Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Scenes from the Road: The Nordic Weekend in Andermatt, Switzerland

For the second consecutive year, I've had the opportunity to race the Nordic Weekend in Andermatt, Switzerland. It's always cool to travel to unique towns and locales. Andermatt is certainly not the exception. The tight, green valley sits below the three towering passes of the Gotthard, the Furka, and the Oberalp.  Andermatt is so geographically isolated, Switzerland built fortresses into the granite mountains to serve as its last stronghold against foreign invasion.  This kanton (county) of Switzerland identifies itself with the bull. This white steer head was definitely the coolest one I found in my short time in town.

The race series got underway with a 3.5km prologue on the military grounds of Realp. This track is the official training grounds of the Swiss biathlon team. The weatherman said it was supposed to be 50km winds with pelting rain. The breeze was in the air, though the rain thankfully didn't yet arrive with the opening stage. With these race photos, I have to give a big shout out to photographer Urs Steger for sending them my way.

The highlight of the three-races for me was the classic hillclimb on a crazy Euro country road that ran up the valley beside the Furka Pass road. Last year, I finished this race totally gassed, and satisfied with the performance. This year, I was again right on the limit, but 40 seconds closer to Dario than last year. I was stoked with my performance, and the way my body was responding to my first real sustained ski-like race of the preparation season.

The weekend finished with a punishing 8km mountain run. Heading to the early morning race start, I passed the most impressive goat devil carved in bas relief into the mountain side. My companions told me the legend of this figure comes from a Swiss herdsman making a deal with the devil to make a bridge across the brutal Reuss river. The Devil offered to build the bridge, though he insisted on the soul of the first to cross as repayment. The Herdsman fooled the devil by driving a goat from his herd across.  

This Devil's Bridge allowed people to traverse from the Milano region of Italy to the Rhine, and thus North Sea of Scandinavia. Spending more time here in Central Europe I'm slowly discovering just how important North to South routes through the Alps are, both in times of carriages and cars. 

Heading back to Davos, Bettina took me for the first time to Switzerland's one and only national park. There is snow in this neighborhood these days. Maybe winter isn't too far off. I will glide on the real thing again in just over a week, atop the Dachstein Glacier. I'm pretty sure there will be a story or two to tell then. 

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