Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Passo Manghen

I've read about Manghen in riders' reports and Giro d'Italia coverage for a few years now.  The emphasis is usually on the extreme difficulty, and I agree it's a great workout.  But what surprised me was the wildness and natural beauty of the place- simply gorgeous.

I started at Castelnuovo (365m) near Borgo Valsugana around 0700.  After maybe 100m the road begins going directly up the slopes covered with apple and berry orchards.  I rode slowly so the lack of a flattish warmup was no problem.  Higher up you reach Telve and climb through the outer edges of that town. Soon the road enters a shady spruce forest, which actually is a bit chilly when climbing on the easier sections.  The road meanders more or less along Torrente Calamento, with some brief stretches over 10% to get you ready for higher up.  At 1167m you enter the broad verdant meadows of Calamento, still climbing but so happy with the scenery you barely feel the exertion.   The road steepens considerably here, hitting 15% at times.  The switchbacks climb through meadows mixed with stands of pines scattered here and there.  A herd of dairy cows is having breakfast, some of the girls in the road but graciously allowing intruders to pass.  Around 1500m the road steepens again, but this time doesn't relent, averaging 10% for the 5km to the pass at 2043m.  The road finally enters alpine landscape, grass, wildflowers, bare reddish rock, with scarce pine trees.

Nice and chilly up here at 0915, but so quiet and peaceful with sparse early morning traffic.  I tried to get some fotos with the wonderful morning light, and then headed down.  More traffic was beginning to come up now, as well as many road bikes.  I really recommend this whole area, which is slightly off the beaten path further north.  In August the Dolomiti can get a little too popular sometimes.  

Golden morning light on Monte Ziolera (2478m)

Monte Ziolera above wildflowers

Altopiano Asiago peaks to the south of Valsugana

Reddish rock with lichens and wildflowers

Looking down at the switchbacks

A rocky summit of the Lagorai range

One of many waterfalls of Torrente Calamento

Sound of Music meadows of Calamento

Another of the falls further downslope
Switchbacks from Calamento to pass

Beginning of the climb

10% average gradient top 5 km

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