We are a group of friends who enjoy cycling together - every three years we find a new way to torture ourselves on bikes and then decide to get sponsored so that people can watch us suffer.

So after LEJOG (Lands End to John O’Groats) in 2004 and LeKnees (The Atlantic to The Mediterranean along and over the Pyrenees) in 2007, we are now asking you to support our L’Express ride: Paris to Venice in 2010.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Day 13: Trento to Campolongo

Very brief post tonight as both Jeremy and Blogging Support are working on mobile phones in Italy, and it's crazy expensive!

So - cyclists had a great day today, with a steady ride through spectacular scenery in lovely weather. They are now about 8 km out of Bassano, and hope to reach Venice tomorrow, on schedule. This is about 50 miles of cycling, so they hope to meet up with Blogging Support and the Little Supporters at Venice Bus Station sometime mid-afternoon. The plan then is to return to Venice Mestre - the last settlement on the mainland, as Venice doesn't officially allow bikes in, so it's simpler to park them at a hotel in Mestre. Mestre itself is choc-a-bloc with cyclists, so we're hoping that the team can identify some tame ones on the way through to get advice on the last part of the journey, as this is over the bridge that just links Venice by rail and road.

Blogging Support would like to put in a good word for the folk of Mestre, who have taken us under their wing. We've now been walked from buses to our hotel from 2 different directions by helpful locals. They've kindly put on a Food Fayre in the piazza in our honour, and we can vouch for the fact that they make fabulous icecream and sell it well into the evening.

Hopefully we'll be able to give a full account on Friday when everyone is together.

Day 13 write -up (finally):

Fresh from our experience of our inability to get out of Bolzano the previous day, we were determined that the same thing would not happen in trying to get out of Trento. So after breakfast in our luxury 4* hotel (an excellent all you can eat with great scrambled eggs - and we weren't the only cyclists there stuffing ourselves), we loaded up in the hotel garage and headed back into town where we had seen a book shop with lots of maps during the previous evenings wanderings. We initially found another shop with a map stand, but the owner made a fuss when we started to look at the maps to see if they were suitable, so we moved on to the original target. There we found the maps we needed: a detailed map of the early part of the ride, and a better scale one for the whole day.

 Trento centre
 Heading out of Trento; the Mountains loom

The detailed map lead us to a road that we could see rising steeply away from the town. An elderly gentleman watched us looking at the map with interest, so we went and asked him if we had the correct road. There followed 5 minutes of mutual not understanding, although we got the general drift that he was suggesting an alternative road. We were concerned that his route would involve us in negotiating a main road again, so in the end we continued with our original plan. After about 500 m of steep climbing, however, the reason for the gentleman's concerns became all too apparent; the slope steepened to an impossible angle (John's Garmin suggested 27% before he got off). After a short but brutal bit of pushing we got back onto a more manageable slope and cycled on, up and out of the town.

The climb initially took us to Civezzano, a small town set in the side of the valley. Our initial pass through revealed no obvious food sources, which surprised us considering the size of the place, so we turned round with the intention of heading up into a part of the town with the church (often a better bet). John immediately noticed a small hole in the wall sort of a shop that contained fruit, so we got some bananas, tomatoes and peaches (all of which proved to be delicious). We moved on up and searched backwards and forwards, surprised at the lack of food shops, until we found a Co-Op. Food was purchased! Just in time too, as they shut for lunch promptly on our departure. 

 Roy doesn't look too amused at our suggestion for a new way of carrying the food ...

The most detailed map we had was good enough to indicate the presence of cycle routes and cycle-friendly roads on it, so we continued to navigate our way on these, the route taking us passed a very beautiful mountain lake, ending up in a small town at it's head called Levico Terme.

We knew we were near to our main target - a cycle route that would take us all the way to Bassano that the gentleman from the previous evening had hinted at. After a brief debate we decided to press on until we had found this route before we indulged in lunch. Fortunately we had no repeats of the previous day's experiences, and very soon found ourselves cycling on a route with a good surface, quiet with frequent benches and generally well signposted. Satisfied that we were safely on route, we stopped for some well-earned lunch.

The route after lunch became increasingly spectacular. The valley we were in was characterised by steep sides and high mountain peaks, with a rich agricultural land at its bottom and scattered villages and towns. The cycle route alternated between bike-only wide paths and quiet shared country roads, mostly with excellent surfaces and good signposting.

When we went through towns, we found signs to 'Bolzano' kept us right, even though we were zig-zagging through residential areas with a high potential of getting lost. At one point we saw a sign saying we were on the Munich to Venice cycle route! As we carried on, the valley got narrower and narrower, the mountains drawing in and becoming more gorge-like. We stopped for a coffee / hot chocolate and snack at a cycle-friendly route-side cafe near Tezze - an example of effective advertising as we had passed signs for it from 4 km out which made us instantly want to stop there.

We realised that our progress through the day had been moderately sedate, even though we had had no major climbs. This was due to following a cycle route, we thought, which with all its changes in direction and need for careful attention to signs, was not the most efficient way of getting from A to B even though it was probably the most pleasant. After some discussion, we decided to aim for a camp site we knew about at a place called Rocca, up a side valley. We headed off again and soon the valley had become a Gorge, wide enough just for our quiet route, the river and a busy motorway on the other side. As we passed the narrowest point, our path turned into a construct suspended from the Gorge wall over the river with a mesh roof to protect it from falling rocks. After this point the valley began to open up again.

We passed an insignificant-looking junction that seemed to just lead to the busy road, now a dual carriageway. Carrying on past a busy quarry (where they could be seen to be stripping the scree from the base of the valley-side cliffs) JR then realised he had made a (rare, honest) map error and that we needed to head back to the junction if we wanted to get to the camp site. We did so. But once at the junction we quickly decided that we wouldn't risk it. Even though we only needed to use about 1 km of the dual carriageway, we decided if was too dangerous. The lanes were constricted, visibility at the junction was poor and the traffic was going fast. So we turned round and asked how we could get over to the road with the camp site. It turned out we would need to head further back the way we had come - a route that would add another 10 km to our route - 10 km we would have to do again in the morning too. It appeared that the quarry had taken over the route we would otherwise have taken and that was marked on our map.

The only option we had, therefore, was to keep going and find another guest house or hotel for the evening (we knew there were no more camp sites ahead of us). We set a new target of Valstagne, the next town of any size in the valley. Some 2km short we passed a B&B sign, but decided we would doubtless get more choice where we were heading, so carried on. What fools! On reaching Valstagne, no sign of any accommodation at all. It was turning into the previous night all over again! We asked in a shop that specialised in outdoor activities, thinking they were sure to be helpful. But they weren't, suggesting we would need to get all the way to Bassano. So we headed off again, almost resigned to another late night. However, shortly an accommodation sign appeared at the side of the road - rooms in 2 km. We saw further signs as we entered the village of Campolongo sul Brenta. Eventually, however, signs disappeared and it was only John C's sharp eyes that spotted the place.

So we found ourselves in a mini-apartment for the night, across the road from a guest house and restaurant that owned it. Great food and a good night's sleep, once we had got fir of most of the mosquitos that had taken up residence there ...

84.88 km, 53.53 miles, average speed 18.2 kph, max 39.5 kph, 4:39 hrs in the saddle, 690 m climbed, 4096 calories used.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to hear Blogging Support and Co made it OK!!!

    fingers crossed for successful completion, and safe return. (will do small happy-dance when i hear! Mum sends love and best wishes to the 'lunatics on bikes'.

    verification word:
    ovintema - a night-time drink for sheep.