The day started fine, but soon I realised the weather would be less than perfect up the mountains this day. However, there are only ever mountains on my schedule, so just to go on and hope for the best. The road up via Novafeltria is a bit bad in places and the traffic is somewhat high up to Novafeltria, but then the traffic is much lower higher up Valle del Marecchia.
The valleys here are long and the roads wind their way slowly up them. I stopped when I eventually reached Ponte Messa and had something to eat outside the grocery shop. As I started out again rain was in the air. I went down and crossed the river at the first place here (it does not matter much which turn-off you use) toward Balze. I only got a few raindrops, but the weather was gloomy and I did not feel for going in high speed. It was rather chilly higher up around Balze. The scenery is nice. There were some snow still lingering between the houses up in Balze. I continued straight up the mountain in the woods where it was thankfully not windy.
I received a telephone call from a customer on the way up to Valico del Monte Fumaïolo (1348m) and handled it fine, so it is not so very steep here. The last bit is a little steep, but not over 10%, I think. I had hoped the restaurant at the top would be open, but as I found it in the heavy fog, it looked like it had been deserted since the 2nd world war or something. It was very barren, cold and lonely up here with only an occasional car going over the pass.
I put on all the clothes I had and went down the other much more open and windy side. I decided to follow my original plans and avoided the direct road down to Valico di Montecoronaro (which might be one-directional), where I was heading (eventually). I was going to get over the nearby Sella/Passo della Biancarda (1172m), just because I know it was a recognised pass and above 1000 metres (of which there are not so many in the area). The very, very minor road was actually being cleaned by a tractor brushing away debris from the surface, which did not really help to make it much better. The quality was sometimes quite good, but on the other side the road had some serious damages (maybe from this Winter). No pass sign found at the top and only bleak, foggy views in the weather I had (one photo here).
Down in Verghereto (809m), I found a lonely bar open and decided to get in and have a coffee. Then I had another longer talk with another customer who had gotten her computer stolen, but eventually I got my coffee and decided to get going despite that the clock was already going too fast for me and my plans for the day. Next was the short stretch up to Valico di Montecoronaro (852m) after a short descent. This is a pass that is marked on almost all maps, but if you do not cross it via the motorway, it is really a somewhat obscure pass (the pass is not located on the motorway, but on the old road one uses as a cyclist). It has a yellow pass sign.
Just after the pass one could go out on the motorway, but for cyclists the old road continues on the other side of the pass on the other side of the motorway. Soon thereafter the road becomes deserted and looks like no one has used it or maintained it at all for the last 50 years or so. The road is just about passable with a car after landslides on the sides and severe damages to the road surface and with plenty of stones and branches laying on the nominally asphalted narrow road. I met one walking man and that was all until I reached the first house, where an old and partly destroyed sign laying on the ground saying the road was closed … . The road is totally usable with a road bicycle though, with some care.
Then one passes under the motorway and continues down a good road to Pieve Santo Stéfano (431m). At Pieve Santo Stéfano, I stopped to look on the map and think twice about whether I should really go up to Santuario della Verna (1128m) as planned considering it would certainly get dark then before I would get back home to Rimini. But this was part of the reason going here and the monastery is also a BIG climb, of which I wanted to collect as many as possible of while being in the area.
I could cycle in the dark as I had lights and as long as I could hope to get over all the passes before it turned dark, it should not be a problem. The road also looked inviting – wide and smooth. All went quite well on the ascent to the pass before Chiusa and Santuario della Verna – Valico dello Spino (1054m). Even if I went at a good speed it still took some time to get up, but now I was surely going to go up to the monastery. A short descent and then a steep 3 km up to Santuario della Verna. There were some nasty cobblestone surface for the last kilometre in the monastery property before one had to get of the bicycle. It was a semi-wet surface on the big irregular stones and I got a flat here. Damn!
A sign said you were not allowed to bicycle on the open area inside the monastery, but I carried my bicycle with me (not to make sounds from the noisy wheel hubs) to get to the place where one had nice far reaching views of surrounding area westwards and north. I fixed the flat, taking my time to make sure it would be fine and was lucky to find toilets where I could wash up a little. But now it had started to rain, which was no ideal given that I was at the furthest point away from Rimini now and the clock was running. I was considering to eat something at the monastery (looked like they had a restaurant, but it was not obviously open), but could not spend time on such matters now.
I very carefully negotiated the terrible (with not perfectly inflated tubes) cobblestones fearing another puncture, but I was lucky in that regard. The rain came and went and came back again. At Montalone I had to stop at the bar taking cover for a massive shower and had an espresso. That was very irritating as I would not then be able to go down the nice road back to Pieve Santo Stéfano as in as fast speed as I would have wanted (if I wanted to stay somewhat dry).
Down in Pieve Santo Stéfano (431m) it just continued to rain and even more now than before. I was about to give up. It was 19:00 in the evening and would get dark in one and half hour from now. I still had one big climb ahead before getting on the way back down to Rimini. I stopped at a nice looking hotel and asked about the price to stay there for the night and I was more or less decided to stay there, but the price was a bit unusually steep and I said I would think about it and went away again. Standing outside a building in the village taking cover for the rain a little longer. Just before giving up and going back to the hotel, the rain subsided and I jumped on the bicycle and started out slowly on the climb up to Passo di Frassineto (929m) and Passo/Valico di Viamaggio (984m). I tried to go a bit faster higher up to get as far as possible before the dark came, but the road was steep and I was getting tired.
Now there were no more place to stop at for the night along the road, so just to go on no matter what. Now, it got dark just before reaching Passo di Frassineto (929m) and then the weather turned worse and on top of this there were heavy fog up here. On the road from Frassineto to Viamaggio it felt like it was taking hours to get there (2.6 km) and it was very scary. The fog was so heavy that there were almost no use in having the lights on the bicycle at all as I could only see maximum one metre ahead anyway. Now I got help seeing by another factor – suddenly a fierce thunderstorm had moved in on me and the lightning flashes really lighted things up! ;-(
Perfect! – Thunderstorms – darkness – heavy fog! It is always thrilling cycling in mountains as you never know what will lay ahead. There were some cars at the pass and it looked like some houses there, but the weather was terrible and there were no time for photos or stopping. Now I wanted to get out of the fog quickly and start on the descent toward Rimini. At least after those endless 2.6 km, now it was nearly only down to Rimini (and this was the right valley). But, the weather really wanted to make an impression on me and decided I was about to get away all too easily. So, now it came up with its last weapon against me – now it was time for a dense bombardment of snow and ice in quantities that made it hardly possible to steer the bicycle, accompanied with more lightening and thunder.
After a little while I came by an open restaurant and even if it was not really suitable to visit a restaurant up here in the cold and horrible weather and being almost soaked now, I decided I just had to stop and could as well eat as I was apparently not to get back to Rimini for dinner anyway. It was a somewhat expensive (and good) restaurant, but I had some affordable dish and wine and tried to get a little warm. I called my friends down in Rimini to say they should not lay awake wondering where I might be as I might not even get back this night (but would try).
When I got out the weather was better again. I had to bicycle in the tracks ofter the car wheels as the roads were filled with snow here and there for the first couple of kilometres and it was damned cold. After Badia Tedalda (580m) it became more pleasant and it was actually kind of romantic to cycle down the dark valley with castles here and there lining the mountain ridges on both sides. I took my time and turned up in Rimini around midnight again. I never saw any cyclist this day after leaving Rimini and they say there are so many cyclists down here!? :-) Now the weather would get better again, but also slightly less warm.