From: Len Colamarino

Re: Rides at the Italian Cycling Center

I thought that I would put together a memorandum describing some of the most notable rides. Please note that although, in my descriptions, I have referred to measurements in terms of miles and feet, you might want to start thinking also in kilometers and meters, in preparation for the Italian maps and road signs.

--Enego-Foza. This ride covers approximately 56 miles, and includes about 4305 feet of elevation gain. There is a climb of about 14 to 15 miles, with 21 numbered switchbacks (tornanti in Italian). The descent is challenging, to say the least. The ride also has some long stretches of relatively flat terrain along the west bank of the Brenta river. The scenery is spectacular and diverse.

--The almond cookie ride. This ride covers about 46 miles, with some 3322 feet of elevation gain. There is one especially long stretch of steady climbing--probably 10 miles or so--but the grade is gentle enough so that the ride can remain social. The long, winding ascent takes you up and around the rim of the Asiago plateau. An exhilarating 10 mile descent follows. At the end of the climb we stop at a cafe with extraordinary almond cookies. The terrain and unique ambience of the area make a lasting impression.

--Follina. This ride is approximately 51 miles and has about 3300 feet of elevation gain. It takes you across the Piave river valley, then on rolling roads which wind their way through terraced hillsides covered with vineyards, in the heart of the Prosecco wine country. The ride includes a stop for lunch in a charming, out-of-the-way restaurant . The price is minimal, and the usual fare includes a plate of exceptional orecchieti with a light pomodoro sauce, complemented by fresh, still (as opposed to sparkling) Prosecco drawn directly from the barrel.

--Passo Rolle. This ride consists of a climb in the Dolomites, followed by a descent on the same route you took up. We drive to a well-chosen point of departure, from where you start climbing very gradually before embarking on a steady, switchbacked climb of about 13 miles. You end up at an elevation of around 6,625 feet, in a spectacular mountain pass. Lunch is taken at a restaurant at the summit. Then you get to enjoy a terrific descent. Total distance is approximately 40 miles, with an entire elevation gain of 4700 feet.

The preceding four rides really need to be experienced for your trip to the Italian Cycling Center to be complete. Additionally, there are two other classic rides to try to fit in. The Montello ride covers about 55 miles of scenic terrain. including a long stretch on a bike path along a charming canal. Elevation gain on that ride is a little under 2000 feet. The Lake Ride is a ride of comparable length and elevation gain-- unfortunately, I don't have exact figures for that ride. It includes a nice climb of a mile or so and some very attractive country.

In addition, there are several variations of a ride in the Dolomites which includes the famous Croce d'Aune climb. The ride features a visit to a monument to Tullio Campagnolo. The variation of the ride which I have taken involves driving to a selected starting point, and ascending about 3100 feet in the course of covering some 32 miles. Again, most of the vertical gain comes in one long climb.

Then there is Monte Grappa. There are three ways up that I have explored:
(1) The main road goes for almost 17 miles from Romano d’Ezzelino to the summit. The average gradient is 5.9 percent. The climbing is steady and beautiful, with some 24 switchbacks and a break for about a mile in the middle where the road flattens and even descends for a bit. By this route, the entire ride, from our hotel to the summit and back, covers approximately 38 miles and includes about 5627 feet of vertical gain. For the first ascent of Grappa, this classic route is the one to take.
(2) Another approach that is readily accessible from the hotel is the one that leaves from Semonzo and goes up through the area known as Campo Croce. By this approach, the ascent is a little less than 12 miles in distance, but has an average gradient of 8.1 percent. It is an older, secondary road, extremely beautiful, with a consistently steep grade that includes some stretches of 15 to 18 per cent. I do not recall any place in the climb where the road flattens. It is a tough grind all the way—so tough, in fact, that this approach was ranked as the thirteenth most difficult climb in Italy in a list that was put out a couple of years ago by Pianeta Ciclismo. My recollection is that the entire ride from the hotel to the summit and back, via this route, was about 29 miles, with about 5600 feet of elevation gain. It is obviously advisable to be in peak condition when ascending the mountain via this route.
(3) The two routes described above approach Cima Grappa from the south. The other approach that I have taken climbs the mountain from the north. By that route, the climb is just under 18 miles, with an average gradient of 4.9 percent. Those numbers do not tell the whole story, though, as the unusual configuration of the climb from this direction affects the level of difficulty. It begins with about seven miles of steady climbing before there is any kind of a break, including some pretty steep pitches at the beginning. After you get up to the rim of the mountain, the grade turns irregular, with some flat stretches and even some short descents punctuating the climb. The climbing sections also include at least four steep walls where the gradient exceeds 15 percent. Another important factor to consider in assessing this route up Monte Grappa is that you have to ride thirty-plus miles just to get to the town of Caupo, where the ascent begins. As a result, when you do the climb via this route from the north, you end up with a ride of 60 to 65 miles (depending on which route you descend) and a total vertical gain of about 7300 feet. For those who are up to the challenge, it is an epic ride that will not be soon be forgotten, notable for, among other things, the diversity of terrain that is covered. On this ride, you get a real range of experiences, from riding for miles along a picturesque, flat road that straddles the Brenta River, to climbing up to and around Lago di Corlo, to grinding your way up the long, lonely miles that take you to the rim of Monte Grappa, and then negotiating a constantly changing up-and-down (though mostly up) course that places you in direct in view of the Asiago Plateau, the Brenta and Po River valleys, and the goal of the Grappa mountaintop. After all of that there is the unique experience of the Grappa summit, followed by a long, exhilarating descent. As is apparent, this route involves much more than a climb, but amounts to a complete bicycling odyssey.

There is a whole book of rides. If you want some harder ones than those which I have described, there are ones to accomodate you. There are also easier rides designed for touring and for recovery days. If at all possible you should try to fit in at least two of those rides which take you to the factories. One takes you to the Scapin factory. Another takes you to the Giessegi clothing factory and Scapin store. As I recall, both rides are in the range of 40 to 45 miles with vertical gain between 1100 and 1500 feet. Spinning those flat routes in a relaxed manner provides a good break between some of the harder rides, and the stops along the way at the cycling and cultural attractions keeps them interesting.

Buon viaggio.