Jerry’s Tour of the Alps 2010 – Thursday July 15th

Passo di Tremalzo — Riva del Garda — Prati di Nago — Passo San Giovanni — Passo Fittanze della Sega — Monte Lessini — Velo Veronese (140.5 km, 3466m, 25%, 17-41°C)

Lago di Garda (Pregasina road)

It was lovely to sweep down the mountain on the good Tremalzo road in the morning with little traffic. I had a photo, but I think the photo does not give the road justice. It is not the loveliest around, but still quite fine. Maybe I could have taken a little short-cut at the end, but had no wish to go wrong right away here. Later by Lago di Ledro I wanted to go around it on the south side, but ended up on a gravel cycle path and returned. (Looking on the map now, there should be an asphalt road around the lake, but it climbs a bit up.) At the other end of the lake the road starts to drop sharply to the Lago di Garda. Already up here it was now very hot and I felt really mixed about getting down there. This day were about to become the worst day for me in terms of the heat. They complained about the heat this year in the Tour de France, but I do not think they ever had it as hot as I had during most of the day. This was a hot Summer, but I refused to complain as I know that cold weather is much worse (and one also does not get as good photos ;-)).

Today I quickly decided to let go of yet another planned climb up (Passo del) Telegrafo (1156m), which is one of the hardest climbs in the Alps. Again I also skipped the Passo di Santa Barbara, Passo Bordala and Sella di Malga Somator trio as I had planned previously to visit. Even so, there remained two really hard climbs that I could not justify also leaving out. Few would consider trying to climb those on this day, but there is always someone else out there cycling in Italy.

First I had decided to take the nice (for views) road down to Riva del Garda and escape the long tunnel on the main road. I had read that the Pregasina road that I had thought to go up the first time I was going up to Lago di Ledro in 2003 and found to be closed, had re-opened. First I went down the wrong road a little (the real Pregasina road from Lago di Ledro), but I saw the other one from there and climbed back up and asked a guy coming up the right road if he thought I could get down there with my bicycle (as I heard it had not been re-surfaced with asphalt). He thought that it was borderline and that I decided must mean that there is no big problem getting down.

Prato di Nago

I was delighted to find a great road with fantastic hairpins clinging to the rock wall and with nearly perfect asphalt, although with some debris and gravel. I met a lot of cyclists going up, almost all looking very tired and sweaty and all using mountain bikes. Eventually someone warned me of going down here, but I said “no problem” and continued. Eventually the asphalt disappeared and a little later it turned into nothing more than a gravel path – I had really thought the road had been restored as a road, but not quite so (I did not really see any restoration work at all).

There were just more and more people on the path lower down and it got more tricky to negotiate as I went along, but half the problem was handling cyclists and walkers, some of which did not care to leave me any room, even if most were good on sharing the path. Basically I did not have to put down the feet once though and even though the last part was not fun, the first half were really worth the troubles. If only someone could asphalt the whole stretch, then maybe they did not have to have the busy road tunnel full of cyclists!

Down at Riva it was just as hot as I feared. I decided to take a break right away and went into a supermarket as it was cold there and bought something to eat and drink including a cake with strawberries and cream! I found no place outside in the shadow to sit down (which may be expected outside big shops that seems to make sure that people cannot stop nearby to eat as it may get them less customers to cafés inside or they are afraid of having to collect litter, which some may leave). Riva is a very busy place. I continued on the main road to Torbole, where I found the old road up to Nago, which is much more fun than the big main road (that I have used earlier). At the tiny square of Torbole (66m) the steep road starts. I met some cyclists going down full speed, so apparently this road is well known. Just before joining the main road at Nago I turned right into the village and filled my water bottle before starting on the climb up to Prati di Nago (1575m).

Prato di Nago

At first the road goes a bit up and down before it reaches the mountainside, which it then climbs. It was terribly hot now and this climb is not exactly easy. It is rated as one of the hardest climbs in Italy at and then it does not include the start from Torbole to Nago or the last bit of gravel that I went up. It is 10% on average for 13.5 km. The steepest part is at the end. Over 1500m of vertical ascent is not common to find anywhere in the Alps. I started out in an even and low tempo to not hit the wall before getting far. I caught up with some riders that I think stopped and returned. There was however one very fit guy on a mountain bike that passed me by early on. Later on I found that he had stopped for a break. He just managed to catch up with me before the last little ramp up to the bar across the road and the start of the gravel road. He looked at me with some surprise when I also went over/under the bar and continued, but I only went up to the next bend to get a view over the lake before returning down.

The gravel part was just about cyclable given how steep it still was here. The asphalt ramp just before were above 20%. I had 25% maximum steepness this day and it might have been here. If it was not for my deliberate evenness in the climb I am not sure I could have done it. It is quite nice higher up, but unfortunately the hot weather at the lake made it difficult to get any good photos. There were not many obvious points for photos either and some woods higher up. It was over 40 degrees Celsius in the sun (were I was) and it was just about bearable even when going down.

I went down to Mori via Passo San Giovanni (272m) on the main road were you are not supposed to bicycle, but this road is so fast that not many cars catch up with you anyway. (Do not know if you can get a fine from the Police here or not. Sometimes they just (in my mind) randomly put up signs for bicycling not allowed on normal roads in Italy and I guess one can get into trouble if ignoring them, so do as you wish.) Now it turned out that all shops in Mori were closed and I could not find any water here, so I continued, but rather disturbed by the fact that I really needed at least something fresh to drink.

Passo Fittanze della Sega

The next part was clearly among the hardest of all on my tour despite being mainly flat down the Val Lagarina. This huge valley is the main valley between Verona and Bolzano leading up to Austria with motorway, railway and other roads. I kept to the side less exposed to the sun, but it was only some hundred metres of shade that I got. I just had some drops of water left from Nago (that I had carried up and down there), but hoped to soon find a restaurant, shop or at least a water pipe, but there were nothing down here to be found. I took the bicycle path down by the river and occasionally it was a bit nice, but also went up and down. I was forced to drink the few drops I had left, but the water was so hot that it was like drinking hot tea. I saw two other cyclists down the valley and I guess that most Italians also stayed at home in this heat (or they typically take a ride very early in the morning or late in the evening). I keep talking of this, but I do not think that I have ever experienced quite this hot weather anytime before in my life and now tired without water it was a struggle.

In the little village of Pilcante I found a water pipe in the middle and refilled my bottle, but the water was not exactly cold there either. Then I cycled over to Ala and found a supermarket at the end of the village, where I went in to buy a litre of lemon ice cream and a coca-cola. Great! I had to stand up inside the poor looking market as it was unthinkable to consume anything outside. (I must admit to stealing a plastic spoon at the shop as the one(s) I had gotten in Swiss I no longer found and here I found an opened package of plastic spoons, so thought they would not miss one and I did not want to try and ask. Though I later found the plastic spoon from Swiss in the bag.)

Passo Fittanze della Sega

That helped a little (I would not have been able to go on for long unless I had stopped here). Then I stepped out in the Sauna weather again and continued down to Sdruzzina (148m), only known for being the start of one of the hardest climbs in the area. There are however very many severe climbs around Rovereto, which are also made harder by starting as low down as they do. Passo Fittanze della Sega (1380m) is exceptionally hard for the first 10 km with 10% on average, but with sections up to 20% early on. It is a road where you cannot find an even tempo to climb in and those climbs are always harder. I just fighted on and kept telling myself that this is the last big challenge for the day and the further up I get the easier it would get with lower temperatures. I had forgotten about the ramp at 20% and thought it was a bit ridiculous and there just to pull a bad joke on me.

At Sega di Ala the climb flattened out and there were a restaurant here. I decided to stop as I know there would be some time before I would reach the destination for the day and that I would likely not get across anything more restaurants until I stopped. It also felt like I really had reached the pass already that could be seen a bit above and ahead. I had a pasta dish and a litre of sparkling water at the first place outside in the shadows. I did not stay for long as I was slowly starting to get worried about the road choice for the evening. I was on my way up the Monti Lessini, where there are only gravel roads, but roads that should be good enough for a road bike from what I had understood.

Monte Lessini

At Passo Fittanze della Sega (1380m) it was very nice and now the weather was perfect. This is the last pass before Verona at the south end of the Alps and the views are far reaching. I had some notes about where to turn, but had no exact map of the many roads up here, so it was a little guess-work again. I was surprised to find the first stretch up the Monti Lessini to be perfectly asphalted. It was one of the nicest roads I have seen in terms of surface. I was hoping that maybe they had recently paved many stretches up here, but eventually the asphalt ended at Bivio del Pidocchio (1565m), where I met two cyclists coming up and taking the nice road to the Fittanze pass. Unfortunately I knew I had planned to take the gravel road from here and so I did.

The road continues to climb, but is rideable with a road bike with some care. At Bivio di Monte Castelberto (1699m) it was time to turn right and now the road levelled off. Up here it was fantastically nice and very few people. A man in a car went by me several times stopping for photographs (maybe taking photos of birds). There were several places along the road here that looked like passes, but there are no pass names that I know of. One passes by a few farms and rifugios. I had planned to visit the only pass along the road, the Bocca Gaibana (1576m) toward the other end of this road over the Monti Lessini, but I took a wrong turn at the last part where I should have turned left but continued ahead on the SP 14 road (the high point of this road is here at 1707m). Instead I went around the Monte Tomba, which had a big rifugio. Only the last little stretch down to the asphalt road was a bit bad. By incident I then turned up at an asphalt pass that I had planned to skip, the Valico del Branchetto (1586m), which I did not realise until I came home looking at the map and the Club des Cent Cols catalogue for Veneto. It is the high point of the SP 8 which crosses a little spur in the mountain here.

Monte Lessini

I figured out where S. Giorgio were located as I could see it and I understood something was a bit wrong with my road choice, but also knew that from here it would simply be a descent ahead. Now it was actually a bit chilly outside, but I soon got down a bit lower to Croce di Parparo (1392m), where it was very nice. Here the road goes a little up and down. Timing had been perfect as it was light enough to get me safely down to Velo Veronese just before it started to get dark. It was really lovely up at Monti Lessini and I was very happy I had taken the trouble to take that road, which is also a short-cut if going east from the Fittanze pass. (Unfortunately some good photos got lost with my camera that broke later.)

I could probably have stopped higher up, but thought Velo Veronese sounded like a good place to stop for a bicyclist and really wanted to get there which was also part of the original plan. On the way here one passes by the village of Camposilvano (1165m) which is also arguably a pass, just like Velo Veronese (1084m). Velo Veronese turned out to be a nice village, but it took me some time before finding a way to stay at here. I could only find a hotel on the main square and this was not very cheap, but also not very expensive. The hotel was fine, but the people working there were very busy. Still it was nice sitting out on the square eating dinner and drinking wine after having a shower.