Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Malga Mezzomiglio

This is about the toughest climb I've ever done. It's just as hard as Monte Dolada (Rifugio Dolomieu) but I struggled more on that one because of the heat. It was actually cold in August today, so heat wasn't a problem.

I started with the easy climb from Vittorio Veneto to Fadalto (487m). It was cold for the first half of the climb because temps were down in the low teens and the shadow of Monte Pizzoc kept the sunshine away.

After skirting the east shore of Lago Santa Croce to Farra d'Alpago, I turned at Villaggio Riviera (450m) and began a series of 9-10% switchbacks up to Pianture (586m). Not too bad. Then you hit a 300-meter long wall averaging 16%, with sections of 18%. I rode this standing, and worked on my breathing. Took awhile but I figured out my diaphragm alone wasn't inhaling enough air. So I began each inhalation with a sharp uplift of my intercostals. That did the trick. I practiced it for the rest of the climb and never ran out of oxygen.

After the 16% stretch, there's a brief 6% false flat, and then a long 2.5 km stretch of 12-15%. This was the hardest part- no relief from the steepness. After another short 6.7% false flat, another 2 km of 8-11%. Then you break out of the dense fir forest and ride an easier 7-8% through the alpine meadows to the end of pavement at Malga Mezzomonte (1279m). Beautiful views of the Dolomiti in Veneto, and the Alpago bowl-shaped valley. From up here Lago San Croce was hidden by the slope, but I did see it through the huge fir trees on the ascent- very pretty!

Fun descent- though I held the brakes pretty tight on the 16% into Pianture. Will definitely ride this again.

Sea of dolomiti peaks 

Yet more dolomiti peaks

Monte Dolada

Beautiful Alpago valley & villages

The conca (basin) of Alpago

Newly-shorn sheep cuddling to avoid the cold

Pond with reeds in the alpine meadow

The gradient averages 9.6%  from km 17 to km 26

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Monte Coglians (Rifugio Tolazzi)

I woke up at 0400 and drove away at 0700.  It was nice and cool out.  I parked at Comeglians and headed up the beautiful twisty road along Degano river gorge toward Forni Avoltri.  The gorge is covered in very big fir trees, so it's shady and damp, with white water frothing below.  Flanking the gorge are mountains covered in trees, or pastures, or exposed faces of dolomite rock.  Pretty villages perch on the steep slopes here and there.

The climb lessens a bit at Rigolato, so if you want a flatter warm-up, this might be a better starting point.  The gorge widens out under open sky, though still walled-in by mountains on both sides.  There's a kilometer-long tunnel, wide and well-lit, then you arrive at Forni Avoltri.  Take a right at the sign for Collina.

Here the first and longest steep stretch begins- 1.5 km of 9-12%.  In keeping with my new plan, I stood and climbed it.  Felt good, though it seems kind of jaunty, like I'm going "Look at how I bounce up and down!"  I'll get used to it, I guess.

The road flattens a bit and crosses a lovely stone arch bridge over Rio Frassenetto.   You continue up an easy slope through 4 little villages, with beautiful wooden balconies covered in flowers.  The last village, Collina has some confusing signage, and everyone seemed baffled.  It was even mentioned in the guidebook, but I still got it wrong.   I rode up a very steep drive and met a hiker who told me how to go.  After a short descent I climbed standing up the steep grade to Rifugio Tolazzi, at the end of the paved road.  Looming above is Monte Coglians, on the Austrian border, at 2780 meters the highest peak in the Carnic Alps.  I noticed the hiking trail was paved in cement  the first 200-300 meters, so I rode that up to 1416 meters.  It averaged 20% with points of 24%, but thankfully it was short.

When I descended from the cement road, I encountered a fellow on a mountain bike I had passed way back at Rigolato.  He had a big smile when he saw me, I imagine because he was laughing that a bonehead on a road bike would try climbing this wall.

The descent was relaxing- I stopped frequently to admire the waterfalls, mountains, valleys etc.   Later after Rigolato, the curvy descent down the gorge to Comeglians was wonderful.  Great ride!

Church above Rigolato with Angel Gabriel windvane

Monte Coglians, 2780m on Austrian border

Monte Capolago (just west of Monte Coglians)

Monte Crostis above forested valley

Monte Pièros and peaks along Veneto border

Tumbling mountain stream under stone arch bridge

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pala Barzana - Collalto 2

After 25 days, the parts arrived in the mail and I finished rebuilding the rear wheel last night.  I didn't want to wait till morning to try it, so at 9 PM I put on my bike shoes (no socks) and in my running shorts, rode up and down the main drag a couple times to try all the gears, the brakes, etc.  Worked like a charm.  Making it even nicer, the full moon was orange as it rose above the colline.

This morning I set out for the mountains to do a proper test.  I rode through Poffabro and up the easy climb to Pala Barzana (842 meters).  Then I headed down to Lago di Barcis, and up to Piancavallo (actually Collalto-1374 meters).  I had gotten a late start and it was quite hot and sunny on the ascent.  I also had brought only water instead of tea with honey and lite salt for electrolytes, which was a mistake (now I have a hangover).  Luckily above 1000 meters it clouded up and cooled off.  I was actually good and cold on the descent which felt great, but it was hot again down below.   The descent was an excellent opportunity to try out the wheel, and it performed flawlessly at +70 kph, lots of fast sweeping curves, hard braking, etc.  Couldn't be happier with it.

Below, the huge pit in the non-drive side cone.  The bearings must've felt like they were going through a crater when they rolled over that.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Rifugio Bornass 2

This is another local test of strength- it starts 5 km from my house at Costa, on Via Pedemontane and immediately slants upward.  The first 1.3 km to Santuario Madonna del Monte average 12.5%, with stretches of 15%+.  After that it's quite easy, averaging 5.4% for the remaining 8 km to Rifugio Bornass.

My approach with 39x26 gear was to stand for the whole first 1.3km, grinding out semi-circles on the steeper sections.  After the santuario, I sat and enjoyed a quiet easy climb through the  woods on the mountainside.  I did stand for the u-turns at the ends of the tornanti, which are perversely steeper than the traverses in-between, in contravention of normal practice.  This easy climb finishes at 767 meters.

The descent is wonderful- freshly paved and widened, full of banked tornanti, chicanes, and long steep ramps.  You end up at Pedemonte by Aviano.  Then another 200 meters of total climbing home.  I had to hurry because Silvano came back yesterday and I promised to take him to the supermercato this morning.  On the way home he told me about catching granchi with our neighbor Toni (who stays in Lido) on the diga (I'm guessing he means the MOSE project).  Must be fun, and they sound delicious.  


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mezzomonte 2

Mezzomonte is a popular local lung-scorcher.  Very convenient access right off of Via Pedemontane by Polcenigo.  The road is excellent- smooth with lovely curves.  Nice view too. And not too long- if you bonk, you can easily turn around and roll back down the hill.

I warmed up on the three rollers from my house to Polcenigo.  Then I turned right at Coltura and headed up.  I climbed alternating between sitting and standing in the pedals.  Never got sore this way, and got a good balance between lower back/glutes, quads, abs and lungs.  It's good to switch bikes (or at least gear clusters) sometimes because it breaks you out of habits.  The compact gearing on the Merckx had me spoiled- I was always tweedling in low gear up climbs unless my back started hurting.  I'll try to remember to change up more from now on- it feels better.

The climb averages 9% for the first 4 km, with some good stretches of 12% (says the book, but my Garmin says 16%).  Pushing 39x26 I had to concentrate on my breathing, which is something I'm working on.  I don't know if it's the medicine I'm on for the tumor which can have a side-effect of causing pulmonary fibrosis (as well as fibrotic heart valves) but I really struggle to breathe when climbing.  Could just be old age or adolescent smoking coming back to haunt me, who knows.  Anyway I must really concentrate on breathing deeply from my diaphragm and working the intercostals as well.

The town itself is very quiet.  Some old geezers were hanging out in front of the bar, maybe having the first ombra of the day (at 10 AM?)  I went to the end of pavement for the first time, where a dirt road heads down toward Dardago.  I couldn't find the dirt road up to Piancavallo.  When I fix up my mountain bike I'll try these.

The descent is great with all the curves and the smooth pavement.  The total climbing home on Via Pedemontane is about 300m.  Though the grade is milder, it's longer and more trafficked.  Very nice when you reach our town though as it's slightly downhill- a great cool down.

The gradient up Mezzomonte, then down and home

Monday, August 23, 2010

Colline di Sequals

Headed down the gentle grade through Campagna to Arba, then across Fiume Meduna to Sequals.   Between Sequals and Solimbergo, there's a line of hills which stretches all the way to Torrente Cosa near Travesio.  Luckily they've built a curvy road through the forest over the ridge.  The morning light peeking through the leaves was very pretty.  At the top is a short tunnel, then down the other side.

The next part, from Solimbergo to Meduno, is open fields, almost flat but tilted upward a bit.  Meduno is on a hill, so you can see it far away.  My neighbor Silvano calls this type of road la strada che non finisce mai, because you keep pedaling and pedaling but you never seem to get closer to your destination.

I saw a guy riding way up ahead but he must have been going equal or faster than me.
Right before Meduno the road dips down to a stream crossing and as I was climbing back out, I passed the guy, who had got off his bike and was eating wild grapes from a thicket by the road.   I guess if I was starving and had a long way to go I might eat them, but I think these might be a little rough on your digestive tract if you're exerting yourself hard.  Maybe I'll try it one day.

After Meduno it's back across the Meduna, through Cavasso Nuovo and Fanna to Maniago.  It was market day so Maniago was very crowded.  Very nice in the summer months when the young ladies aren't all bundled up.  After Ponte Ravedis, I climbed out of the Cellina gorge and cruised down the hill home.  54 km, with several little short climbs- a nice ride.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Castello di Caneva

We took a long walk with the dogs last night and got home about 10 PM.  We circled the little line of hills which separates our town from the plain- the area below the hills is unpopulated and very peaceful.  Marilyn got to see the Asini Club paddock, where people bring their pet asini to enjoy the hills and fields and nature.  Through the trees we spotted a lovely white asino and a slightly smaller light brown one.  Honey and Teddi, our dogs, stood on their back legs trying to get a peek.

So this morning I woke feeling a bit lazy, and after watching Road to Bali finally headed out on the bike.  Many bikers riding today- even more so between the CRO and Budoia, where a race of time trialists or triathletes was zooming down the hill.  Not sure what kind of a time trial it was though because people where drafting on one another.

At Caneva I turned right, and after 100 meters, turned right again, onto the road for the castello.  I was able to stay seated for the first stretch of climbing, but after a short flat it turned up again and I stood.  A guy zoomed by me seated.  The next flat and slight descent I caught up with him again and coasted so as not to appear to be trying to race.  However he screwed up his shift as the road headed up, and I stupidly hesitated and wasted all my momentum while he kept trying to shift.  Better to simply ride and not worry.  So I stood and climbed the next slope and he eventually caught up at the top (at the turn off for Il Cansiglio).  He stopped there and I headed down toward Sarone.

After the descent I headed on Via Pedemontane toward home.  A guy on a Pinarello with aluminum front triangle and carbon rear triangle, whom I'd passed earlier climbing up il castello, rolled past.  I was feeling tired so I jumped on his wheel.  I think Clint had this model of Pinarello- Paris, maybe?  Anyway, he cruised to the turn off at Polcenigo, then I was on my own.  Just below Giais I caught up with another guy on a Pinarello.  I was even more tired now and coasted home.  All this catching up with people is pointless of course, but I think it builds up muscles better than just riding at the same speed all the time.  And with 3 weeks of lethargy to overcome, I need to use every trick I can think of.

The gradient from Caneva to the castello, and along Via Pedemontane to home

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Osservatorio Astronomico Montereale Valcellina 2

I warmed up for the climb with a ride through Montereale, down to Ponte Ravedis, up to Maniago Libero, then across the new bridge to Montereale.  I thought this might be a better warm up for the climb than the flat ride from Malnisio to SR251 to Grizzo.  Any exercise physiologists out there?  Is a flat ride in a big gear at the same power level just as good a warm up for a hard ascent as warming up by climbing?  It seems like it would be, yet I always feel better starting an ascent after some moderate climbing.  Could just be in my head.

The climb starts not too steeply up to Motel Spia, then the road steepens and encircles Monte Spia, then passes above the Cellina gorge.  It's a mix of nice shady stretches and sun-exposed sections.   It was nice and cool because I left before 0900 but by the time I reached end of pavement at 683 meters I was panting and drenched in sweat.

On the steepest bits I stood to climb, but managed to stay seated most of the time.  The descent was fun, though I almost ran over a guy with a butterfly-net.  Butterflies were everywhere (black or dark brown).  Also a very large circling eagle.

The grade from Grizzo to the osservatorio:

Friday, August 20, 2010

Val d'Artugna 2

Noticed it's been 3 weeks since I've done any real climbing, and wondered, when the parts arrive if I'll be able to head for the mountains right away.  So I'm trying to do some of the local smaller climbs for practice.

Today I headed down past Castello d'Aviano to the junction and turned on the road to Budoia.  After the passaggio a livello I headed upslope to Dardago, then followed the road up Val d'Artugna.  The lower part of the climb until the restaurant Il Rifugio is wide and mostly exposed to sun.  Very humid today, and with the heat of exertion, sweat was pouring into my eyes.  After  a later restaurant, Il Chalet, there is a barrier (not locked) and the road becomes narrow and cloaked in shade.

I was curious how well I'd climb this in 39 x 26, which is bigger than my normal low gear.  It wasn't bad, but I did have to stand for maybe a kilometer from the parco up to Il Rifugio.  After that I settled down and climbed seated to 571 meters where the pavement ends.

The Trek rode great coming down through the switchbacks near the top- very stable.  On the long steep straight stretch between Il Rifugio and the parco I spun out the 52 x 12 top gear.  For some reason I remembered the Trek had the wobbles at speed, but no, it was rock steady with hands off the bars.  Maybe it was me wobbling long ago and I blamed the bike?

The climb from the CRO back to my house is another couple of hundred meters, with some rolling bits adding to the total ascent.  Felt great though.

Now I need to keep this up till the other bike is ready.  A few other nearby climbs I can try in coming days are:
Osservatorio astronomico Montereale
Rifugio bornass

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tesis - Maniago

Still waiting on parts.  Day before yesterday I scrubbed the Merckx from stem to stern.  Yesterday I lubed everything, reinstalled derailleur pulleys (don't forget the loc-tite, you can't tighten the bolts), drove the rear brake lever quick-release pin back into place (Campy says to use a brass punch, but I used a piece of wood).  Somehow I pushed that pin halfway out a few months ago and have been riding with no QR ability ever since. You can still spread the pads with the adjustment screw- just a little slower.

My neighbor Silvano, who used to cycle in the mountains, came over and sympathized about my wait for parts.  He thought the Trek with 96 Chorus was a nice spare bike.  Then he took off for the bus stop, caught the bus to the station in Pordenone and caught a train for Venice.  I have neighbors in their mid-70s, with heart conditions etc but they never want a ride.  You can talk them into it, but they are used to walking to the fermata and using mass transit.  They definitely set a good example.

Today is overcast and coolish, but humid.  I rode to Vivaro (didn't turn too early this time) down the long straight stretch from Vajont through Dandolo.  This is the longest, straightest rode around here, mostly deserted, with a big paratrooper landing area on one side.  The Airborne folks from Vicenza jump out of C-130s here.

At Vivaro I turned east briefly, then north toward Tesis.  A large family appeared to be taking their annual holiday bike ride on the road north of Tesis- nice seeing so many folks on bikes.  This road from Tesis to Maniago is a slight upgrade, just as the road to Vivaro was slightly downhill.  So it balances out.  Along this road there is a lovely family of asini who share their field with some goats and geese.  At Maniago I turned west and headed home.

Now I'm getting ready to go check the mail.  Fingers crossed.

Update- the freehub cartridge bearing arrived.  I tapped out the old one with a 6 inch spike, then installed the new one with a 19mm socket and a hammer (don't have a bearing press).
Now all I need is one cone and 2 retainers with ball bearings.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Faster than a speeding temporale

It was partly sunny this morning so I headed out towards Vivaro, intending to return via i magredi and San Foca.  Before I knew it, I had turned at Malnisio and was heading toward San Leonardo instead.  So much for living intentionally.

After San Leonardo I rode to San Foca and turned toward Vivaro, thinking I would do the route antiorario.  As I was leaving town, I encountered a man on a city bike chasing a dog.  The dog had gotten loose and was escaping.  The man kept calling but the dog was having fun- "Oh, we're playing fox and hounds!"  Finally he got in front of it, but instead of stopping, it turned to head back in the opposite direction, toward me.  It's not a busy road but the cars go fast so I tried to help so the dog wouldn't get run over.  I hopped off my bike and kind of used it like a barricade to steer the dog away from the road.  The man caught up with it in an irrigation ditch.  Aww, happy ending.

Now I looked at the sky toward Vivaro and it was black as coal.  It looked like one of those midwestern skies in a movie right before twisters start tossing trucks and mobile homes.  And it was headed my way.  I looked back at my house and it was still sunny.  Change to the change, I turned around and took the back road from San Foca to San Leonardo.  It's a farm road with no cars, and several long stretches of galleria verde where the trees have grown across the road.  Very cool on a sunny day, and helps block the wind when a storm is bearing down on you.

From San Leonardo to Malnisio the road is exposed and windy, with occasional splashes of wind-blown rain from the big storm to the northeast.  The Trek rode great, and seemed as eager to get home before the storm as I was.  At Malnisio I turned toward home and stood to accelerate.  I noticed a bit of chainring rub, which I don't get with the Merckx.  I don't know if it's the alloy cranks instead of carbon or the skinny aluminum bottom bracket area instead of the beefed up on one the Merckx.

I got home in the knick of time and got the clothes in off the line, wound in the tende di sole, and battened down the storm windows.  Just as the storm hit.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

On the Trek to Sarone and back

A break in the rain today so I headed out on the Trek.  I must say, the more I ride it, the more I like it.  I don't have any complaints about the frame- it has a little more buzz over small bumps that the Merckx smoothes out, but other than that and a bit more weight, it's fine.  It even has some extras, like front and rear rack mounting eyelets.  Maybe I'll set it up with panniers as a grocery-getter or take it on an overnight camping trip.

The components have a few problems.  8 speed Chorus is definitely clunkier and requires more effort to shift.  The chain drops off when shifting to small ring if you're not careful, but I have a spare Deda Fang that might fit- it should solve the problem.  And I miss the extra gears.  I would probably change to a compact if I was going to use it often.

The brakes are excellent- it even has the dual-pivot rear brake which is now being offered as an option on Campy 11 speeds.  Too easily locked up IMO, but maybe it would be great for a heavier rider.

Don't care for the skinny handlebar- much prefer the comfy fat Deda Big Piega on the Merckx.

The seat is a Selle San Marco Rolls- very comfortable.  I like the extra positions it allows you on the flats and descending- it's rounded off so easy to slide down the side in fast tight curves.  But it lacks a definite backstop to push against when climbing, and is quite heavy.

As for the wheels, the front is the original Campy Montreal from 1995.  Other than being trued and the hub re-greased a few times, it's untouched.  The rear has the original Chorus hub, but I replaced the rim with a Mavic Open 4CD and DT Swiss double-butted spokes a few years back.  Very nice wheel.

Anyway, I rode down the mountain highway to the turn off for Sarone, instead turned left toward Polcenigo, and went home the back way through Santa Lucia.  Very nice ride, lots of other people out riding on Ferragosto eve.

Friday, August 13, 2010

2010 Goals (Part II)

Still waiting on bearings to come in mail. It's raining so the Trek is parked. So here are some rides I'd like to finish before Summer and Fall end and the snow gets too deep...

Comeglians - Forni Avoltri - Rifugio Tolazzi (1350m) 28 Aug 10
 Passo della Mauria (1298m) - Laggio di Cadore - Sella di Razzo (1802 m) - Passa del Pura (1428m) 4 Sep 10
Enemonzo - Pani di Raveo (1030m)
Villa Santina - Val di Lauco (1180m)
Caneva (Tolmezzo) - Fusea-Fuessa (1012m)
Paluzza - Castella Valdajer (1340m) 11 Sep 10

Lozzo di Cadore - Rifugio Marmarole (1786m) (can't descend till 1400 before 31 August)
Palus San Marco (or maybe Misurina) - Tre Cime di Lavaredo (2320m)
San Pietro di Cadore - Forcella Zovvo (1600m)

Farra d'Alpago - Malga Mezzomiglio (1270m) 31 Aug 10
Cadola - Nevegal-Mt. Faverghera (1401m) 29 Sep 10
Vittorio Veneto - San Lorenzo (417m) 14 Sep 10
Longhere - Pian dei Grassi (1200m) 19 Sep 10
Revine - Pian delle Femene (1126m) 14 Sep 10
Valdobbiadene - Rifugio Mariech (1510m) 2 Oct 10

Where to begin? My neighbor Silvano says I've been in riposa too long and now I need to work my way back into form, or I'll keel over dead. Sounds like a plan.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Trek 1220

A week without riding in August- che vergogna! First I was ordered to paint a bedroom, then it started raining everyday, then I decided to go ahead and replace the Merckx rear rim. Though now the wheel is all laced, trued and tensioned, it's still awaiting new bearings and a cone. I disassembled the hub and checked it out- a couple of bad pits in one cone. The pressed-in caps and other cone looked good, but I decided to replace the bearings while I'm at it. Then I noticed the freehub grinding- has a shot outboard cartridge bearing. Once this stuff arrives I should be able to throw it together in no time and be back on the road.

In the meantime, today was too pretty to stay home so I hauled my spare bike out of the attic, a 1990's Trek 1220. I haven't ridden this bike much, but it was very important to getting me healthy again a few years ago. In 2003 I had lost my 1996 Pinarello Dyna Lite in an encounter with an unexpected Men at Work sign, and was bike-less. A very kind colleague, Clint Holm, had a spare Trek 1220 since he had bought a new bike, and very graciously gave it to me. I barely rode it though.

I was feeling weaker and weaker and very blah, without any motivation. I thought I was just getting old. After retirement in 2005, my wife finally insisted I see a doctor. I was very fortunate because Dr Tracee Ray took the matter seriously and knew which tests could narrow it down. Then an MRI confirmed it- I had a 3 cm mass at the base of my brain. My new doc, Dr Michael Kenney put me on some drugs to reduce the size and control the tumor. These made me feel even worse for about a year, but finally I became habituated to the side effects and started improving in 2007.

Now that I was feeling less blah I needed to do something about the weakness. I got out the old Trek Clint had given me and took it for a spin around the block. I was tired and couldn't go any further, but it was fun and I wanted to ride more. So I started taking little flat rides to Malnisio and San Leonardo etc. I gradually increased distance and even was even able to struggle up some small hills. Clint's gift of a bike had been a godsend- it was reviving my former fitness which was lost to the tumor.

Eventually in late 2007 I bought a used Merckx bike and installed easier gears for climbing. I've been steadily increasing my mileage, difficulty of climbs, etc. Hope to keep it up!

Back to the present- I took the old Trek on a short ride from Poffabro to Meduno . Very pretty weather today- not as hot as most Augusts. Water is still flowing through the rapids of Bus di Colvera and in Torrente Muiè thanks to our daily afternoon showers.

The 39-26 gear wasn't too bad for the short stretches of 10% up to the tunnel and climbing out of Meduno gorge. Still glad I've got compact gearing on the Merckx though. I'll probably take several rides on this bike before the parts arrive and my other bike is ready. I'll try to post a pic when it's done.