to Mel (via Vittorio Veneto) (53 kms)
Good breakfast. Great croissants!
The owners really were very friendly and couldn't do enough for us.
We left the hotel at about 11am and
visited Follina Abbey (a few hundred metres away). It's an impressive
building, and it was wonderfully cool wandering around in there.
After a few pictures, we left headed
for Vittorio Veneto where we were due to meet Sergio at the train
station. Sergio was going to ride a couple of days with us, before
heading back to Pisa.
We passed the left turn off to the
Passo San Boldo on the way, and shortly after took a right turn to take us
around the back of the lake to give us a detour and a breather from the main
road (though it wasn't particularly busy). Just after we rejoined the main
road at the end of the lake, the road plummeted down to Vittorio Veneto (and
we were going to have to climb back up it).
We were due to meet Sergio at the
railway station, but as we were riding along through the town, past a very
nice park, I heard someone call my name from a distance. We stopped
and sure enough, sheltering under the trees by a drinking fountain was
Sergio with three of his friends, Gianni (from Mel), and Maurizio and his
father Gianni from Bologna. We had a little food in a cafe in the
park, and then headed off on the climb out of Vittorio Veneto. I'll
just say here that these guys are fit, but kindly waited for us on the
climbs (well, we did have panniers :-)
We seemed to reach the turn off for
Passo San Boldo very quickly. The road from the turn off is
wonderful. Very quiet. It was another very warm day (well for
us Northern Englishmen it was), and we stopped to fill up the bottles in a
conveniently placed fountain just before the climb proper started.
As I filled the bottles, I looked at the 'wall' of rock ahead and wondered
how on earth a road could go over that.
On the climb itself, the hairpins are
numbered (18 in all), and at first the climbing was easy. It got
harder as we approached the first of the incredible tunnels. As the
gorge is so narrow, the hairpins are cut into tunnels in the rock, a
fantastic piece of engineering. Particularly impressive when you
think that the road was built in 1918 by 'Russian prisoners and the women
from Tovena' (number 7 on the map). The tunnels have traffic lights
on them, and I was surprised to see that the cyclists obeyed them
;-) At least it gave me a chance to catch up.
We crested the pass and after
pictures by the sign (706m), we zoomed down to Trichiana, where Sergio
kindly pointed out a book shop where I bought a book on the building of
the road (it's in Italian, but the pictures are good).
From Trichiana, we soon arrived in
Mel, where Sergio had booked us all in at the Albergo Al Moro. There
was lots of cycling memorabilia (jerseys, cups, pictures, press cuttings)
around the place. The previous owner, who died a few years ago had
obviously been a very successful racing cyclist in his day.
One item which made us smile was an account, with pictures, of a famous
Italian acrobatic cyclist, Giuliano Calore from Padova, who apparently goes in for all sorts of hair
raising stunts on bicycles. This commemorated his riding up the Stelvio
Pass on a bike with no handlebars or brakes. It also said that he played
several musical instruments on the way up, and that the instruments
weighed a total of 30kgs! Is this true? I meant to take a
picture of the 'picture' if you see what I mean, but unfortunately forgot
That evening, we were treated to an
excellent meal, and joined by yet more of Sergio's acquaintances, who
seemed to arrive by the minute. But this was nothing!