The plan for the next 4 days was a loop south into Italy to ride in the Dolomites. We had snow in Riezlern overnight and it was 6 degrees out, but the real problem was going to be what the temperature was on some of the high passes. We had twisties and switchbacks planned all day except for 80 km for the autobahn.
We bundled up and set out with Michael as our guide. Today we had 2.5 degrees at the first pass and 27 degrees in the 7 km long tunnel.
We ropped out of the hills to 20 plus degrees.
Now for Italia!!!
We headed up into the hills again to a quaint small hotel on an incredible road into a tiny village. Michael had been here 20 years ago and the staff remembered him.
The plan for day two was to keep going over the mountain on the single-track roads and over several passes to end up in Bassano del Grappa.
Setting out in the morning it was warmer and the curves continued.
From here we rode thru Asiago and on to Bassano de Grappa where we toured around the old town, checked out the famous Alpini Bridge and sampled Italian ice cream and grappa!
The Alpini are the “elite mountain warfare military corps of the Italian Army” that was established in 1872. Their original mission was to protect Italy’s border with France and Austria. The Ponte Vecchio or Ponte degli Alpini (old or Alpini bridge) is a covered bridge originally built in 1569 in Bassano del Grappa, but it has been destroyed and rebuilt many times. The bullet holes are still seen on the walls from WW 1.
When in Rome as they say! We had to go to the Grappa museum and tasting room.
The plan was to head up to the Alpina monument high over Bassano at Seran de Grappa and then go from pass to pass headed north.
You can still see al the divots from the bombing.
The day started with the Molina Pass, which is 2 lanes with numerous switchbacks.
We then took a “closed” road, which is unmaintained and quite narrow with tight hairpins and overhanging rocks.
Then we did the Tonale Pass where the curves are more wide and sweeping and the bike traffic is high speed in both directions.
Then it was off to the Gavia pass (number 5 in Europe) Here the hairpins are one after the other, the road is very narrow at times (2 bikes can just pass each other), and there are often no guardrails. The other problem is the cyclists especially when they were stopped on both sides of the road at the apex of the hairpins…a bit of a challenge.
Getting to the top there is a spectacular mountain view. It was about 6 degrees in the snow. The descent was just as good with lots of hairpin curves thru the trees.
We arrived to Teregua near Bormio and found a small house to stay in near an awesome pizzeria.
Today is the big day! The Stelvio! This is the second highest paved mountain pass in the Alps by 13 m at 2770 m. The original road was built in 1820 and has changed little. It has 75 hairpin turns (48 on the north side). It was at one time chosen by Top Gear as the “greatest driving road in the world” (they later said the Transfagarasan highway in Romania was possibly superior…next year).
First, a leisurely breakfast at the pizzeria waiting for the frost to burn off the roads.
Leaving town we passed the turn off to the Stelvio and the sign said the pass was closed, but since it was only 1030 we figured it would open once the frost was off so we did a little side loop into the hills.
Riding up the south side of the pass it looks exactly like Las Libertadores between Santiago de Chile and Argentina. Even down to the snow tunnels and the waterfall on the left of the road.
Las Libertadores, Chile
The road itself on the Stelvio is quite a bit narrower. We were rising quickly and the temperature dropped to 3 degrees only part way up.
Arriving at the summit we ran into Tom who we had also seen at the top of the Gavia!
We were blessed today with spectacular sunshine, warmth despite the 1.5 degrees, and almost no traffic for the epic ride.
The final and 48 th hair pin!
Part way down we were flagged over by some young guys on Harleys. They had run out of gas. We gave them the 1 liter from our stove gas to make it to the top. He could then glide all the way to Bormio for fuel.
We took a different way back to Rizlern and 3 more passes each better than the last. FYI no camping at the gas station!