Treviso and the Granfondo Pinarello
Ian is a former member of the IT crowd. His love for cycling however proved more enduring than that for computer programming and prompted him to follow his dreams and start La Fuga. Ian is proof that cycling is something that never leaves you and he bears racering scars as testament to his addiction. Ross’ life has always been framed by landscapes. From childhood holidays in the English Lake District, through academic study and professional endeavour, the environment has been at the heart. Having taken a break from his turbulent relationship with racing, Ross is rediscovering that almost spiritual bond between man, bicycle and landscape. Cycling has taken him to the corners of the globe without much time for appreciation, until now. Cam is along for the ride. He’s on catch up training for L’Etape and hungry for miles, miles, miles.
Clear skies and late spring sunshine greet us as we depart the Piazza dei Signori and head north towards Montebelluna. Our tree lined course carries us through vineyards showing the first promise of a later harvest. The pianura (define this) of the Piave start to corrugate as the eastern Dolomites appear like an apparition on the horizon. Our route carries us at a tangent past Conegliano and onwards through the sleepy villages of Pieve di Soligo and Refrontolo. The first test for the legs is the zig-zag of Zuel di La. Tight hairpins follow in quick succession, punctuating the goat track which seems to cling to the hillside like a black ribbon. A quick descent drops us into Valmareno and the prospect of the Passo San Boldo.
Perched atop a prominent cliff, Castel Brando stands a dramatic lone watch over Valmareno. Served by a dedicated funicular railway, it is a unique base from which to explore northern Veneto. Past Castel Brando, the road begins to rise up, almost imperceptively at first, to meet the summit of Passo San Boldo. Despite its anonymity in the celebrity world of high passes, San Boldo leaves a lasting impression. A comfortable gradient suddenly becomes much steeper as the half way point is reached and the road disappears into a series of hairpins tunnelled out of the rock. Cyclists have the logistical demands of the Great War to thank for this helter skelter of engineering, the pass having been constructed by the Austrian army as an important supply route in 1917.
The summit represents a watershed of landform and culture. We descend at speed through alpine pastures and wooden cabins, past log piles and grazing cattle. Our field of vision now is dominated by the high Dolomites looking northwards towards tomorrow’s challenge and the ascents of the Campagnolo. The road to Nevegal is impossibly narrow, climbing up from the remote village of Valmorel. I feel the effects of San Boldo as the exertion of tackling the initial steep gradient realises itself in legs and lungs. The breathtaking views across to Monte Pizzocco and Monte San Mauro are a welcomed, yet only partial remedy to the pain. As the gradient eases Mother Nature trades the demands of gracity for those of friction; the tarmacced (spelling?) surface gives way to gravel. Previous experience tells us though that this signals our approach to the summit.
As we enter the ski resort of Nevegal, the only way to climb any higher is by chairlift, which at this time of year lies eerily silent. A fast descent back to Lago San Croce, then a 20km section of relative flat. With the major climbing complete, only a few small blips remain on the percorso. San Lorenzo climbs straight out of Vittorio Veneto in a succession of tight hairpins, through a series of tiny hamlets. The autostrada rumbles under our wheels as it takes a subterranean short cut back to Treviso. Vittorio Veneto saw the final conflict on the Italian front during the Great War and coincided with the final collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Almost one hundred years later the tranquillity of pasture and vine betray no hint of its more violent past.
The final obstacle comes as we ascend from Nervesa della Battaglia up onto il Montello, a small ridge running alongside the Piave River. What appears to be a gentle climb onto the ridge turns nasty as a sharp left turn has you reaching for the granny gears one final time. Thankfully our pace this time has been better judged than previous attempts and we manage to tackle this final climb without walking, as some have resorted to in the cramp inducing Italian summer. After what has gone before, the 20km roll back to Treviso is dispatched without much drama and we’re back in time for apperitivo. One star down, three to go.