Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Monte Grappa Challenge

The first Monte Grappa Challenge was held on July 19th. In order to make the event "more humane" three routes were offered in addition to the most difficult route:

EXTRA STRONG Route: 271 km; 8,129 m of climbing
STRONG Route: 225 km; 6,450 m of climbing
MEDIUM Route: 168 km; 4,902 m of climbing
BASE Route: 111 km; 3,265 m of climbing

The EXTRA STRONG route featured 5 climbs of Monte Grappa:
1° salita: Possagno (strada S. Liberale) (20% max)
2° salita: Semonzo (16% max)
3° salita: Seren del Grappa (20% max)
4° salita: Caupo (12% max)
5° salita: Romano d'Ezzelino (10% max)

Awards are issued for those that complete 2, 3, 4 or 5 of the climbs in one day.

My friend April, who writes the excellent BICIVENETO (, had this to say about the Monte Grappa Challenge:

"As you can see from the route map (above), there are nine ways to the top! All of them are difficult, challenging, and for experienced climbers--and descenders--only. (For an extensive discussion and tips on this topic, read Climbing and Descending). The Monte Grappa Challenge, a new event which will take place on July 19, 2009, includes 5 of them, and brevetti (certificates) will be awarded to those who complete 2, 3, 4 or all 5 of them in one day.

The red route from Romano is well-traveled and there are a number of bars and restaurants along the way. The blue road from Caupo (a frazione--i.e.section, of the comune of Seren del Grappa) on the north side of the mountain, on the other hand, is lonely, atmospheric, and more beautiful.

The gray route, which was paved only within recent years, has been "discovered" by climb-o-philes and is being discussed in cycling magazines such as CicloTurismo. The yellow route, from Possagno to Bocca di Forca, has been rated the third hardest climb in Italy, with an average gradient of 11.44%. This route too, is now garnering its fair share of attention: even the Giro d'Italia commentators discussed it during a 2005 stage broadcast. (The hardest climb in Italy is the Zoncolan, in the neighboring Friuli region).* The purple road from Valle San Liberale to La Vedetta/Salto della Capra, reopened after being cleared of a landslide, is also extremely difficult. It has attracted the attention of climb connoisseurs, and to my knowledge, has not yet been rated. Even experienced, expert local riders advise against descending on these roads. They are not only steep, but narrow, with tight, tricky hairpins--very technical and demanding. In addition, the foliage overhead creates shadows which can hide holes and rough pavement, leading to some rude surprises. These descents are definitely not fun to do. It's not a good idea to ride these roads alone. There are no houses or bars and very little traffic, so there'd be no one to help you if you should get into trouble.

* (Passo Mortirolo, average gradient 10.5% - Zoncolan, 11.5%; Mortirolo, maximum gradient, 18.5% - Zoncolan, 19%). There is actually a much steeper road going up to Malga Palazzo, between Trento and Rovereto, but with some strappi (sections) measuring over 30% (!) It is virtually unrideable on a road bike, and therefore is not included in any list of climbs."

Photos: Monte Grappa; BICIVENETO Monte Grappa route map

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