Siestas are great. Unless, of course, you require fresh bread with your lunch and it’s past one and you discover that shops only re-open after four. Siestas are not helpful for any such situation, or for the unorganised like us. Siestas are perfect in-between two rides. Or after a glass of Valpolicella with your lunch instead of ciabatta.
We are not having as many siestas as we should, or could, but we had a long one that day in Bassano del Grappa, after the somewhat boring drive through the flat Veneto from Chioggia. Bassano hadn’t actually been on our radar. Instead, our plan was to drive straight to Feltre and climb Monte Grappa and Croce d’Aune from there but then there was that Facebook message from Brisbane friend Kim “Come to Bassano and climb Monte Grappa with us.”
Little did I know that Monte Grappa has several ways to the summit (apparently over 20 but this includes goat tracks that only mountain bikes can master). Here are the stats of the two main ones, because we went to Feltre and climbed the other side as well. Of course!
Monte Grappa from Bassano
Elevation gain: 1587m
Average gradient: 5.8%
Monte Grappa from Feltre
Elevation gain: 1523m
Average gradient: 4.9%
Altitude: 1750m (obviously!)
So that makes two! The half Monte Grappa has something to do with that long siesta that day we arrived in Bassano, when we only got on our bikes after 6pm, just for a little spin.
Sure enough we found our way to Romano d’Ezzelino and before we knew it we were climbing.
My legs felt fresh after a couple of days of sightseeing in Venice. In fact, I had just come off an entire rest week on the back of the Gran Sasso and Blockhaus training camp so I felt like my wheels were floating two millimetres above the asphalt.
On an orbit, pass Australia, the villages shrunk below us with every switchback. I was flying. Then Houston called. We had a problem! The climbing speed was not fast enough to make it to the summit and back before daylight went.
European summers are great. Now in June, you can get on your bike at 6pm and still get a good two and a half to three hours of riding in before you need to worry about finding your way back home in the dark. Come July/August, it will still be daylight at ten. But I think Alberto was more worried about the cold than the dark, and rightly so. We were approaching seven and I begged him to let us ride for another 1/2 h, 20 min, 10 min…
We were at kilometre 13, just about half way and turning around really hurt. But it was the right decision. There is always another day.
The next day it rained all morning and when it cleared later in the afternoon we rode the 35km from Marostica to Asiago and back, which essentially resembled a climb if you look at the profile.
While we didn’t manage to catch up with Kim and Karl – they had probably ridden up Monte Grappa one too many times already – we finally, the next morning, went all the way. My legs were not quite as fresh anymore by now. Especially the first few kilometres seemed harder than I had in memory from our late afternoon exploration but what really surprised me was the landscape that opened up after we passed the turn around point from two days’ earlier.
While the first half of the climb is largely covered by forest with occasional glimpses down into the valley, the second half, once you leave the trees and you are lucky enough to catch a clear day, you can see the road winding to the summit from far away.
We were semi-lucky that day and climbed into the clouds. Two days later it was not quite as clear.
And don’t ask me, which side is easier. The stats are deceiving (as stats always are). Don’t be fooled by the lower gradient of the Feltre side. This side packs a few 15-16% gradient sections that are offset by short downhill spurts. I found the changing gradient of the Feltre side harder to deal with because I couldn’t settle into a rhythm.
The day was also overcast with very low hanging clouds that hardly allowed for any valley views. Climbing for climbing’s sake into the clouds has it’s own charm, especially when you already know the summit, but one of the rewards for climbing mountains is the view, you must admit. Both climbs are worth doing and if you have the legs, do both in one day. We didn’t have the legs.
But we had the legs for a quick hit out to Croce d’Aune before our lunch time departure, a perfect finish to a very enjoyable stay in Feltre.
Distance: 8.5 km
Elevation gain: 655m
Average gradient: 7.8%
We were about to head deep into the Dolomites to look for even bigger mountains. Marmolada and the Sella passes (Passo Pordoi, Passo Fedaia etc) were waiting for us and I was ready!