Monday, May 31, 2010

Monte Valinis da Campone

Another mountain goat climb- the first 2.5 km averages 10%, with bits of 16%. To complicate matters, the road has much loose stone, fallen branches, and had rained the day before, so loss of traction was continuous. Great training because the feedback is instantaneous- you either correct your position or you fall.

I climbed most of this standing- it seems easier as long as I remember to pull back on the bars parallel to the slope. It really didn't seem too bad. At 660 meters you join the road coming up from Meduno (see Monte Valinis ). This road is a steady 9-10%, and climbs up through the forest to 900 meters. Then there is a cattle gate so you must dismount. Shortly after, the road turns to rough gravel and stone so you wobble along trying to avoid the bigger rocks and trying to maintain traction. Soon you are in a hilltop pasture with cows, and further still the stoney road ends at 990 meters. There is a wooden ramp here where paragliders leap off into the abyss. But not today- the windsocks were all horizontal, with gusts at the summit so strong I had to get low on the ground to avoid being blown away.

I decided not to don my windjacket up here for fear it would get blown to Treviso while trying to put an arm through a sleeve. So I wobbled down the gravel road to the cattle gate, and put it on there. I went pretty slowly downhill, except for the occasional stretch with a long view ahead. At Meduno I joined the main road and headed home. The wind was quite strong so the usually easy ride was a struggle.

Elevation of the climb

Map of the climb

Friday, May 28, 2010

Avasinis - Cuel di Forchia

This climb was included in stage 18 of the 2006 Giro d'Italia. It starts in Avasinis, a frazione of Trasaghis near Lago Cavazzo. The approach is very flat and easy, making all the more startling the sudden tilt upward to 14% for the first 400 meters of tornantini. I stood to climb this section, and was glad I did. After 400 meters the climb eases to a mere 11% briefly, then ramps to 16% for a few hundred more meters.

The next stretch through beautiful forest averages around 8-9% for several kilometers. It's very shady and quiet. But my revery was soon interrupted by another 250 meter ramp of 18%. The pavement was damp from the clouds, and every 50 meters or so smooth metal rain channels cross the road, so traction was a problem. But I finally made it to the lovely open area at the top of the climb. It was cloudy so views of surrounding mountains and Lago di Cavazzo were obscured, but it was still beautiful. The road then drops down about 50 meters and climbs to the actual pass, Cuel di Forchia, which separates Monte Cuar from Monte Covria.

From here the road hugs the side of a ridge until finally reaching Val Tochel. Here is a crossroads- the right descends to Val d'Arzino, the left descends to Monte Prat and Forgaria (the 2006 Giro stage route). I rested here awhile and enjoyed the singing birds, frogs, etc (there is a little marsh with cattails up here at 900 meters). Peaceful spot.

Mountains to north

Looking back at the pass: Monte Cuar on the left, Monte Covria on the right

Murale for Giro on tornanti above Forgaria

Nice bike

More of the murale

Map of the climb

The gradient

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Monte Prat - Orton - Campone

This ride is a chain of climbs I've done before, but never all in the the same day. Together they include 1666 meters of climbing in a 40 km stretch. It was quite overcast and threatened to rain, so I didn't take the camera. Luckily I made it home without getting soaked.

The first, Monte Prat, is a long moderate climb with beautiful views of Fiume Tagliamento, Monte Ragogna, San Daniele, Monte Chiampon (see pictures here ). It starts with a series of steep tornanti from Val d'Arzino up to Forgaria. After Forgaria there's a steep climb out, then continues less-steeply to San Rocco. After San Rocco it steepens again and climbs a series of tornanti to Monte Prat, a lovely rolling meadow. Here the narrow road enters a pretty forest, with an easy climb up to Val Tochel, 894 meters. I took a break here, enjoyed the view of the meadow and the east peak of Monte Cuar looming overhead. Then down the long descent through pine-covered mountain slopes to Val d'Arzino (350 meters).

Here the second climb starts, my favorite section of the ride. The road from Pielungo to Orton (699 meters) is cloaked in a dense canopy of beech trees, so thick I had to take off my sunglasses to see. It is silent except for birds singing and falling water. The climb continues until Forno, where it descends briefly through meadows with sheep and cows, then the road points upward again. At Orton I headed down through the beech forest to Gerchia (Pradis di Sotto) at 535 meters.

Here begins a very moderate climb to Piani di Clauzetto (675 meters). The first stretch passes through beautiful karst formations near Grotto Verde. Then a long straight road to the little pass. Then the lovely descent along Torrente Chiarzò to Campone and on to Lago di Tramonti (nice pics here ).

Elevation Monte Prat, Orton, Piani di Clauzetto

Climb from Forgaria to Monte Prat

Climb from Val d'Arzino to Orton

From Gerchia to I Piani di Clauzetto and Campone

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sella Chianzutan (from Tolmezzo)

Sella Chianzutan is the first climb of today's Giro d'Italia stage. I'd recently ridden up the Sella from San Francesco ( ), so I thought I'd try the opposite side, from Tolmezzo. It's the harder of the 2 approaches, so a better workout, plus the prospect of crowds of bikes, motorcycles, and cars going up and down the narrow road on the San Franceso-side scared the hell out of me.

After a long flat warm up, I rode the rolling hills from Valeriano, Pinzano to Flagonia. Here I turned away from the Giro route, and followed the Strada di Bottecchia along the Fiume Tagliamento, past the cliffs of the grifoni sanctuary at Lago Cornino, to Lago Cavazzo . Then northwest to the Tolmezzo bridge, and the start of the climb.

I was pleasantly surprised- there was hardly any traffic on this route up the climb. I saw numerous bikes zooming down the hill, but I passed only 4 0r 5 bikes headed uphill. There were a few canyon-racer motorcyclists, and a few cars. Very peaceful. The climb itself is excellent- smooth pavement, steady 7-9% grade, immersed in forest.

At the top there was a nice crowd of a few hundred, mainly picnic-ing, very laid back folks. I found a nice spot on a grassy knoll and kicked back waiting for the peleton. After awhile the breakaway arrived, 6 guys led by Pineau (Quickstep) and Sijmens (Cofidis). About 9 minutes later the bunch arrived, headed up by Liquigas and Ivan Basso, closely followed by the maglia rosa, David Arroyo Duran (Caisse d'Arpagne). The only other guy I recognize in the pictures I shot is Italian national champion Filippo Pozzato (Katusha).

After they passed, I decided to hurry home, as the skies were threatening. Quite hectic descending with all the bikes, motorcycles, cars, hikers, etc. After the road leveled out and widened a bit things calmed down. Then it was an easy cruise home, aided by a tailwind.

When I arrived panting and sweating in the cortile, my sweet neighbor Nerina told me "i corridori arrivano a Zoncolan!" and invited me in to watch. It was fantastic seeing Ivan Basso's victory, followed by Cadel Evans and Michele Scarponi. What a wonderful day for Friuli and ciclismo.

The top of the climb

Sheep and asini grazing at the meadowy summit

Beautiful wildflowers cover the meadows

Pineau (Quickstep) and Sijmens (Cofidis) in the breakaway

Helicopter emerging from behind a hollock in the meadow

Ivan Basso (Liquigas) and David Arroyo Duran (Caisse d'Arpagne)

Italian national champion Filippo Pozzato (left)

The route, from upper right to lower left

Profile of Giro stage 15

The gradient on the climb from Tolmezzo to Sella Chianzutan

Friday, May 21, 2010


An easy climb with spectacular scenery, up the Valcellina to Claut (655 meters).

After Montereale and the 4 km tunnel I arrived at Barcis. Lago di Barcis is filled to the max- no more room for additional snowmelt or rain runoff. And the Cellina is still flowing full tilt- I've never seen it filled bank to bank before- usually it meanders through smaller channels in the wider riverbed. Very nice to hear the white water when ascending up the canyon (on the way downhill the wind noise drowns it out).

I rode through Claut, continued up the valley to Lesis and finally the end of asfalto at Pian dei Muscol. Here it was deserted- all I could hear was the river, birds singing, and the clanking of cow bells in the meadows above. There is a hiking trail from here to some fossilized dinosaur tracks, discovered by visiting school children in 1994. Speak of the devil, when I headed back I encountered a large group of schoolchildren hiking up to see the fossils.

The ride home was fast- mostly slight downhill. This was negated somewhat by a strong headwind whipping up the gorge, but wasn't too bad. Only had one gust start to blow me sideways, and I caught it quickly.

Big bend of Fiume Cellina, with Monte Pinzat in background

Upper Cellina, above Claut, with Col Nudo in background

Upper Cellina near Lesis

Upper Cellina near Lesis

Meadows at Pian dei Muscol

Snowmelt-swollen Fiume Cellina above Lago di Barcis
For more details on Valcellina

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Passo Duron - Sella Valcalda

Giro d'Italia stage 15, on Sunday, 23 May 2010 finishes with 4 climbs. The first, Sella Chianzutan ( see ) is pretty easy. The second Passo Duron, I'd never ridden before, so I tried it out today.

I started in Tolmezzo, cruised up the main road toward Austria and turned right at Cedarchis onto a beautiful gentle climb along Torrente Chiarsò up to Paularo. The valley is surrounded by gorgeous green forest, numerous waterfalls, little villages perched on the mountainsides. By the time I reached Paularo I was blissed out. A pretty blond girl walking her poodle waved and said "Bon di", I turned left onto the road for Passo Duron, and reality smacked me in the face. The grade hits 18%, and persists for half a km, averaging 13%. I stood on the pedals and ground up the slope to the cimitero. Now the grade lessens slightly, averaging 9.6% from the cimitero to the top of the pass (about 4 km). I had to stand frequently, between stretches of seated grinding.

I stopped at the top (1070 meters) to snap some pictures (and stretch my aching back). I kept hearing a screeching sound like an eagle from the nearby fir trees- maybe an eaglet in a nest crying for more food? I then headed downhill slightly to Forcella Lius. It's a beautiful meadow with cowbells clanking in the distance and panoramic views in all directions. I saw a newly-erected monument to Friulani who've emigrated around the world. Apparently it was built for the Giro stage, as it mentions the 23 Maggio 2010 date.

I continued down the hill to Ligosullo, with a lovely mural celebrating the giro. Also a church with pink ribbons radiating like spokes from the steeple down to an adjacent tornante guardrail. People are dressing the whole route up for the giro- pink decorations everywhere along the roads today, road crews paving the worst stretches, painting white edge-stripes on the roads, mowing the verges, etc.

At Paluzza I briefly rejoined the main road to Austria, then turned right at Sutrio, rode by the Zoncolan turn-off and up Sella Valcalda, the third climb of stage 15. I climbed it last Fall, but it seemed easier today- maybe all this ascending is paying off. It's very easy at first, then has a 3 km stretch of 8-12%, and tops out at Ravascletto (960 meters), a ski area. From here it's a fast curvy descent to Comeglians. Then I turned south, passed through Ovaro (which is shown in my blog header photo), past the turn off for Monte Zoncolan (which the giro will be climbing) and continued down Torrente Degano. This torrente was very full and churning with snowmelt and rain. It was chocolate milk-colored from all the pulverized dolomite, etc caught in the current. The crosswinds had picked up as well, almost blowing me off my bike at one point. Very wild ride down to Villa Santina. From there I turned east toward Tolmezzo and into the now-headwind. Good resistance training!

It was great ride, and there are numerous variations you can make, taking various side roads (you can read about the side "road" from Paularo to Pontebba here)

Torrente Chiarsò, mountains around Paularo

Rio Valle cascade in forest

From Paularo looking down Torrente Chiarsò

From Forcella Lius, looking down Val Pontaiba

Monument to Friuliani emigrants around the world,
dated 23 maggio 2010 (Giro stage 15 date), Forcella Luis

Murale a Ligosullo

Murale a Ligosullo

"Austrian" style steeple, Treppo Carnico

Ravascletto and mountains to the northwest

Torrente Degano, looking north toward Ovaro

Torrente Degano, south toward Sella Chianzutan

Ride Profile Passo Duron and Sella Valcalda

The "killer" grade coming out of Paularo

Sella Valcalda grade from Sutrio, nice climb

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Marsure - Giais

Disclosure: I didn't ride this route. My wife rode it, while I followed her walking our two dogs.

She started in Marsure 0n our lovely bikeway, which runs from Budoia to Montereale Valcellina (see ). Every time she starts to ride away the dogs go nuts & start barking, trying to keep up with her. I run as fast as I can so they can try to stay with her, but once she builds up a head of steam and pulls away, they continue pulling until I tire out and then we resume walking. My wife usually rides a half kilometer or so down the bike path, & then rides back to join us. The dogs are happy again once she comes into view. "Teddi's ears perk up when she sees Mommy from a distance." We repeat this process over and over throughout the ride.

My wife wishes to add "Mommy gives the babies orange juice water from her camelback into their little plastic cup. They think this is so fabulous.

Summer wildflowers were out, purple lupine, purple clover, & small white daisies or margarites. The grass was very tall & dense & rather boggy due to the last 2 or 3 weeks of rain. On Italian tv the weather people said this was the rainiest May since 1978. I don't know if this is true because I remember 1995 as raining every single day. We heard frogs croaking, I tried to see them but couldn't. There were ravens out in the farm dirt trying to eat something. The smell of acacia blossoms from the trees was everywhere, smelling fragrant & sweet. The bees go to the blossoms, eat the nectar & make delicious Italian honey."

The bike path is quite popular. Today there was also a large group having a picnic, followed by a pick-up soccer match by San Biaggio, a very old church in the middle of nowhere. I've read that our town used to be near this church, but to avoid foreign invaders, the town was moved over the hill to its present location.

We continued past the centrale, which is a disused hundred-year old hydropower plant. A couple of 3-meter diameter rusty, riveted aqueduct pipes cross above the path, which decades ago carried pressurized water from the dam high above at Lago di Barcis. Apparently none of the electricity was used in our little town- it was all sent to Venice.

After returning to Marsure, my wife and dogs hopped in the car to drive home, and I rode the bike the back way up the hill. It's only a 50 meter climb, and they've recently paved the backroad, so it's quite easy. We do this ride often on Sunday afternoons when it's not raining.

A little park that someone built by his vegetable garden, by the bike path

My wife riding away, (dogs going nuts not visible)

The map

Friday, May 14, 2010

Forchia Meduno

I peeped outside this morning and there were thunderclouds in all directions, except one- northeast. So I headed that way, expecting to turn around any second. I wondered where I should ride. Best case, maybe I could go to Meduno, Campone, maybe even up through Navarons to Poffabro. With that in mind, at Meduno I headed up toward Forchia Meduno (see ).

It was a beautiful climb through the forest. At 530 meters a big meadow opens up on the right, and I saw a bushy-tailed red fox bounding through the grass toward a vineyard (maybe there's truth to the fox and the grapes fable?) At 550 meters a light sprinkle began- I figured maybe it was just a little mountain shower and I continued on up slope. At 630 meters I reached the forchia and it was decision time. The rain had picked up, making the choice easy- I headed back down the same way. Because of poor visibility, braking, and road drainage I descended slowly. At Meduno I joined the main road and sped up, but the rain just kept coming down. It was a good motivator to ride fast- I put out more effort than usual on the flats.

The rain itself wasn't so bad- it's the poor drainage, causing standing water on the roads. When possible I went around the water, but often traffic didn't permit, so I rode through. Between that and the rooster tails of passing cars, I was pretty filthy with road grime by the time I got home. A nice hot soak made all right with the world again.

So I'll go back again on a clearer day soon, maybe taking the hard way up from Campone, through Forchia Piccola to Forchia Tamer.

Map of climb

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Villa di Villa - La Crosetta

I kept reading hints of a different route up Il Cansiglio: an 1037 meter climb, with moderate grade, and no traffic. After some painstaking detective work, I was hopeful I'd found it. And finally today, a chance to try it out.

As I left home on the bike, my neighbor pointed at an angry black thunderhead towering above and asked if I thought it might rain. I laughed and said it probably would, confirming her suspicions that I'm matta. I rode down Via Pedemontana to Villa di Villa, near Cordignano, expecting to turn around any second when the inevitable cloudburst broke. But it actually looked a bit brighter there in Treviso province (Veneto). So I continued up the hill toward Castello di Cordignano (see ) and hung a right at Santa Felicita (165 meters).

The road isn't too steep, but it does include a 5 km section of uninterrupted 8-10% - it's a good workout. But the nicest thing is the woods it passes through, and the solitude: for 11 km there were no cars, no other bikes, not even a hiker. The woods are familiar in the mountains round here- shady beech trees, karst rock formations, moss and ferns, singing birds. In the higher stretches there were clouds in the treetops. The solitude ends at 983 meters where the road joins the strada provinciale from Caneva to Piancansiglio. I continued on up to La Crosetta at 1134 meters. Oddly, the cloud tops were right below this elevation, and all of Piancansiglio seemed bright and sunny.

After a little rest, I rapidly descended via the main road to Sarone. Then a 25 km, 300 meter climb home. Though overcast, it wasn't raining, until I completed the climb to our little town, and then the rain began.

Castello di Caneva from the climb

Sun was out at La Crosetta

Map of climb and descent

Ride profile