Domodossola was the starting point of my first trip, in the beginning of July, my first climb being the Cascata del Toce. There’s a long tunnel (doing a loop), but the old road is still in good condition and is perfect for cyclists, with nice hairpins. The BIG is located right at the top of the cascade, but it would be a shame not to continue to the Morasco Dam. On my way down, I went through the tunnel, but I should discourage cyclists without a proper light to take it, as it is quite dark in some parts. I then climbed the Alpe di Cheggio, which is a good climb, with a nice lake at the top, then turned back to Domodossola.
My next target was the Lago di Naret, in Switzerland. To reach Ponte Brolla, which is the start of the Maggia valley, I had to take the Locarno main road. There is a train (http://www.vigezzina.com) going this way, but forbidden to bikes. As this train was quite slow, and I had to wait for the departure, I decided it wasn’t worth the time I’d lose going to the station to see my access refused, so I took directly the Locarno road. Well, the first part of the road should make cyclists consider more thoroughly the train option. It was a horrible section of road: many, many cars, a lot of tunnels and in a very steep ascent (not the best moment of my travel). Fortunately, at the top of the slope, the road gets wider and the scenery nicer. Even the flow of vehicles seems to decrease. Arriving in Ponte Brolla, I tried my luck at the bus stop, even if here again, it was stated that bicycles were forbidden. Well, I had no problem getting my bike into the bus, and I went up to Bignasca where I finished my first day of travel, at the Albergo della Posta.
The morning after, I continued my way up to Lago di Naret. It is a very beautiful climb (but in fact, all these mountain roads are nice), particularly after the Sambucco dam, but it’s also at this point that things get tougher. There are a lot of 13% stretches before reaching the top. The road arrives first at a little car park, where the dam can be seen at a little distance. There’s a short downhill before the last climb to the dam. When I was there, the last part, between the car park and the dam, was blocked by a bulldozer, because falling rocks obstructed the road ahead. I had to make my way walking along the rocks to get to the other side and finally reach the lake.
I then turned down to Locarno. To cross the city, nice bicycle paths can be found along the lake, with lot of people taking the sun by the water, that make you wonder why you spend your time suffering on a bike (I don’t think this question has an answer). After Locarno, a set of highways leads to the east shore of Lago Maggiore and the start of the Alpe di Neggia. The beginning of this climb offers great views over the lake, while the second part provides a more mountainous atmosphere. At the top, I turned back and went down to Bellinzona, going directly to the station. A train for Biasca was soon to come, so I saved myself 25 km of not very pleasant road up to there. After Biasca, the road climbs gently towards the Lucomagno pass. I took on the left a little road passing by Semione, which was nice to ride, even if the traffic on the main road wasn’t too important. I arrived in Olivone as the night was beginning (so did the rain) and took a room at the Osteria Centrale.
As the innkeeper showed me the room, I felt something strange about him. Finally, he told me, very embarrassed, that due to works on the Town Hall roof just opposite, there was a possibility of some noise, starting at 5 a.m. With a big smile, I answered this was perfect for me, as long as I could take my bike for a ride before breakfast. He looked so relieved to hear me speak in such a way that he gave me the keys of the hotel, the keys of the bike shed, to my great pleasure.
So, as the first hammer hit the roof, I got up and went for an early ride up to Lucomagno Pass. The slope is quite gentle on this side (don’t know about the other side), the road is wide, the mountain views were nice, so everything was right up to the hospice located at the pass. I saw however that the road was still climbing after the pass, entering into a tunnel overhanging the lake. I continued until the downhill began, but that was of no interest as it was all inside the tunnel. After my breakfast, I left the hotel for Lago Luzzone. Just before the dam, a crossway with three tunnels appears, and of course I had to try the other two before finding the one that leads to the dam (it was the one on the left if I remember well). I went then all the way down to the San Bernardino road. When I arrived, I looked at the bus timetable, and saw that I had just time for an ice-cream before the bus arrived. Here again, I was happy to avoid a long stretch of valley road into the July mid-day heat.
I feared that the San Bernardino was a big pass and thus there would be a heavy load of vehicles, but the nearby highway takes most part of the traffic, and it appeared that it was one of the nicest climbs of my trip: big pass over 2000m, nice scenery, reasonable steepness, everything was fine. After this pass, I went back and forth to the Splügen pass, where nice sets of hairpins can be found.
The following BIG was Juf. It was getting late as I reached the upper part of the climb, so I began to look at the hotels. The first one was full, there was another one but closed (hotels in Switzerland close one day per week, usually the day you pass by). Finally I was happy to find a little B&B where I was the second client. So, early in the morning, I finished the last stretch of the climb and turned back towards Thusis and the Glaspass.
I regretted afterwards not to have thought of the train option between Thusis and Chur, as these trains appear to be frequent, but I arrived anyway in Chur, at the foot of Arosa climb. At the Calfreisen tunnel, I took a little track that starts on the
Starting in Churwalden, the Lenzerheide was no big deal and I was soon at the foot of the Julier Pass. Instead of taking the highway, I took a small parallel road passing by Mon and Salouf. This road overlooks the normal Julier Pass road, where I saw lots of cars and lorries. This made me think that I had made a good decision, even if at the end the Salouf road loses some elevation before returning to the Julier Pass road. After the descent I crossed Saint-Moritz and went down to Samedan. At some point here, I followed a sign indicating a bicycle path that turned to be un-asphalted, so it would have been better to stay on the normal roads up to La Punt.
On the Albula climb, it was rainy and foggy, but at the bottom of the descent the weather had improved. I then started the long stretch along the Landwasser River that lead to
Going out of Davos, I saw on the left a kind of giant flying saucer that turned to be the Intercontinental hotel. I thought that riding away from the town center would allow me to find a cheaper place to stay, so I followed my way towards the
As expected, the descent from there in the early morning was everything but hot. When I arrived in the valley I tried to take the cycle paths to join the Pass del Fuorn road, but they turned out once again to be un-asphalted (Switzerland seems to make a specialty of non-cyclable paths). The climb on this side of the pass is nice, although
In my initial program, I should have headed towards Val Senales and Merano 2000. But I was behind my schedule as I had to be in Tesero on Saturday (we were Thursday) for the Randolomitics. So I left these two ones for later and took a train from Coldrano to Vilpiano, and at the nearby village of Nalles I took a hotel that was on the really start of the passo delle Palade climb.
The following day was light, as I knew the Randolomitics (467 km, 14200 m elevation) expected me. I performed just a little loop with Passo delle Palade and passo della Mendalo, went down to Auer and took a bus to Cavalese. Then I had a little ride to Tesero, where I enjoyed a half-afternoon of rest, quite unusual since I left home.
The Saturday and Sunday, I was occupied with the Randolomitics. Even if the route was imposed by the organization, there were enough new BIGs to satisfy me. Here is the list of the passes, where the BIGs are starred: Passo Valles, Passo San Pellegrino, Passo Pordoi*, Passo di Fedaia* (very hard), Passo Sella*, Passo Gardena*, Passo Valparola*, Passo Falzarego, Passo Giau*, Forcella Staulanza, Passo Duran*, Forcella Aurine, Passo Cereda, Passo Brocon and finally Passo Manghen*.
At the start of the Manghen, I was riding for more than 30 hours, and the tiredness of the week I had spent on the bike fell suddenly on my shoulders. Moreover, it was the beginning of the afternoon and the heat was intense. I suddenly wasn’t able to go ahead: I drank, ate, tried to sleep without success, ate again, stopped, rode two kilometers and so on for hours and hours. At the top of the climb I wasn’t able to ride anymore, I walked along the bike, it has certainly been my wrong moment on a bike. I managed finally to reach the top after seven hours of struggle. Needless to say that I quit the Randolomitics, and didn’t make the passo Lavaze and Pampeago climb that were on the official route. Instead I turned back to Tesero following 8 kilometers of nice bike paths along the river, and took a room in the hotel where I have stayed two nights before.
In my room, after dinner, not having slept since 5 a.m. the day before, I had a little moment of distress. So I made the error of taking my phone, call the wife and tell her that two weeks were too much, that I was exhausted and that I came back home the day after. The fact is that, after a good night of sleep, I was much less willing to turn back, but I couldn’t renege. So I came down to Auer and took the train home. From Verona, I had to take long-distance trains, where bikes have to be dismounted and in a bag. I had no bag so I took a piece of cardboard and wrapped it around the derailleur and the chain and I had no problem with that in the train. I had however to pay a fine, because, for some strange reason, the vending machine in Auer sold me a ticket for a Verona-Milano that passed much later than my arrival in the Verona station. I paid no attention to the schedule printed on the ticket and took the first train to Milano, which was not the one I have made my reservation in. But anyway, I was in Nice the Monday night, much satisfied of my trip, but with the little regret of not having thought over a bit more my decision to come back.