GStB refers the Great St Bernard Pass (in English).
Warning: TMI means too much information and there’s lots coming.
I was grumpy leaving the Auberge St Bernard in the GStB. Lack of sleep after a gruelling day. Very grumpy and spent a sleepless golden hour watching the sunrise and listening to Alpine Choughs calling and play acting as they do. Wandered around the hospice and revisited the lake. Breakfasted with the extreme (insane) adventure cyclists we met yesterday. I will never recommend trying Vermont’s Lincoln Gap, the steepest paved mile in the USA. Imagine even imagining an average gradient of 15% and a maximum of 24% for 1600 m!
First, to set the scene, I must admit I fell off the bike on Tuesday. I was pulling up, had already decleated, foot out for support, watching for traffic when my front wheel skimmed a low paving stone. I was caught by surprise and couldn’t control the steering wobble. I landed on elbow and knee and whipped the helmeted head around a bit. Rookie driver error but sore. The bell broke. The panniers acted as bulwarks for me – minor abrasions and a lucky escape. But the knee and neck took longer to manifest and avenge their insult.
Second, I took a couple of Panadol the night of the fall to reduce pain and minimise swelling. I formerly used a gram ibuprofen before going on 50 km hill walks to limit knee swelling. Medical advisors say that might exacerbate a known rattle in one of my heart valves. So I used Panadol and then went up to The Great St Bernard Pass on a bicycle, having cycled from Canterbury to do so. [A recent angiogram indicated no further valve degradation and I attribute that to controlling the nasty cholesterols by cutting out flesh from my diet for the last five years.]
Third, getting the bike up the hill was eased by skipping at least 1000 m of climb using trains and a bus. Cycling up that last 500 vertical metres was tough and at times, agonising. So in celebration of peaking (and needing more calories after two shockingly small courses), I had a big dessert. Desperation but here’s the thing: late-evening sugar sometimes keeps me awake.
Fourth, my prostate cancer radiation treatment has (temporarily) caught up with me. All this exertion has me micturating five and six times each night (from once perhaps twice over the last 8 years). You don’t normally need to know this except it’s a major part of the story of cycling to Rome. This isn’t seeking sympathy: it’s a reminder to men to get it checked regularly. And even if you catch it late, get it seen to so you can walk hills, trek mountains, cycle to Rome and go home, and hug, be hugged, by your loved ones.
Fifth, something else was wrong and at 3 am: I realised I was really hungry again. I had half a cheese quiche stashed for tomorrow so that got eaten with a few dates.
In summary of last night, there was sugar, micturation, exhaustion, hunger and serious shoulder discomfort. So I had only a few hours sleep and that’s not something I can deal with very well.
My point is I was wrecked and looking foward to freewheeling down 1500 metres. But the brakes kept fading, perhaps unsuited to 130 kg of metal, bags and me. Sure, second time, it was again fixed by the tools we carry, but it was a bit scary in the state I was in.
And yet, what a day we had. I really was sleep deprived and perhaps my memories will only be in the photos I took. So I hope you enjoy them knowing what effort it took to get them.
Now to the conclusion of the day. We arrived in Bard to a hotel Chris found. Luxury was the shower, delicious after 90 something km. Then seriously good food and wonderfully amicable staff (they even looked after the steeds, stabling them in the lunch bar).
I could go on but know that a descent on a bicycle down the Aosta Valley is tough, has frustrations and comes with more rewards than any airline loyalty plan. Those Roman bridges, the castles and finally, Bard Fort.
Note to self: revisit and stay in Ad Gallias Boutique Hotel and Spa in Bard.