link to Garmin

Stage 6

I already let go of the idea to cycle a complete stage through Italy.

You know, something like the Mortirolo, Gavia and Stelvio combined.

Ludicrous under the best of circumstances in my case, but madness under the current.

I even let go of the idea to combine the Mortirolo with the Gavia and then call it a day, because that would leave us on top of the Gavia, with a long way back home.

So, if anything, I really wanted to cycle the Mortirolo from Mazzo, which I had done only once, back in 2011.

And instead of the Gavia, I figured I might have a shot at the Bernina from Poschiavo after that.

At least I didn’t even think of starting in Tirano, so I figured I could get away with it.

Silly me…

Although the antibiotics had definitely helped prevent me from having to give up my Tour de Suisse, my subsequent back problems did not made it any less difficult to cycle.

Or, more accurately: the resulting lack of power makes it difficult to climb.

Let alone to climb the Mortirolo.

Back in 2011, I didn’t find it that difficult, but that was after I nearly died on the Zoncolan and subsequently had 4 or 5 days off, doing something else.

Besides, I was nine years younger and hadn’t ended up in the hospital three times after bike crashes – involving cars or otherwise – as I did in the years since…

Anyway, my stupidity prevented me from giving up and I made it – it took me an hour longer than in 2011, but I made it.

I wasn’t too exhausted to see that they have finally put a proper monument on the summit, and even a shed where you can change clothes and freshen up in the toilet/washing room.

After a bite at the Albergo, we went back the way we came (by car) and Paula was right in suggesting I should not get on the bike again today.

Nevertheless – stupid is as stupid does, right? – I did get on the bike just before Poschiavo.

And even with temperatures now up to well over 30 degrees, with gradients up to 10, 11%, it took nearly 9 kilometers before she forced me off the bike, although I would probably have collapsed just after 9 kilometers anyway…

TDS 2019 – Stage 6a: Mortirolo, 19,5 km, 1,546 m D+
TDS 2019 – Stage 6b: Bernina (DNF), 9 km, 523 m D+

Link to Garmin (Mortirolo / Bernina)


Believe it or not, I decided not to cycle the intermediate stage – the reverse of the prologue – I had originally planned.

Even if Paula would have agreed to it – and I wouldn’t have put any money on the chances of that happening, as the odds for a snowball surviving a night in hell were more favorable – I was just not up to it.

I would like to be able to cycle some more in the coming days, with the Gotthard, Grimsel, Furka, Nufenen, Susten and Klausenpass within reach.

Not to mention the Lukmanier and Oberalp, which both practically run through our backyard…

We took the scenic route from Silvaplana to Ilanz and settled in our new apartment.

Let’s see what I can do, also taking into account that the weather forecast is not that good.

And I’m not going to have another stage like last Wednesday (stage 4)…

Oh, in case you’re interested, the totals for this week: 497.1 kilometers, with 14,035 meters of elevation gain.

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