Words and photos by Bruno Ferraro
Bad news, I’ve started biting my nails again and this doesn’t go along with my Lycra cycling outfit at all. Of course, I can’t blame myself for this habit, the period is definitely not the best but I still consider myself lucky to have always been able to get out on my bike. However, my cycling has become more reflective lately, leaving aside the watts and making room for an ocean of thoughts, ideas and reasoning. One of these thought came up the other morning while cycling through the Asolo hills. I was thinking about the fact that I have always used the bike as a means to escape from everyday life, while in this period, cycling often brings me back to reality: the countless restrictions, the few possibilities of movement and the overdose of free time. In short, always the same old ride.
Damn spring, does it take much longer? Damn virus, why don’t you cease to exist?
Around here, winter is not bad, but not completely suitable for cycling. I live in Bassano del Grappa, at the foot of the Venetian Prealps, where some of the most beautiful climbs in the Veneto appears between one shed and another.
From December to March, I often find myself in the dilemma of not being able to decide which ride to do, as the options are many and challenging. Shaded and upwind valleys, mountain massifs that go well above 1000 meters in altitude, eat and drink between frozen hills and the straight parts of the Po Valley.
I usually prefer the mountains. The peace up there is incomparable, but this cold weather certainly doesn’t make the choice any easier, especially considering the descent.
This winter will surely be remembered as a time of heavy snowfall but poor skiing. Every time I look north, towards Monte Grappa, I am fascinated to see it covered in white and the idea of climbing it always crosses my mind.
Today is one of those days, a Saturday morning in February with a clear, cloudless sky. The temperature is so low that there is no humidity in the air and the drops of condensation solidified on the glass of the house shine, reflecting the sun’s rays as I open the window. There it is, the Monte Grappa, irradiated by the morning light, so clear that I can see the summit with its ossuary. Its call is strong and all in all the day seems perfect. I decide to take the gravel bike, fill the frame bag with spare clothes and get ready to leave without too much hesitation. Finally, I’m out and about! As usual, the air is cold but the sun is pleasantly warm: it promises to be an initially hot climb so I open my jacket to avoid excessive sweating. And here I am, after less than 15 minutes, to pass the first of several bends of the Cadorna road, which leads to the top of the Monte Grappa after 25 kilometers.
This road is the only one that is sufficiently clean and maintained during the winter, while the other roadss, although more spectacular, are often impassable in case of snowfall. Since I am on a gravel bike, I decide to make a change in the route. Thanks to well treaded Cinturato Mixed tires, I go to a place called “Colli Alti”, which overlooks Valbrenta to the west and stretches to a rather simple but very beautiful and scenic path northward. We are over 1000 meters of altitude and there is already plenty of snow. Fortunately, some vehicles crossed this area in the previous days flattening the snow. The wheels roll well, allowing me to pedal without slowing down but, above all, without the risk of having to walk for the entire detour. I go on towards Col Fenilon and then Alpe Madre, not being able to stop photographing the spectacular scene in which I find myself. I return on the asphalt and then descend with caution towards the second half of the route that leads from Ponte San Lorenzo to cima Grappa.
Going up in altitude the scenery becomes amazing, the alpine pastures and the various alpine huts are covered by almost a meter of snow; around there, you can see the traces of some snowshoeing that took place a few hours before. Some guys have drawn dozens of lines with their snowboards on the slope south of Costone: it’s the paradise of freeride and it’s incredibly close to our house.
The last 5 kilometers of ascent are the most spectacular, the direction of the road often changes and so the scenery changes as you go up. On one side, you can still see the plain and, if you look properly, you can see the reflections of the sun on the lagoon of Venice; on the other side, the slopes become gentle and herald the climax of the climb. You cross through various monuments in memory of the wars, as awful battles were fought here; it’s hard to believe that someone could have resisted for weeks under such weather conditions. Once you have crossed the last real curve, you begin to see the Bassano refuge and, next to it, the ossuary to the fallen of the First World War, which stands on the entire summit of the Grappa. Finally at the top! From here, I can also see the north side, where the Lagorai and the Dolomites are framed in the distance. The thermometer reads 6 degrees below zero but inside the refuge the atmosphere is warm and welcoming and I indulge in a glass of mulled wine accompanied by a slice of apple strudel, a well-deserved booty after almost 2000 meters of elevation gain.