Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Toppo - Usago - San Foca

After a couple of rainy days, today was merely overcast and cold.  So I jumped on the bike and headed for the plains.

After a fast spin through Fanna and Cavasso Nuovo,  I crossed Fiume Meduna, emerald green and full of rain runoff, then climbed toward Meduno.  Before reaching town I turned right for Toppo.  This is a pretty road which runs through pastures between Monte Ciuarlec and colline di Sequals.  The overcast skies yielded to clear blue and sunny, and even the cold felt comfortable after hard pedaling.  At Usago, I passed through a gap in the colline di Sequals and entered a leafless wintery woodland on the way to Sequals.

After recrossing the Meduna I headed through open pastureland to Arba, and then turned south to Tesis.  Shortly after, I turned on the new road to Vivaro, across the  Magredi di Cellina to San Foca.  Here I headed north on the treelined backroad to San Leonardo.  Pssst my front tire quickly flatted.  Had a rash of these lately, both front and back.  Time to retire the front tire and move the back tire forward.

North of San Leonardo the clear skies went gray and sunless again, but no problem- I was almost home.

Monte Raut

Mountains along west side of Val Meduna

Monte Cavallo

Col Nudo in the distance, Monte Raut on right

Julian Alps along Slovene border

Julian Alps stretching southeast

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Monte Ragogna da San Rocco

Yesterday the previsione called for 20 cm of snow at 300 meters.  Luckily, the snow stayed above 400-500 meters, while at 300 meters we only got a little slush.

So today I stayed low to avoid the snow.  The temps were about 10 degrees cooler than yesterday, but it was sunny without much wind- very fine weather.  I headed over to Pinzano, crossed the Tagliamento, and climbed up to San Rocco.  Here starts the short but steep climb up Monte Ragogna.  It is an unusual mountain- it sits alone on the east bank of the Tagliamento, like a miniature Rock of Gibraltar.  In the build up to World War I, underground munitions warehouses, artillery emplacements, and fortifications were burrowed within the rocky massif.   There are numerous signs explaining historic sites throughout the area.

To the climb: after a gentle rise along the bank of the Tagliamento passing the restored castello di Ragogna, the road heads upward steeply.  I stood on everything above 10%, including a stretch of over a kilometer.  Lungs felt great- maybe the cold dry air is helping?  The road is covered by fir trees, with brief glimpses through the trees of the junction of Arzeno and Tagliamento rivers, the foothills of Castelnuovo, Monte Prat and Monte Cuar to the northwest, and San Daniele to the east.  The road was pretty clear up to 400 meters, though snow caught in the fir tree limbs was dropping snowballs on me now and then.  Higher up the snow covered the road in stretches, though it was not deep enough to be impassable.

After the high point (495 meters), the sheer descent to Muris begins.  I held the brakes through the snow on the upper part, and as the road cleared below, I got up some speed on the straights before the inevitable sharp bends.  In this section there were great views to the north of Gemona and Monte Chiampon.   From Muris I rode back to San Rocco and headed home.  Felt great cruising on the long flat from Lestans, Sequals, Arba, Campagna, and Montereale to Giais.

The Tagliamento full of rain runoff

West toward Pinzano

Castelnuovo, note our rented house from 1994-1996

To the north, Monte Chiampon above Gemona

Gradient of Monte Ragogna

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Col Alto da Pedemonte 2

I've ridden this once or twice before in Summer, but never this late in the year.  But no rain or snow in the forecast, so why not?

After a brief warm up on the pianura, I headed up the road to Piancavallo.  It was cool out and partly cloudy, but the heat of exertion kept me toasty.  On all stretches above 10% I had to stand, as my back and glutes were still wore out from Il Cansiglio.  I was having trouble breathing, as before, but I just gasped and panted and anything else I could do to keep going- never had to stop to catch my breath.

At 1000 meters I took a few pictures while I still had sunlight, as black clouds were gathering on the mountain.  Then at Caldastia, I turned off the main road and onto the narrow mountain lane for Col Alto.  At first it is less steep, so you can catch up on your oxygen debt.  Then it too starts grappling at 12-14%.  The sun was gone, and with the altitude, temps were below 0℃.  Then the road had patches of snow and ice, so I had to remain seated to maintain traction.  That was challenging.  The high point at 1379 meters marks the end of beautiful faggio forest and the beginning of a fir tree-covered neighborhood of  ski vacation homes.  I descended gingerly on the snowy road to Piancavallo.  The ski slopes were covered with snow, but I guess not deep enough for skiers yet.

Now the big descent starts, and right on cue it started snowing.  I rode as fast as possible on the straights to evade the snow, but had to brake hard before every hairpin.  My hands were frozen from the windchill, but managed to brake adequately.  Around 800 meters the snow changed to rain, but I still was hurrying to escape.  Things got better around 300 meters and soon I reached the bottom.  I completed the 200 meter climb to home in a semi-frozen state, only really warming up on the steep section between Marsure and Giais.
Later we had a little Thanksgiving Dinner- good warm food!

Looking back down the tornanti, with Aviano and Fiume Cellina in background

Centro Riferimento Oncologico, reminding me I have an MRI appointment next week

This is the only glimpse of snowy Monte Cavallo I could catch among the storm clouds

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Il Cansiglio da Villa di Villa 2

Another 2 weeks of rain and finally a chance to ride- still overcast, but at least no rain.  I thought I'd climb from Villa di Villa to Il Cansiglio, then continue to Monte Pizzoc (1500m).

After cruising down Via Pedemontane to Villa di Villa, the climb began.  I stopped to take off my wind jacket, which was too hot for the humid 40s temps.  This is a very remote climb- no towns, few houses and hardly any traffic.  I did see a couple of hikers and one descending mountain biker.  It starts off with some steep 11-14% bits, then settles into a long steady climb through dense faggio forest at 8-10%.

I had to stop 4 or 5 times to catch my breath.  This is unusual on a climb of this moderate difficulty- it's not easy (1037m altitude gain in 15 km, at average grade of 6.8%), but normally I can do this without stopping and without feeling beat.  It's like I can't get enough air in my lungs.  Yesterday I had gone for a spirametry test and it indicated I don't have asthma, but something else is wrong.  Hopefully my doc will figure it out.

Anyway because of this and the fog/clouds I decided not to do Monte Pizzoc (an additional 438m elevation gain).  Instead I donned my wind jacket at Passo La Crosetta (1118m) and swooped down the hill to Sarone.  There were some stretches of dense fog, and the road was damp with some fallen rocks and lots of wet leaves in the corners so didn't descend as fast as in summer.

I thawed out awhile on the flattish road to Polcenigo, then climbed the additional 300m home,  quite beaten.


Friday, November 12, 2010

San Martino di Chies d'Alpago

It's rained for two weeks straight.   Today it was foggy and drizzly here, but the  forecast called for clear skies in Alpago.

I drove to Vittorio Veneto (overcast) and warmed up on the climb to Lago Santa Croce.   Sure enough coming over the pass, the skies and lake were bright blue.  I rode along the east bank of the lake to Puos.  Up through Cornei, and then started the climb toward  Chies d'Alpago.  At the turn for Chies, I went straight, continuing up the grade to Lamosano at 700 meters.  It's a nice wide smooth road with 8% grades and many switchbacks.

The views from Lamosano are wonderful.  Alpago is a bowl-shaped valley, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, with reflections on Lago Santa Croce far below.  The valley is covered in steep meadows full of sheep, as well as groves of faggio and fir trees.   In every direction picturesque villages cling to the sides of steep slopes, in each a lovely church with Austrian-style steeple.  Really gorgeous.

After Lamosano I continued upward steeply on 10-12% switchbacks to San Martino at 860 meters.  Did a lot of standing on this section.  After passing through the village I saw a sign pointing the way to my objective, La Carota.  It's a rifugio on the road up to Monte Dolada, the climb that kicked my butt back in July.  On Google Maps I'd seen a several- kilometer-long, cliff-hugging road connecting San Martino with La Carota.  I didn't know if it was paved or dirt, but I wanted to find out.

The narrow mountain road comes out of San Martino with steep switchbacks heading up slope.  I stood and was surviving until the 24% ramp began.  I struggled best I could, but it went on and on and wouldn't end.  Finally I could go no further and stopped to recover.  After a few minutes I stopped hyperventilating and tried to figure out how to restart on this slope- the road was too narrow to go cross-slope long enough to clip in and turn upward.  So I put on my cleat covers and walked a couple of hundred meters up to a semi-level spot.

From here the road passes through a forest of tall fir trees.  It alternates between level stretches and short steep bits.  At one point the road was completely covered with rocks which the heavy rains had carried down from above.  I stood and crossed it, then greeted some folks who were loading their trailer and tractor with firewood.  Shortly after I could feel the rear valve stem thumping- the rocks had flatted my tire.  So I changed the tube and started again.  A young lady walking a cute whiskery black dog walked by, and then the pavement ended  at 1020 meters.  Maybe in dry summer this would be possible on a road bike as the slope wasn't bad, but I wasn't  going to try it after the flat.  Plus I had gotten a late start, and didn't want to ride down to Vittorio Veneto in the dark.

The ride down was fun, and allowed me to catch my breath.   Once I reached Puos, I bored down and tried to ride as fast as possible to beat the darkness.  I reached the car around 1700, which is just after sunset this time of year.

Good ride, and I saw several other variations to try.  From San Martino there's a road to Col Martino, 1000 meters.  From Lamosano another road goes through Funes to Caserne Crosetta at 1156m, and another connects to Irrighe and Tamera, then Casera Cruden at 1093m.