Tour 1999,  3 - 8 August

stagedistance (km)climbing (m)
Kilchberg - Wildhaus - Furkajoch - Schröcken1662700
Schröcken - Arlberg - Pillerhöhe - Winkle1322320
Winkle - Timmelsjoch - Giovo - Pénnes1224100
Pens - Bozen - Gampenjoch - Tonale1482670
Tonale - Gàvia - Umbrail - Fuorn - Flüela1384540
Flüela - Landquart - Kilchberg156300


Stage 1 (3 August 1999): Kilchberg - Wildhaus - Furkajoch - Schröcken


After the beautiful 1997 tour, i wanted to go again to Italian and Austrian Alps. The weather (and the forecasts) were finally good - in this so far so wet 1999. Thus i decided to set everything up at the office on Friday, 2 July in order to take my vacations earlier than planned. On Saturday morning, everything was ready and i hit the road. The first 30 kilometres were along and across the lake of Zurich (over the dam). Arriving at Rapperswil before 8 o'clock, i avoided the big shopping traffic of Saturdays. Then the road began to climb gently to the first (small) pass of this tour: the Ricken. Once on the other side, i rode to the upper part of the Toggenburg. Three words come to my mind to describe this region: green, green and green. The valley climbs gently towards the town of Wildhaus. The descending slope, then, is more respectable. I crossed the Rhine valley and the principality of Liechtenstein and entered Austria. It was about noon when i started to climb towards the Laterntal valley. By then, it was really hot (30°C) and i took care to always drink enough. In the Laterntal, it was evident that, this year, the weather had played crazy: a lot of landslides and much debris along the wild streams witnessed for the storms of May. From Bad-Innerlaterns, the road became very steep. The top point of the day was the Furkajoch, not to be confounded with the Furka pass in Switzerland. Not as high... but steep enough. A stop at the pass was necessary. Downhill, headwinds compensated for part of the slope: i barely could ride over 60 km/h, but it felt like 100. After this, i just had strengths left to approach a bit the next pass and stopped before 4 o'clock at Schröcken. Just a few houses, but a least a bed-and-breakfast for me. With a television to watch some of the prologue of the Tour de France. They made only 8 km, nothing to compare with my 166.

 distance (km)altitude (m)climbing (m)
Oberer Mönchhof (Kilchberg)0470 
Ulisbach (Wattwil)55620 
Bad Innerlaterns1281150220
total166 2700


Stage 2 (4 August 1999): Schröcken - Arlberg - Pillerhöhe - Winkle


From Schröcken, the climb to the Hochtannberg was steep. I threw a last glance down to the elegant church of the village and enjoyed the fresh air of the morning. After the pass, there was a short descent to Warth and then a more or less flat stretch to Lech, well known as a ski resort. My bike began to make a strange noise while pedalling. I discovered that one of the five screws holding the chainrings was a bit loose. Retightening it, however, did not change the noise. I stopped three other times, looking all around, till i finally discovered the problem: the ring holding the gearset on the wheel was unscrewed. I put it back in place, tightening it as best as i could without the special tool for it. After the Flexenpass, the descent was dangerous because the road had stripes made to prepare for putting a new macadam. Not easy to keep a trajectory in the curves, especially in not so well lit tunnels! Then i arrived on the road to the Arlberg pass, with not so much left to climb. There was a bike race to the pass and a guy had the opportunity to pick up my wheel - lucky him. I made a short stop on the Arlberg to refuel the stomach. Riding down to St. Anton and then to Landeck, i began to feel the heat. The traffic was important but no so terrible, even when the normal road and the highway came together. Still: i did not want to follow this boring road along the valley and made a small detour over a pass called Pillerhöhe. This, however, made me sweat. The climb was exposed to the hot summer sun and it was steep, especially the middle part (around 13% for my 39/26). At least the landscape was nice (view over the Inn valley), i had enough to drink and there were only very few cars. So i ended in the next valley to the east: the Pitztal. Then i rode further down to... the Inn valley again, going now to the east. After a while on the main road, i could take to the right, up to the Ötztal. It was first easy because not steep at all, but then the head wind became stronger and stronger. I began to doubt if i could make it up to Sölden as planned. Finally a flat tire let me decide to stop at the next bed-and-breakfast. It was at Winkle. And it was already 17 o'clock.

 distance (km)altitude (m)climbing (m)
St. Anton361290 
Neuer Zoll (Fliess)6985060
Brennbichl (Imst)93740 
total132 2320


Stage 3 (5 August 1999): Winkle - Timmelsjoch - Giovo - Pénnes


As usual in alpine valleys, the wind was no longer so strong in the morning. It was also cooler and i could start towards the Timmelsjoch under best conditions. The road really began to climb from Zwieselstein on. I remembered the landscape from the previous autumn when we went, with colleagues, to a scientific meeting in Obergurgl. Everything was right till i arrived at the toll station. Not that i had to pay for riding by bike, no, but the road started to go down. It was not only the bad feeling of loosing hard gained elevation but also the terrible headwind encountered after a large right curve around the mountain. The place was rightly called Windeck. The last part of the climb was in this wild, windy side valley of the Ötztal. At the pass i took a warm tea (it was chilly at almost 2500 m) and chatted with two german cyclists riding to Venice. I saw them again later at St. Leonhard as i was eating a small picnic on the town place. This was after a long descent: steep slopes, a winding road, several dark tunnels and goats on the way. And it was before climbing to the next pass of the day. There were not less than 1400 m to climb to the Jaufenpass / Passo Giovo. The first part was largely in the shade of a pine-spruce-larch-and-chestnut forest and then some clouds prevented the sun to roast me. The slope was very regular and i just had to get the right pace in the first hairpin curves. Then i no longer had to think about pedalling and could simply admire the landscape of deep and steep valleys with their forests and pastures. On the other side of the pass, however, the road was not so good. It was better to watch out for cracks and potholes rather than just to speed down. At Sterzing / Vipiteno, i had only a short distance of flat roads and already it began to climb again. First, i did not think that i could go further than Egg / Dosso, a possible stop on the way to the Penserjoch / Passo di Pénnes, but then i still felt good and rode passed the village. It is only a few kilometres later that i came in a thunderstorm. I had to climb the last third under the rain and even under some hail. Arriving at the pass, i was soaked... but happy: i had more than 4000 m of climbing for the day. Then the worst was still to do: riding down in the cold rain to a place i could stay. This was at Pens / Pénnes. Because it was not yet fully holiday season, i did not have to search long for an hotel room.

 distance (km)altitude (m)climbing (m)
Kühbichl (Sölden)101490260
Angerer Alm (Maut)232170700
S. Leonardo60670 
Passo Giovo8021001430
Passo di Pénnes11322201250
total122 4100


Stage 4 (6 August 1999): Pens - Bozen - Gampenjoch - Tonale


There was no breakfast before 8 o'clock at the hotel. Then this fourth day of the tour did not begin very well. Doing a quick check of my bike, i saw that it had a broken spoke. Useless to say that it was on the right side of the rear wheel. After a gentle but long descent, i stopped at a bike shop in Bolzano / Bozen. The repair was quickly done and inexpensive. By the way, the gearset was now tightly fixed. So, everything was back to normal, except that it was no longer so early. The ride along the Ádige / Etsch valley, then, was easy thanks to the help of the wind. From Nálles / Nals, however, serious things began again: a few kilometres were very steep. Then the road climbed more regularly to the Palade / Gampenjoch, where i stopped for a soup. Down to Fondo, i did not need to brake, first because the road was good and second because the wind hold my speed within secure limits. I very much feared that the wind could also be strong along the Val di Sole. It was actually not so bad, but i had to stop twice to let small thunderstorms go by. When the road finally started to climb towards the Tonale pass, i did no longer pay too much attention to the light rain which was more cooling than wetting me. Only for the last kilometres it rained more and more. There are many hotels at the pass (it's a ski resort). They make the landscape quite ugly. Even if i did not like this, i stopped at one of the open hotels. After washing myself under the shower, i washed again my bike clothes. They were wet anyway...

 distance (km)altitude (m)climbing (m)
Ponte S. Gallo103560 
Passo del Tonale1481880910
total148 2670


Stage 5 (7 August 1999): Tonale - Gàvia - Umbrail - Fuorn - Flüela


The fifth stage was entirely made of riding up and down and putting clothes on and off. First, i was happy to see that the road was dry again and could enjoy the ride down to Ponte di Legno. Then i took to the north. This meant more or less towards home, but with still some hills on the way. The first was the Gàvia. It was a long but not so hard climb. I discovered that the road was now entirely paved. For sure, this had been done for the Giro d'Italia. Obviously, this made the ride easier. Part of the legend of the Gàvia, however, disappeared with the old gravel road. Even if narrow and irregular in slope, the road was also good down to Sta. Caterina. Till there, there was almost no traffic, but it changed afterwards. At Bòrmio, i went right to the next pass of the day: the road to the Stelvio, but i "only" wanted to go over the Umbrail. Quite a long climb again, and this time with a few rain drops. At the pass, the small cabin was closed. I rode down and got more rain. The bumpy and wet road was not easy, and then there was the gravel. Once on a better road again, i found a restaurant to eat one of those excellent barley soups, a specialty of the Grisons. The last hairpins down to Sta. Maria were dry again. I did not stop there but continued to the number three of the day: the Fuorn, already known from my first tour in the Alps (1991). The clouds and the wind were still threatening, but it remained dry on the way up. And on the way down. And up a bit again. And further down. I finally reached Susch at four o'clock. An idea was going around in my head since a few hours: what about climbing even a fourth pass? A crazy idea, for sure, especially looking at the dark clouds over the mountains. The threatening weather and the exhaustion, however, could not make it against the big challenge. And for the third time in a row, i arrived at the top and at the end of the stage... under the rain. And it was a new record for me: climbing more than the elevation of the Matterhorn in one day. The speed average was accordingly the lowest ever: barely 19 km/h. But i was happy and, rather than risking a cold and wet descent, i stopped at the Flüela pass hospice, a little, old, but sympathic hotel.

 distance (km)altitude (m)climbing (m)
Passo del Tonale01880 
Ponte di Legno101290 
Passo di Gàvia2626201330
Sta Caterina391730 
Pass Umbrail7025001290
Sta Maria851370 
Pass dal Fuorn972150780
Punt la Drossa1071710 
Ova Spin1121890180
total138 4540


Stage 6 (8 August 1999): Flüela - Landquart - Kilchberg


Bad news when waking up this morning: The Flüela was completely in the fog and it was slightly raining. No question, however, of waiting there. I put all the clothes i had on (undershirt, t-shirt, jersey, rain jacket) and went on. At least, riding down, it was less and less cold. As i arrived at Davos, it was still slightly raining. As i rode over the Wolfgangpass to Klosters, it was still slightly raining. As i arrived at Küblis in the lower Prättigau, it was still slightly raining. I was already thinking of taking the train from Landquart as the rain finally stopped. While i had been riding on the main road so far, it was now forbidden for bikes and there was a good little road in parallel. Around Lanquart and then at Sargans, however, the signs for the bike roads were not clear at all. Fortunately, i remembered that i had to ride through Mels to join then the nice little road along the Seez stream. After Walenstadt, i rode along the Walensee lake where there are even tunnels made especially for the bike route. Without any stop, i continued towards the lake of Zurich and to Kilchberg. I was so happy to get back home and to see again my dear Catrina that i rode this last stage with an average of 31 km/h. But the tour was not yet finished: after so much rain, i'd later have to clean my bike, and this would take a while.

 distance (km)altitude (m)climbing (m)
Davos Dorf131560 
Klosters Platz23121030
Saas im Prättigau32990 
Salleren (Obstalden)97420 
Rüti (Bilten)108420 
Allmeind (Bilten)111420 
Bendlikon (Kilchberg)155410 
Oberer Mönchhof (Kilchberg) 15645040
total156 300

PS / 13.7.1999