I wanted to get away on the train as I had planned for a few days today, but as I was so late back the day before I had no time communicating about my plans with the guys running the bed and breakfast, so I decided to finish the Lago d’Iseo area rides (the ones going eastwards). This day would include the highest climb for the 9 days and finally a really steep road. I wanted to wait for a while with the planned very steep roads until I got more into the climbing habit.
Now it was time to go up to Cene and take the road over Forcellino di Bianzano (664m). It turned out that the surface on this climb was very varied with some really rough parts and that would not have been fun if I had tried to descend here in the dark the last night as contemplated. On the other side of the pass the road is wide and good. I turned off to Ranzanico soon after the pass (the first road was closed, but the second was open) and climbed up there and down a very small road that was only to be used by those living there. First photo here is where this road starts to descend. This is the way to go down from Bianzano as you thus escape much of the busy main road in the valley and you can (as I did by a little more climbing) descend to the main road just were the road that follows the other side of the big lake below comes out. From here it is only about 500 metres until you can turn off the main road to Solto Collina and this is very highly recommended even if it include a kilometre of climbing up to the unnamed pass at Solto Collina (460m).
A local cyclist caught up with me just at the start of this minor climb and I hanged on to him without much problem, but on the descent I did not quite dare to follow him all the way down the nice hairpins to the Iseo lake. There I was very much looking forward to cycle the nice stretch to Castro again just like last Summer (this was not part of the plan, but). I soon got a bit worried as there was a sign saying the road was closed 3 km ahead, but knowing Italians – what they say is not always so (at least this seems to be true quite often with closed roads). Indeed the road was open and I was happy to get the road more to myself, even though some locals apparently knew it could be used too.
I stopped early at Lóvere and bought a sandwich, yoghurt and coke. I usually try and find a place to buy something to eat not located directly at the start of the next climb so I can digest it a bit before.
I was going to climb the Plan di Montecampione (1744m), which is a really long climb from Pian Camuno (232m) or from nearby Artogne. The classic and steepest climb starts in Pian Camuno, but the climb from Artogne may well be harder as it is more irregular and with steeper parts and less good surface on a narrower road. I decided at last minute to take the Artogne climb and descend back via Pian Camuno so I would see both roads anyway and the Artogne road would be much slower to descend. The ascent was quite nice on this pretty obscure road that passed through a place where they made a local beer (‘Gös’, – yes, it could even be found mentioned on the world wide web: Ca’ de Gös) (did not stop to try though).
The road is mostly fine and wooded with some nice views between the trees over the mountains back west and north. Eventually you reach Montecampione (the ski resort) which has really many buildings with lodging for skiers, but it looked like a very poor ski resort (I bet it is not very expensive either). Then I met the main road from Pian Camuno and first went straight up, but should have taken left again after the shops as the road ahead only goes to the ski lift station. I think the road is sign-posted ‘Baite’ or something such, but it is rather obvious. The road continues climbing after a while through galleries and soon I reached the height were the snow appeared on the side of the road. The road was kept open all Winter it seemed like, so no problem getting up.
There were some water running across the road and some snow that had fallen down, but the road was mostly fine. It is not very steep, but the climb is long. I wished they had built the road up to the pass, but apparently there is only a gravel track going up to the pass and that was of course not snow free now (there were at least one metre of snow up here). The ski business was still going on even if there were not a lot of people up skiing, but it was also just a normal weekday. I went to were the asphalt ended, which is inside the garage under the buildings at the top – I was curious if the road somehow came out on the other side, but it does not! ;-) A sign says it is 1800m high here, and I guess it is close to that where the road ends inside the garage.
After a while I realised it was really cold here and now I got use of all the extra clothes I had carried with me and put both jackets on, the leg warmers, long finger gloves and I stopped to put on the shoe covers as well. It became very warm down at Pian Camuno! The main road is more open (than the Artogne road) with many good views over the Lago d’Iseo (my last views of this lake for this journey). It is better and more evenly graded.
I stopped at the first open grocery shop and changed clothes and had another coke and ice-cream. Then I went up north via Boario Terme and then followed the left side of the big valley toward Breno. Then watch out for a very small road with a sign saying Via Vigne (and/or Strada del Beato) on the left hand side! Here it was time again to do some climbing and now on a VERY steep road! The first two kilometres are steeper than any two kilometres on the famously steep Monte Zoncolan (that is often described as the hardest pass road in Italy, which is probably true). This road is also as narrow as roads can be made and cars I met waited for me to come up before they descended. The mountainside is so steep that I at no point could see the road below me that I had climbed up!
You have wonderful views by a restaurant where the road flattens out. From here to Croce di Salven (1109m), the climb is very varied and quite easy. The views from the pass Croce di Salven are also very nice where see the Presolana mountain ahead and the deep valley below where the direct road from Lóvere comes up. Soon after the pass the road becomes very small (from being very wide before) and is here mostly a surfaced forestry road, with only one small village along the way down the mountainside.
The road up to Passo della Presolana (1297m) starts almost exactly across where you come down to the main road from Croce di Salven. I have climbed this side before in 2006 and although it is not a long climb it has two really steep kilometres on the way up. But once up it was all downhill to Bergamo, via Clusone, from there. I had wanted to get up to nearby Colle di Vareno (1373m), but it was rather late now and I decided I wanted to be back in time for a shower before going out and eat something!
I think it was pizza time again this day and I got to speak to the guys at the B&B and asked if they could just place something on the table for breakfast as I would go rather early to Varese with the train the next day (which they did).