Thursday, September 30, 2010

Nevegal - Monte Faverghera

After a week of rain, finally blue sky and sun have returned.  My first ride of Autumn will be from Vittorio Veneto up to Lago Santa Croce, then up to Nevegal (1050 meters) and Monte Faverghera (1435 meters).

The warm-up climb from Vittorio Veneto to Lago Sante Croce was quite chilly- the gorge between Monte Pizzoc and Monte Faverghera is like a big funnel compressing all the winds from Cadore through a narrow gap- very breezy.  The gorge is in the shadow of Monte Pizzoc as well, so no warming sun.  But a few kilometers of climbing warmed things up.  Most of the traffic uses the adjacent autostrada, so it's a peaceful little climb.  Far above to the west I could see the antennas atop Monte Faverghera, my destination.

The lake was beautiful as always with reflections of surrounding mountains and clouds.

Just after La Secca north of the lake I turned left and headed upward.  There are a couple of very short steep ramps- one hitting 20%.  After that I stopped and stripped off all my arm and leg warmers and Windtex jacket.  Found room for it all somehow in my jersey pockets.  After a flat spot at Vich the road tilts upward again until joining the strada provinciale from Ponte nelle Alpi.  Most climbing websites and guidebooks start the climb at Cadola in Ponte nelle Alpi, but I shaved a few km off the ride by going through Vich.

This is a wonderful road with good pavement, steadily upward but not too steep, bypassing the center of all the little villages.  There are plenty of curves but also 2 very long straight stretches with a steady gradient.  The landscape is a mix of pastureland and forest, with beautiful views of the bowl of Alpago and mountains above Belluno.

At Nevegal, a ski area, the road changes into a narrower climb through heavy forest.  The pavement is still good, with lots of curves and tornanti.  At 1400 meters the road ends at a casera.  I almost turned around here, but noticed a "paved" path up toward the  Giardino Botanico di Monte Faverghera, a 60,000 hectare reserve.  The path up from the casera is chunks of rock embedded in concrete, with a 20% grade.  I got a running start and cruised up this, trying to avoid the pointier rocks.  When it turned into a dirt road I stopped and hiked up to a a high spot on the cliff above Lago Sante Croce, 1000 meters below.  Watched an eagle hundreds of meters below circling around the cliff face.

After rolling down the rock path with brakes squeezed tight, I started the descent.  I startled a deer eating on the verge, who scampered up slope into the forest.  Then down down down, round one curve after another.  On one long straight stretch I heard a loud clicking so stopped. The speedometer magnet had slipped down its double butted spoke onto the narrow middle, and rotated, striking the pickup sensor.  While I was tightening it a guy climbing the opposite direction offered help "Ha un guasto?"  Nice to know there are people willing to help if anything goes wrong out in the middle of nowhere.

Finally this descent ended at the lake shore.  After a flat bit, and a short climb up Sella Fadalto, the fast easy descent down to Vittorio Veneto, with more swooping curves.

I drove home and my neighbor's firewood delivery had arrived, so helped with the stacking.  Then we had caffe' and gelato.  It was a wonderful day.

Dolomiti above Belluno

Tre Cime di Lavaredo

Lago Santa Croce with cloud reflection

Malga Mezzomiglio

Tambre with Monte Cavallo in background

Monte Pizzoc above Fadalto

The rocks-in-concrete 20% path to 1435 meters

One way to keep outsiders away- name your village Pus

Cugnan with Monte Dolada in background

Map of the climb



Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Barcis - Col Alto

Did a bit of work on the bike yesterday.  Took the tire off rear rim because it had a hole in the sidewall and the tube was beginning to extrude through it, so I booted it with a piece of tough plastic wrapper.  Also the new rim had a burr where the rock at Passo Pura struck it.  So I sanded that flat.  Also replaced plastic cleat on left shoe- it was getting pretty sloppy, clicking and clacking and squeaking.  For some reason my cleats don't wear the same on right and left shoes.

Today was absolutely gorgeous- no haze and not even a cloud over the mountains.  That is rare here.  But I couldn't ride this morning because I had some repairs around the house I promised to make.  Afterwards though I hit  the road.

I had to be home in 3 hours to feed the dogs, so I decided to ride up through the tunnel to Barcis, then around to the back of the lake and head up the road to Piancavallo (Col Alto actually).

The climb was beautiful- the gorge is covered in trees still full of green leaves and needles.  The sound of the torrente was very soothing.  A small deer ran across in front of me and down the slope.  The grade wasn't too bad, constantly varying between 7-13%, with elevation gain of 990 meters.

At Piancavallo I headed up to Col Alto, which has a beautiful alpine road down to Caldastia.   The views through the clear air were lovely, all the way to Slovenia.  At Caldastia I joined the main road, descending for miles on smooth pavement, exhilarating tornanti.

The remaining kilometers up the Via Pedemontane to home revealeded how tired my legs and back were.  I think they're still sore from Pian dei Grassi on Sunday.  But I still made it home in under 3 hours, so can't complain.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Pian dei Grassi

La settimana della pioggia has finally ended and everyone was out riding today.  Hundreds.  Favorites were a little girl on a tiny bike riding next to her father- she was wobbling a little but doing great.  What a joyous feeling as a child....  Another was an infant taking a nap on father's shoulder as he pedaled along the bike lane.  Cute.

I felt a little rusty and stiff at first but soldiered on.  I rode past a fellow at an intersection and he soon passed me and rode away on a 5% climb on Via Pedemontane.  I felt like I had no strength.  Later I passed him when he had stopped, then he caught up again and asked where I was going.  I told him above Vittorio Veneto, and he asked if I was taking the strada bassa o alta.  I laughed and said bassa.  No way I can ride up over Il Cansiglio (1118m) and then do the climb toward Col Visentin.  He said ciao and turned on the road for Il Cansiglio.

After Vittorio Veneto, I turned toward Valdobbiadene.  After a few hundred meters at Longhere (188m), I turned right, immediately hitting a short 10% ramp.  After a bit more climbing I hit the steep part- half a kilometer of 14-15%.  Good practice at breathing properly while standing on the pedals.  The grade mellows out a bit to 9-11% for several km.  After a couple of tiny settlements, Olivi and Menegon (640m), the  Ediciclo guide says the paved road ends.  But since the guidebook was written, the old dirt road has been widened and paved very nicely.

I didn't know how high the pavement continued.  The end of the road is Col Visentin (1763m)- was I going that far?  I decided to play it by ear and just keep climbing as best I could.  The grade was 9-13% but the nice road surface made up for it.  The new roadway is better than the lower portion of the climb, though it's more open to the sun, so at mid-day in summer it would be hot.  Luckily (?) a big cloudbank had rolled in so sun wasn't a problem.  I passed a place called Ca' Andrea, then continued on up to Pian dei Grassi, 1200 meters, where the pavement stopped.  The average grade for those last 5km is 10.6%   If you have a mountain bike, you can continue on to the 1763 meter summit.   There was a little paved road up to Casera Sonego, but I decided not to try it.  I can always come back and try later.

The descent is great- very smooth (for the top half).  Below Menegon the road is very rough and narrow, so I was holding my brakes the whole time.

The ride home was surprisingly easy.  Like last Tuesday's ride, it felt like I had a tailwind or was going downhill.  I think maybe the climb just makes the flats seem easier.

Note that Pian dei Grassi doesn't refer to grass but fat.  I'm guessing the fertile meadows produced fat sheep and goats?

Hay stacked around pole

Longhere sunlit by a hole in the clouds

Ca' Andrea with Monte Pizzoc in background.
Not sure why the Union Jack is flying next  to il tricolore

Vittorio Veneto

The gradient

Ride details

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Padova ExpoBici

I've never been to a bike show before and I've got cabin fever because it's been raining for 4 days straight, so I decided to head to Padova for the expo.

A ton of bike companies had exhibits (see ) and there were other fun things as well.   Companies were letting folks borrow bikes  and enjoy a cyclocross course.  It was fun watching kids and grandparents alike riding the whoopty-doos around the pavilion.  Another pavilion had mountain bikes and road bikes available for test rides- this was very popular and I admired the trust they had allowing people to take these expensive bikes out of the building to cycle the fair grounds.

Still another pavilion had 3 or 4 games of bike polo going on.  Hate to get one of those mallets jammed between my front spokes- I'd be flipping.  There were demonstrations by trials bikers and half-pipe stunt riders too.  Tomorrow I believe Ivan Basso will be visiting, signing autographs, etc

I tried to take pictures of some of the beautiful frames but they are all blurry, even with flash.  So you'll just have to imagine all the beautiful Bianchi, Look, Scapin, Carrera, Guerciotti, etc curvy carbon frames.  But the bikes that really caught my eye were a row of Columbus Spirito custom frames by Bressan.  Those really stood out from the crowd.  Also a display of old woolen championship jerseys won by their namesake at the Learco Guerra exhibit.

I did manage to get a non-blurry picture of a Campagnolo Hyperon wheel, with carbon rim, spokes and hub.  It is sick light,  580 grams- how is that even possible?  Another lightweight standout was a 5 kg Kuota bike.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pian delle Femene

A gorgeous September day.  Cruised down Via Pedemontane Occidentale to Anzano and Vittorio Veneto.  Near the park in front of the municipio I headed up the road to San Lorenzo.  This is a lovely shady parkway, climbing easily up 13 tornanti to 417 meters.  The village of San Lorenzo is in a pretty meadow, surrounded by rolling forested hills.  The road continues up to a pass, then descends curvily to a junction.  I turned right, through Nogarolo and down a bad road to Revine.  I think I'll try turning left next time.

At Revine I turned left on the road toward Valdobbiadene, then took a right toward Pian delle Femene.  It soon steepened to 10% grade.  My back was still sore from Castello Valdajer on Friday, so I stood to climb most of the ascent.  At 464 meters you reach the top of the Via Crucis from Santuario Santo Franceso da Paola, which reminded me of what I'd read in Passi e Valli in Bici Prealpi Venete  :  "preceduto dai capitelli delle Via Crucis, facilemente associabili al personale "Calvario" di chi sale con una pendenza che non scende mai al di sotto del 10%."

The road is less shady than San Lorenzo, and climbs relentlessly except for some easing in the 180 degree curves of the tornanti.   The baseline seems to be 10%, with numerous stretches of 11-12%, and a half kilometer of 13%.  The average grade is 9.7% for 9 kilometers.

I reached the end of the paved road at Pian delle Femene (1126m), a meadowy area on the side of Monte Frascon.  There were biting black flies so I headed back down.  Took it slow on the descent because the road is generally good, but has some craters that would be bad if hit at speed.

At Revine I headed on the main road to Longhere north of Vittorio Veneto, through town and back home.  Felt great on this return leg so I'm guessing there was a tailwind, because normally I'd have been tired.

I did notice on the ride home (and the earlier ride to Vittorio Veneto) a number of Italian young ladies driving just behind or alongside me, who then passed and smiled.  I found this odd and can't figure it out.  My hunches are:
     1.  My hair is sticking out through the vents in my helmet, like a Flowbee 
     2.  My olive drab CamelBak clashes with my blue bike jersey and shorts
     3.  They have never seen a road biker who doesn't shave his legs.

Anyway, try this climb if you are looking for a good workout.  It also has great views of Il Cansiglio, Lago Revine, Vittorio Veneto, and the pass of San Lorenzo (felt strange looking down at it so far below after climbing it earlier).

Casera Togo (To Go?) at Pian delle Femene

Looking down at passo San Lorenzo

Monte Pizzoc, Il Cansiglio

Lago Revine
North part of Vittorio Veneto
Ride details

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Castello Valdajer - Forcella Duron

The clouds have all blown away and beautiful September weather has returned- breezy, cool and sunny. To celebrate, I drove up north of Tolmezzo to Cedarchis (400m). It was quite chilly in the morning, so I started out wearing Castelli legwarmers with bibshorts, and a Craft long sleeve undershirt beneath my short sleeve jersey. Felt great at first, but after 10 km I arrived in Paluzza, and the slight upgrade had made me very hot. So I peeled it all off and stuffed it in jersey pockets.

Halfway between Cedarchis and Paluzza at Arta Terme I noticed a bunch of vans, cars, etc from various cycling teams. Several AG2R La Mondiale riders were waiting by their van. Turns out the Giro del Friuli under-23 race started in Arta Terme today.  Later I read of tragedy in the race- this guy was only 19 years old-

From Paluzza I turned east and the grade steepened. After Treppo Carnico, the real climbing began. There are 11 tornanti in a row on the climb up to Ligosullo, averaging 9.5% with some stretches of 13%. This takes you up 360 meters in 4 km.

Then you reach an osteria with a nice wooden porch where people eat outside and enjoy the view. Here you turn left and head up the climb to Castello Valdajer. It is a nice shady road surrounded by tall fir trees. It climbs steadily at 10-12% for a couple of kilometers, eases up a bit and ends at the castello (1340m), a yellowish-brown large mansion maybe a couple hundred years old. It looked like an old 3-4 floor hotel you'd see in a northern Italian city, but transplanted to the middle of nowhere.

I saw a small paved road to the right that said Casera Culet. It was very steep, with pavement ending at 1500 meters. I continued on the dirt road briefly, with beautiful views toward Austria. Best part was an eagle (with white flashes on outboard underside of wings) hovering in the wind looking for prey. I've seen small kites do this quite often, but never such a large bird.

If you travel this little road, be careful of concrete drainage channels frequently crossing the pavement- they chopped off the rebar and left sharp ends protruding every which way. That would definitely take out a tire, if not a rim. I braked to a near-standstill at each one and carefully rolled across.

I returned to the castello, saw another paved road to Casera Valdajer and headed up. Very pretty road with waterfalls, tall firs, big mushrooms, and great views toward the west. The pavement ended but I continued for a couple of kilometers on the dirt road at 9-10%, till I wore out at 1540 meters.

I was very cold on the descent with the shade, wind etc but decided to bear it because there was more climbing to Forcella Duron and the undershirt is too much trouble. Next time, take armwarmers.

The ride from the osteria to Forcella Duron is lovely rolling terrain alternating between meadows and fir forest. At the forcella (1076m) the road becomes an awesome descent, freshly paved for this year's Giro stage. Really a blast. After Paularo the road hugs the side of a beautiful gorge, tempting you to take your eyes off the fast descent, all the way down to Cedarchis.

Pretty steeple in Paluzza

Monte Zoncolan, left, above Paluzza and Sutrio

Mushroom the size of a dinner plate 

Waterfall along road to Casera Valdajer

The gradient

Thursday, September 9, 2010


After 3 or 4 days of rain, today the skies suddenly cleared to the south.  The skies were still black over the mountains, so I decided to head south down through Dandolo to Vivaro, then west across the Magredi toward San Foca.

I had booted the hole in my front tire sidewall with a piece of very tough plastic food wrapper- can't tear it with your hands.  When I inflated the tube I could see the outline of the plastic piece through the tire casing, so I was worried it would thump every rotation.  But I couldn't feel a thing today.  Just in case, I bought a couple of Michelin Krylion tires, which seem a little tougher in the sidewalls.  When the front ProRace 3 bites the dust, I'll put a Krylion on the back and rotate the rear ProRace forward.

The long, slightly-downhill glide to Vivaro felt great.  I turned west and crossed the long viaduct over the Magredi.  I could see the mountains well from here, and it looked clear up to Caldastia on Piancavallo.  So I decided instead of continuing along the plain, I would head upward.

The climb was pretty easy at first, then went to 11-12%.  I decided to climb standing as much as possible to keep in practice.  So I stood probably two-thirds of  the time.  The long stretch of 13% below Rifugio Bornass was an especially good workout- really worked on deep breathing using both intercostals and diaphragm.  The average grade from start of climb to Bornass is 9.6%.

After Bornass I continued toward Caldastia despite the menacing black clouds rolling in.  Alas at 845 meters big, fat, frigid rain drops started coming down.  I turned around and the rain picked up, like it was chasing me.  A little ways below Bornass it let up.  Had a great time on the curves and switchbacks- this is about the best paved descent around here.

At Pedemonte I turned toward home.  Predictably, as I approached Giais the rain started back up.  We live in a perpetual rainshower.

Good ride-  930 meters of climbing and 60km distance.

The gradient

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Passo Mauria- Sella Razzo- Passo di Pura

Woke at 0400 and left at 0600.  I parked at Cima Corso (830m) a few km after Ampezzo.  It was quite chilly so I wore my windtex jacket.  The first section  is rolling, up/down through a 2 km tunnel and Forni di Sopra, then a steady climb up the Tagliamento valley to Passo Mauria (1298m).

From there it's a fast curvy descent with pretty good pavement and banked tornanti so you can really fly.  You plummet through the forest to Pelos di Cadore (760m).  I'd like to climb this section someday.

The road connecting Pelos with Laggio di Cadore (940m) is surprisingly steep.  After Laggio the long climb to Sella Razzo starts.  It gradually steepens at first and then stays that way.  A fellow on a mountain bike passed me and said hi.  Then he stopped to fill  a water bottle at a fontana, and I passed him.  He caught back up and we chatted a bit.  That made the climb easier.  But he  eventually rode away to get his workout.  I think I rode faster than I would otherwise trying to catch him, which was good exercise and helped me finish quicker, but also burnt a lot of energy.  Towards the end there are a series of tornanti built directly on the cliff face.  After reaching Sella Ciampigotto (1790m), I saw the guy chatting up a waitress at the little biker bar up there.  They both waved to me.

The altopiano continues through beautiful scenery with horses, cows with bells, etc.  After Sella Razzo the road oddly continues to climb till 1803 meters at an unmarked highpoint.  Then there's another long series of tornanti drilled into the cliff face, descending to 1500m.  Afterward, you pass through forest and pastures down to Sauris at 1400m.  More lovely pasture down to Sauris di Sotto (1200m) and still more tornanti to Lago do Sauris (1000m).

I crossed the dam and entered the tunnel- low and behold they've installed lights since I rode it a few months ago.  This is good news, though I needlessly carried a half-pound bike light with me up 2300 meters of climbing.  Good resistance training.

Now commenced the last climb, up to Passo di Pura at 1428 meters.  It's a beautiful road, lovely tornanti through a dense forest of very large beech and larch trees. It is so dense you can only see the blue green water of the lake for the first switchback or so.

At the top are flowered meadows and some more cows with bells.  The big black clouds I'd been dodging all day finally caught up with me here, but only sprinkled a bit of sleet- not bad.

This descent is poorly paved- lots of loose stones on the long series of tornanti.  I slowed way down on the turns at the ends of the tornanti, but went fast when I could in the middle.  Shortly before the bottom a rock popped my rear tube.  My lovely new wheel held up well, but has a small ding where the rock struck- not a problem.  The tire too has a mark but seems fine.  I changed the tube and continued the descent, then rode a couple of km back up to Cima Corso.

This 90 km loop included 2 new climbs for me (though I've descended them before).  Also one new descent.  I tried to stand often to prevent back strain, but my lower back is sore from the 2350 meter climb.  The heated seat on the drive home helped, as did a hot bath with epsom salt.   Hopefully the weather will break sometime this week and I can make another giro.

Update:  after a couple of days I looked at my bike and noticed the front tire was flat now too.  I found the leak by putting the tube in a pan of water, then traced that spot back to the tire.  There's a hole clean through the sidewall- you can see daylight through there.  I'm going to try to boot it.  It's a Michelin Pro Race 3 I bought last December.  I need to find something with tougher sidewalls still light enough to climb with.
Alpine house below Sella Ciampigotto
Horses at Sella Razzo
Nuzzling horses

The peaks above Sella Razzo