Sunday, April 25, 2010

I HATED Climbing Until.....

My thanks to Jason, who does web development for Velo Veneto, for his story. Velo Veneto, since 1986, has made it easy for English-speaking riders to race in Italy, and ride Gran Fondos. Started by an Italian-American, Renato Palazzo, the camp has run strong for 25 years and today is led by Pat Carroll. Situated at the foot of Monte Grappa, the location is perfect for training and is central to the majority of Italian amateur racing and many of the famous Gran Fondo.

From Parma to Castelcucco, the long way

"I grew up in Parma, Ohio, just outside of Cleveland. There's not much to say about that, other than there is a decent-sized Italian community there, which came in handy. It was there that I met Joe Bringheli . Sig. Bringheli was my first contact with Italian cycling, and a real cyclist in general. He took the time to teach me how to ride - to be comfortable on a road bike. He also regaled me with tales of classic Italian races and racers - most of what I know about Coppi, Bartoli, Saronni, and Moser is due to him. And in the tangible goods department, he also sold me my first pair of hand-built wheels (which, I might point out, I didn't need to true for almost 2 years!). To say that he was instrumental in getting me to love cycling, and Italian cycling in particular, is an understatement.

After college, I found myself in California, and despite the proliferation of beautiful hills, I HATED climbing. I got better at it over the years, but I still hated it. I LOVED descending, but no way did I want to go up. Along the way, I also became involved with Velo Veneto.

Anyway, my job was to help tell the story of this great camp, and build them a new website. Of course, ever the responsible professional, I said, "How can I tell the story of the camp, if I've never been?" So, 14 hours with KLM and some bad airport food later, I landed in Venice. As we headed north into Castelcucco, we watched an evening temperale bubbling on top of the Grappa, flashing the sky with lightning. But by the time we arrived in town, it was clear and dry. A quick ride, a tasty dinner at Hotel Monte Grappa, and I was ready for bed.

The next morning, wasting no time, I was thrown in at the deep end. On tap for that day was a climb of Passo Rolle, descent of Passo Rolle (I was definitely looking forward to this!), and a climb and descent of the Croce d'Aune. A short, and beautiful, drive north into the Dolomites got us to our ride kick-off location. We warmed up for the climb by riding up the valley into Fiera di Primiero and through Siror to start the climb. I've been in the Alps before, and spent a decent amount of time in the Sierra Nevadas, but nothing is like the Dolomites. They're not big. They're not massive. They are... dramatic. That really is the best word I could use to describe them. You really get the impression of their size and power when you're on the bike and you can just feel them towering over you. I could not get enough.

We continued to climb up, giving us not only dramatic overhead views, but gorgeous valley views opening below us now. I was achingly slow up the climb not because it's so hard (it's not), but because riding and taking pictures at the same time is quite hard! We passed through San Martina di Castroazza, where Danilo DiLuca had won a Giro stage only weeks before (and Ricardo Ricco just won a stage the other day), and kept on climbing. As we gained altitude, the climb began to feel familiar - the trees and shrubs are very similar to the high Sierras - yet not. The roads were smooth! The traffic was courteous! And always, the dramatic Dolomites above!

As we neared the top, the road levels out and I couldn't resist putting it into the big ring and taking advantage of the tailwind. We stopped at the summit to put on clothes for the descent and grab a quick hot chocolate. Asked how I liked the Rolle, I said, "Pat, I HATED climbing... until I came here. I LOVE it now! I can't wait to climb some more!" Riding the Croce d'Aune, one of the most historic climbs in cycling, was almost incidental to the day, as great as it was. The mountains had me at "Hello."

That is why, from here forward, you will find me in Castelcucco every summer, with a cast of characters our riders know well, and who can't wait to ride, race, and complete a Gran Fondo with someone new."

Stories for the Italian Cycling Journal about rides, granfondos, having a good time cycling in Italy, Italian cycling history, etc. are very welcome. Contact me at There are more than 1,300 stories in this blog. The search feature to the right works best for finding subjects in the blog and there is also a translate button at the bottom so you can translate each page.

1 comment:

  1. We had the same experience once a) we came to Italy and b) put some low gears on the bike! You'll find us every summer enjoying the Legendary Climbs of the Giro with our friends and clients.