I was up before 06:00 in the morning, but by the time I was having something simple for breakfast (think I got a cup of coffee at least) people were already coming by who had started on the Monte Grappa Challenge (no fixed starting time) and there were a full rush of people around, some staying for water, which made me feel a bit uneasy and I took off as soon as I got my things together.
I found my way to the start in Bassano del Grappa and I were not alone being a bit late for start, but guess most were already on their way by now. Still I did not plan to do more than the basic two climbs this time, so no real hurry for me. Besides, I was mostly thinking about enjoying the event this time instead of trying to do well. I left my bag at the start and took off making company with a few others back up to the hotel in Quattro Stade for the turn-off and the first climb. The first climb is really hard with a long section up to 20%. It was already starting to get very warm also. Here in the photo I had just climbed the steep part up to Salto della Capra and nearly giving up on the way, wondering how bad I had become since 2010 and if I should have to zigzag up here next time. Another tired man coming up after me in the photo here.
Now the views ahead are inspiring!
Here I am up at the first pass, not named properly, but called by some Sella d’Archeson (1445m). Then the road descended and now I also started to notice that the road was in a much worse state than it used to be in. Still the worst road was the normal climb from Enemonzo to Monte Grappa.
Here at (Forcella del) Boccaor (1374m) (the road descends to 1312m after Archeson) the road looks fine though. It is an exciting section of the road cut into the mountainside.
Looking ahead as some guys pass me by.
Here I am up at Monte Grappa by the Rifugio Bassano (1730m) where they used to serve food inside, but the weather was good and now the station was on the big parking above here. Looking up in the northeast direction of the Belluno Dolomites.
Then down the mountain again to climb up the also quite hard second climb from Semonzo, which is maybe the third hardest approach after the first Paderno (Fietta-Quattro Stade) climb and the very hardest road up the Strada degli Alpini (max 29% from Possagno) that I made on the MGC day on my own in 2012, but since they have also included it as an option in the MGC and also made a variant with 6 climbs (not sure how many have made the 6 climbs in a day though, there were only like 30 of us that made the 5 climbs in 2010). Now the MGC unfortunately closed down after the year 2015, which might have been the last time to participate if it does not come back in some new form one day again.
The Semonzo climb is the most direct climb up to Monte Grappa and the shortest. It is up to 16% on a rather narrow road and it has been part in the Giro d’Italia at least once. Just these two climbs make the base edition of the MGC harder than almost any stage ever in Giro d’Italia.
I took my time this day and the time went by rather fast for me. I stopped after the last very hot climb to go up to the very top of the Monte Grappa to get some good photos in the good weather. One could cycle almost all the way up on a forbidden road from the parking that is first asphalted. Here is the huge military monument at the top.
More photos … .
Great views and you see the rifugio below here. Also an Austrian flag to mark that the battle in the first world war was between the Italians and the Austrians (of the Austro-Hungarian Habsburg monarchy).
Here is the second twin peak of the mountain that the road from the parking goes to and which is more actively used by the military, I think.
Here you see the white MGC tent down on the parking. The quickest people taking the base course had already finished for the day long ago now.
And yet another photo.
Here I start to go down and now taking the stairs. Some guys not realizing that they could cycle up on the side road walking up. Great views from here and almost in the direction of the Semonzo climb, but no climb comes up from straight ahead below (too steep there).
Going down the mountain for the last time.
Looking back up the mountain a last time before loosing sight of it (one sees it from many places far away, but not further down the mountain road). I got back into Bassano del Grappa at Conca d’Oro to pick up my bag and bought a few more socks but could not bring anything with me that they gave away with the starting pack (never managed to buy anything more from them later on, maybe because they were closing down).
When I was off I guess it was close to 16:00 in the afternoon and I had merely done the first half of the cycling for the day, so I tried to get on in a steady speed but not too high. I had one more pass to climb this day and the next day I had planned to take part in yet another event – the Gran Fondo Charly Gaul in Trento, so had to get near Trento and did not want to take the slightly boring route through Valsugana over there, so went more straight west from Bassano to Thiene.
Then in Piovene Rocchette (may have stopped there for an ice cream) I took the smaller and more direct road to Arsiero that goes a bit up and down. Just on the start of the climb up to the Arsiero village I had a quite bad thing happening. The front derailleur broke off the frame which was fastened by pop rivets. I could not cycle with the shifter hanging loose on the chain, not could I take it off. I found a big stone and fasted it by banking the two rivets still attached back into place and that let me use the low gears and go on. I asked for a bicycle shop in Arsiero, but it was now around 19:00 on a Saturday, so it was all closed. I had to continue and as I had a Gran Fondo race early in the morning there would be no way to get this fixed until Monday at best.
My mood was now not the best. Nothing I could do about it more now, so pedalled on up the next pass and stopped by a grocery that was still not closed in Posina where the climb to Passo della Borcola (1219m) really starts. Had something to drink to prepare myself for the last part of the day.
Passo della Borcola is a lonely and not so much used pass, but it quite strategically located and has been a pass I for long wanted to visit. The climb only gets steep toward the end for the last +400 height metres, where one climbs up in long serpentines. No problems having only the low gears here.
The sun was already starting to descend when I came up to the pass. Still it felt good as the day was mostly over somehow by getting up here as there would not be really any more climbing now. It was a bittersweet evening. I could not decide if I should simply skip the event tomorrow, but then what should I do when no bicycle shops were open anyway? I thought I just had to do the best of it and there are not so many flat stretches so should likely be able to stay within allowed time limits anyway. Nothing to stop me from going on hard on the climbs as long as the derailleur stayed where it should.
Many signs at the top of this narrow pass and a quite nice little pass it is. The road is a bit more exciting down the west side and one should take it easy down there.
I tried to get on down as far as I could before it got dark and basically got all the way down to Rovereto before it got really dark. Think I went down there instead of taking the small road over Zaffoni as planned, because of the dark. Wanted to get to Volano as planned where I had seen a bed & breakfast, but could not find any such open now. The hotels in Rovereto I first saw looked too expensive, so continued to Volano.
Here is the last view down the west side before the descent and darkness. I did not want to get back to Rovereto as it is a bit away from Trento where I needed to be very early at ca. 06:00 (always this with cycling events). I continued to Calliano where I found one open hotel, but they were surprisingly expensive. I said I had to leave early and did not need any breakfast or dinner and got an acceptable price at the slightly odd place. Found a nearby pizzeria which was good, though I think I had a pizza I did not like (with fish), but think I had one more then.
Washed some clothes and got to bed and set the alarm early (but maybe not earlier than 05:00 or so). A long day and tomorrow would also be a long day.