I noticed a lot of signs marking the route of the Prosecco Cycling Classic granfondo tomorrow. I was riding it in the opposite direction though- starting with gentle rolling hills until Cison, then growing steeper up and down. The grade even hits 12%, reaching a 410m high point at Combai. Here the countryside changes from a pretty valley between 2 parallel ridges, to hilly vineyards covered with prosecco vines. The road snakes around and over these, before plummeting down to Valdobbiadene. Hundreds of cyclists were streaming along the road.
The climb up to Monte Cesen starts in the piazza, which was crowded with people getting ready for the granfondo tomorrow. Cherrypickers were hanging giant green fiberglass grappoli above the street like Christmas decorations. Other workers were readying the platform and viewing stands for the presentations and ceremonies.
After working my way through this I found the little lane to the climb. The initial wall, a kilometer of 10-11%, lays down the gauntlet. For some reason I decided to do this seated; in fact I didn't stand at all till the very steep upper third of the climb. I paid with a sore back, but maybe it will make me stronger.
After the wall, the road continues for 10 km at 7% average, in a series of long tornanti varying between 5-11%. Until 750 meters the road is immersed in dense forest, then emerges into big grassy meadows with groves of smaller trees. It reminded me a bit of Shenandoah or the balds in the Smokies.
At 1076 meters you reach Pianezze, a little settlement. Now the steep upper third starts- gaining 400 meters in 4 km. I had to stand for the long stretches of 12%. The weather, until now partly cloudy and overcast, turned into a low lying cloud bank, very foggy. I could hear cow bells but could see nothing but a patch of road. Thankfully at the top there was a hole in the cloud and some sun peeped through. There is a place to eat and sleep here, Rifugio Mariech.
I donned my cold weather gear and began the descent, riding slowly due to fog. Below Pianezze the road dried a little and visibility improved. The pavement is very good, though it has a grainy surface rather than silky smooth. So I descended very rapidly for 10 km, though slowing for the 180 degree turns at the end of each tornante. I was afraid of some loose peebles putting me down.
At Valdobbiadene I turned back toward the east. The sun was a bit brighter through the haze, making the vineyards especially beautiful. I stayed on the big ring on all but the steepest climb up to Combai. My legs and back were sore but felt strong. 30 km later I reached Vittorio Veneto. One of those perfect rides that wears you out but you have fun doing it.
|Santo Stefano above Valdobbiadene|
|Meadows above Pianezze|