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Il Passo di Larch
Cold? Wet? Snow? It must be June 5th.
It’s possible that it’s simply a coincidence, but the last two June 5ths in Portland, OR have been miserably cold and unseasonably wet. Exactly how it should be.
Since establishing North American Rapha roots in early 2008, we have been honoring the date of Andy Hampsten’s 1988 Giro Dolomites stage win with our own quest for a snowy climb. Last year, the late spring was really more a continuation of a long winter as our group of 20 riders suffered through driving rains and at best, 50-degree temps. Two feet of snow on the road turned us around four miles from the summit of Larch Mountain. This year the May temperatures had been well above normal, and the beginning of the week forecast said June 5th was to be 70-degrees and sunny. Thoughts of 80-mile tan lines and Lightweight Jerseys buzzed in our heads. There was even some concern that there might not be enough snow to make it a proper homage to Hampsten. But, as the group started east from the Rapha office, the cloudy skies with the beginnings of a drizzle became colder, wetter and soaking.
You know that feeling when you are going to suffer horribly, but there’s really nothing you can do about it? At the base of the 14-mile ascent of Larch Mountain, the pace of the climb helped fight the ever-colder air, but with each mile up feeling colder and wetter, we all were thinking about how bad the descent was going to be. After a hard-fought race up the mountain, we were stopped from seeing the top a half-mile from the top because of snow on the road. There was no team car, no fans with La Gazzettas to stuff down our jerseys — we were already wearing everything that we owned to keep warm on the uphill, so dropping for 14 miles was going to be rough.
Fighting the urge to “lay it down”, our stiff legs pushed big rings in search of warmth down the mountain. When we regrouped at the local store in Corbett, blue lips and purple hands searched for warm Cokes and $7 rubber work gloves. The worst had passed, but there was still 30-miles to the celebratory beers at Amnesia Brewery.
Nearer to town and closer to sea level, the weather continued to improve. Still grey, it was no longer raining and the rise of mercury was palpable. By the time we were back on Mississippi Street with a cold beer in hand it was nearly muggy.
Thanks for the weather Andy. We’ll do it again next year.