Cycling in Italy  September 2006 : The Dolomites

These are some of the photos taken during the Dolomites cycling tour in 2006 organized by Erickson Cycle Tours, Inc.

Day -1 : Saturday September 2 .....  Arrival

Flew into Venice, mid morning, picked up by Glen and Nancy, and taken to our hotel in CastelFranco Veneto, about an hours drive away.
We unpacked our bikes and went for a quick spin with Glen and Nancy out to Asolo and back.  About 25 miles to  get rid of jet lag.
50 km + 500 ft

Day 0 : Sunday September 3 .....  Monte Grappa

Today was a warm up ride with a monster climb.  After deciding not to be too ambitious and ride 125 miles to climb the extended 20% grade route to the top, we opted for the standard 26 km climb.
117 km + 6000 ft

Day 1 : Monday September 4 .....  Castelfranco to Asiago

CastelFranco to Bassano de Grappa to Valstagno to Primolano to Foza to Asiago.
A beautiful day of cycling.  The group split early on, with some regrouping in Bassano, on the bridge over the river with great views.
A nice fast ride up the valley (lots of leg stretching going on) and then a climb up to Asiago.  A nice town, good coffee, and a very nice hotel
to greet us.
100 km + 3600 ft

Day 2 : Tuesday September 5 ..... Loop Ride--- Asiago to Asiago

Asiago to Pedescala to Arsiero to cavrari to Canove to Asiago.
A loop ride out of Asiago.  Again people were stretching their legs on the climb out of Asiago.  A very nice decent, and a relatively long and hot valley ride,
with a lunch stop about half way through.  The climb back up to Asiago claimed a casualty to a clipped wheel.
Sweat was pouring off everyone on the climb back to was hot.
100 km + 5000 ft , 4hrs 17 mins ride-time

Day 3 : Wednesday September 6 ..... Asiago to Levico Terme

Asaigo to Pedescala to Tonezza (other isde of the valley from Asiago) to Passo di Vena to Passo d Sommo to Carnonare di Filadonna to
Vigolo-Vattaro to Lago di Caldonazzo to Levico Terme.
A really fun day of riding.  The decent out of Asiago was perhaps the best decent of all times, a long one with many switch backs that were just pure fun to ride.
The climb up a goat trail still under construction called for a mountain bike with shocks, but we all made it up with periodic spells of Tourettes syndrome.
Again more leg stretching, this time the climb was a little longer a little higher, some tunnels and great views etc. 
John C. laid down the gauntlet by emptying out a water bottle at the base of the climb (one of the classic moves of the trip) after lunch,
while everyone else is trying to keep down the pastries that had just scoffed down.  On the long flat burn into Levico term, the pace kept
picking up with a clear battle looming ahead in the sprint into town, but then the turn off to the hotel appeared with less than 1 km to go, and we
were all cheated of the victory that we were each going to claim (in our own minds).
Great hotel right on the lake, multiple beers were consumed by multiple people in the bar..there was much rejoicing.

85 km + 5000 ft , 3 hrs 50 mins ride time

Day 4 : Thursday September 7 .....  Levico Terme to Cles

Levico Terme to Pergine to Pass d. Redebus (1449 m) to Bodello to Faver to Palu to Mezzocorona to Denno to Cles.
After watching some moterbike photography with a keen eye, we rolled out of Levico Term and to a castle (~1559AD) just up the road
that overlooks Trento..great views, and a steep climb for so early in the morning (17%). 
The climb up to the Passo d. Redebus (1449 m) was fun but tiring, and it finished with a  moderately steep section.
After rejuvinating at the van waiting for us just over the top of the climb, we rolled down a great decent, meandered around a
little, and them climbed into Favor, stopping for lunch soon after.  After enjoying the ``decent'' (which was actually a steep climb)
from the lunch stop in Palu (with a  very entertaining waitress)  we rolled toward Cles.
With all the climbing in the morning behind us and the map indicating that we had a pretty flat ride into Cles everyone was relaxed,
but the map lied.  For the last couple of hours, towns that were seperated in elevation by say, 100m, required 500m of climbing after
a 400m decent..this happened a number of times.  John C. decided to stretch his legs a little on these climbs and put the hurt on us all.

109 km + 7500 ft , 5 hrs 9 mins ride time

Day 5 : Friday September 8 .....  Rest Day in Cles

Today was rest day for some (myself included) and a day of joyful riding for those that were not yet tired.
For those resting, it was a day of coffee, ice cream, pizza, checking email and general lounging around. 
There was the compulsory visit to Fondreist bike shop, and I picked up a pair of bike shorts
(I had forgotten to bring shorts on the trip....anyway, who needs them??)

0 km + 0 ft , 24 hrs of down  time

Day 6 : Saturday September 9 .....   Cles to Sciliar

Cles to Revo to Casez to Sarnocico to Belvedere to Passo di Mendolo (1363 m) to Appiano to Bolzano (Bozen for the Germans) to Collabo to Ponte Gardena
to CastelRotto to Siusi.  The climb up to the Mendolo was fun, some attacking here and there.  There was a car race organizing as we crested,
with some classics cars from the 60's.  The decent to Bolzano was fun, but getting through town was a little hairy at times with the traffic.
Most opted for the long route, which meant turning left just outside of Bolzano for a long climb through vineyards, double and triple chevrons for the first
part of the way to Collalbo.  A good lunch near the top followed by an awesome decent on a pretty narrow road along the side of the valley below, finally dropping into
Ponte Gardena.  As we might have guessed we were not done climbing, and there was a final push to get to the hotel. 
After looking at the steep decent and what obviously was going to be a tough climb up by St. Oswald, a few of us opted to climb to
Castelrotto (which was also quite evil, with tunnels up the steep parts etc) and then a short decent to the hotel.
Awesome views from the hotel.
Another fantastic day of bike riding! 

109 km + 9000 ft , 5 hrs 24 mins ride time

Day 7 : Sunday September 10 .....    Sciliar to Passo Pordoi (2239m)

Sciliar to Presules to Passo Nigra (1688 m) to Passo di Costalungq to San Giovanni to Canazei to Pass Pordoi (2239 m).
It was on the chilly side when we rolled out of the Park Hotel Miramonti, down hill for  a few miles, and then up a pretty
short 28% section of road.  After some nice cruising we started up the Passo Nigra (1688 m), which started with extended
sections at 20% and 14-15% for a couple of miles, followed by a long 8% climb to the top...
it was tough going to begin with and generally a nasty climb.  I was pretty much done for the day after this alone.
We lunched in Pozza di Fazza.  Full of Pizza and coke we rolled along the valley at a good clip into Canazei.
A couple of switch backs into the climb up to the Pordoi, John C. started complaining about how high his heart rate was, and then immediately
launched a blistering attack which took 2 1/2 mins out of Richard and 5 mins out of me and Mr X.

67 km + 8000 ft , 3 hrs 45 mins ride time

Day 8 : Monday September 11 .....    Passo Pordoi (2239m) Loop Ride

Passo Pordoi (2239 m) to Passo di Sella (2244 m) to Passo di Gardena (2121 m) to Passo di Campolongo (1875 m) to Arraba to Passo Pordoi (2239 m).
This was probably the best day of cycling I have ever had from the standpoint of pure natural beauty.
Rolling down from the Pordoi to the intersection to the Sella and climbing the Sella was a little chilly, but the view from the Sella
was truly amazing, with clear view of the  glacier on the Marmolada.  There were roadworks on the drop down to the turn to the
Gardena, which split the group by about an hour, as some got caught just as the closed the road.
The views climbing the Gardena were great, and also on the decent.  We had a great lunch in a cafe/restaurant at the turn to climb the
Camplongo, and then attempted to climb after many pastries and coffees.
The climb back up the Pordoi from Arraba was quite long, and after leading Richard up for several miles, he politely road me
into the barriers in the sprint to the top.
After showering and coffeeing we took the Gondola to the very top, the highest point in the Dolomites, and one can see for miles and
miles..see the pics below.  There is a plaque of Fausto Coppi at the base of the gondola.

52 km + 6000 ft , 2 hrs 53 mins ride time

Day 9 : Tuesday September 12 .....    Passo Pordoi (2239m)  to Cortina

Passo Pordoi (2239 m) to Canazei to Passo di Fedaia (2057 m) to Caprile to Cernadoi to Passo di Falzarego to Cortina (1237 m).
Another fun day of riding. I was really cold when we dropped out of the Hotel down to canazei.  the road was shaded all the way and
we were all very very cold, shivering at the bottom.  We then rolled along the valley a little more before starting the climb to up the Fedaia.
John C. tipped his hand a little at breakfast by having two camns of coca cola and not just the ususal one, and so we all knew it was on.
What we didn't know was that he had warmed up on the exercycle in the hotel prior to our departure.  he then attacked viciously
on the Fedaia pulling out a minute or more at the top.
Luckily we were climbing the easy side, and so it was not that long or painful.  The decent was unbeleivable, straight down burn on
20% extended sections.  I stopped to check my rims and they were hot. After figuring out that the map had at least on town in the
wrong place, we took a couple of wrong turns, but made our way back to the main road.  Mr X was on fire today, putting on the
hurt from the bottom of the Fedaia to the top of the Falzerago.  Mr X led us up the Falzerego, causing much hurt all the way, then there were a
couple of attacks in the last km, which was a fun way to end the days climbing.  As you can see from the photo, the passo di Falzarego is
quite proud of the Nazi party from years gone by, with openly available lighters and wine with pictures of Hitler, Mussolini and other great humanitarions!
After recovering from the shock of visiting a Nazi stronghold, we descended into Cortina, which was great...awesome views.

52 miles + 5840 ft ,

Day 10 : Wednesday September 13 .....     Cortina Loop Ride...the Tre Cima

34 miles + 4600 ft .
Today was perhaps the single hardest day of climbing I and others have ever done.
After deciding to do the easy route today (much to the amusement of those who had already ridden the easy route before)
we set off agreeing to a calm day in the saddle, after all how bad can 34 miles really be.  Almost immediately John C. starts
putting down the hammer, and Richard and I decide to fall off the back, and stopped for coffee before we starting climbing up the
10% sections leading to the turn to the refuge.  A nice pleasant start to the day, which appeared to be a cruise all day long.
The we turned to climb up to the refuge and hit an extended section of 20%....this was so steep and long enough that we were both contemplating
stopping and turning back (The last time I considered turning back on a road was in Pittsburgh in 1993 trying to cross one of the bridges across the
Allegheny river...very narrow, no shoulder and cars use cyclists for target practice!). 
It looked like it went for a long while, but soon enough it flattend out and dropped us down to the ``start'' of the climb.
We should have taken notice of the guy operating the tool-booth at the bottom who was shaking his head as if to suggest that we had serious
mental problems in attempting this ride.  We then started the climb which tunred out to be 8km with grades between 12% and 17%  continually to the top
(it seemed all 17% to me!).
I took my gloves off as my hands were moving around to much, climbing in the saddle hurt the lower back too much, and it was  a serious struggle to turn
over 34-26.  I stopped twice on the way up and it was the most unejoyable stretch of road I have ridden. It was hideous. 
Looking at the post-climb photos below, you can see that no-one is really overjoyed with the days events.  I
 am really glad we did it, as I enjoy the extremes, but I was not in shape to do that climb, primarily my lower-back was not strong enough.
One of the 2007 Giro stages finishes with this climb.....I am sure everyone who climbed it that day will be glued to the TV to see how the big dogs do it.

That evening back at the hotel, there was much rejoicing, and various excerpts from Monty-Python could even be heard in the bar....
this also happened on the Pyrenees tour....curious that.

Day 11 : Thursday September 14 .....     Cortina Rest Day

0 miles and 0 ft
Today was a very enjoyable day cruising around Cortina.  A lazy start to the day for all, the damage inflicted by the Tre Cima was quite serious!
The local bike shop , just up the road from our hotel was well worth the visit, and many bought clothing, particularly the ``Cortina 1956'' olympic
style winter jersey/sweater. After hitting a cafe mid-morning people explored the town, meeting up for a pizza lunch.  Back to the hotel to  rest and bs.

Day 12 : Friday September 15 .....     Cortina to Sospirolo

50 miles  + 1000 ft
We woke up to cool temperatures and very heavy rain.  The kiwis, being weak and unadventurous types, and some of the more sane types,
decided to take the main highway to the next hotel.  This appeared to be a straight burn on the red road most of the way, but we were warned of the traffic. 
We spaced ourselves with 10's of meters between us as the stopping distances were very long, visibility poor. 
The tunnels were exceptionally dangerous, one of them being 2.2km with no shoulder.  They were really fun, as as soon as you entered
the tunnel your glassses fogged up and you couldn't see at all, then the ventilation was strong enough to blow you around in the tunnel itself. 
The traffic screamed by and so all in all it was very dangerous.  However, it was above freezing and no one got too cold to ride.
The tough  cyclists in the crowd went back over the Falzerago, but it was very cold and the van was required to ferry some people to the hotel as
the conditions were quite severe.   I think I still have water in my rims 4 months was very wet.
We arrived at the hotel to be greeted with warm soup and a nice lunch and a great hotel.  We had a lot fun at dinner, there was much rejoicing.

Day 13 : September  16 .....    Sospirolo to Castelfranco

58 miles and 2500 ft
Sospirolo to Pass di San Boldo (706m) to Valdobbiadene to Asolo to Castelfrano.
After looking like we were going to have marginal weather, today turned into yet another awesome day of cycling.
Soon after rolling out of the hoteland after much confusion as to where we were going, we approached the San Boldo,
where John thoroughly punished us all.   It was lattes all round at the cafe at the top, followed by an awesome decent down multiple switchback
with a tunnel at every turn.  There wa sa fairly long burn to Asolo, on which Richard decided to punish as many as he could with a brutal show
of sustained speed through the rolling countryside, followed by an attack up into Asolo.  After a nice lunch in Asolo it was all business back to the
Hotel, with Charly and others dragging myself and others at about 47km/hr all the way back.

We then set about breaking down the bikes, getting ready to leave for home, and within an hour of getting to the hotel, the weather turned and
heavy rain fell.  That evening we lived Italian style, promenading around the town and sampling Gelato after a fine last dinner and volumes of wine.