VÉLOSKI CLASSIC CLIMBS BICYCLE TOUR OF THE ITALIAN DOLOMITES //
SEPTEMBER 2-17, 2023
The Dolomiti (Dolomites) take their name from the scientist who first recognized the rock formations as different and distinct from all other formations in Western Europe. Indeed, the Dolomiti are primarily formations resulting from the uplift of ancient coral beds of the nearby Mediterranean Sea. The near vertical walls create stunning vistas and lens-filling landscapes that are unparalleled. The high pastures provide a beautiful green tapestry of contrasting color where herds graze and flocks migrate to higher ground during the hot summer months. The herder and hiker huts provide refuge from sudden storms and a welcome respite for hungry travelers traversing historic trade routes linking remote valleys and villages.
The fertile Veneto region is today the epicenter of Italian cycling manufacturers of clothing, components, frames, shoes and tires. The prosecco grape grows in abundance on the hillsides of the Veneto and provides ample fruit for the sparkling prosecco wine that is prominently featured on dinner tables of Italian families. Famous cities of the Veneto include Verona and Venezia (Venice) are known throughout the world for music, verse and handcrafts. The ancient silk route passed through the Veneto and over the Alps to northern Europe leaving us with amazing roads to ride into the heart of the mountains. Monte Grappa dominates the skyline to the north of Castelfranco and is a favorite route for cyclists of the Veneto.
Leaving the Veneto plain we ride upstream along the beautiful Brenta river on roads designated for cycling enjoyment and where kayakers play amid riffles and rapids. Our route passes between two massifs that separate the Veneto from the mighty Dolomite mountains.
We continue our warm-up approach to the Dolomiti as we follow the “Wine Route” of the Alto Adige between Trento and Bolzano. Along the way we traverse apple orchards and vineyards where we glimpse the stunning beauty of the Dolomiti. We will sleep in the shadows of the Dolomiti and Brenta ranges and enjoy local wines produced from nearby vines of Mezzocorona, Val di Non, Caldaro and Bolzano. Marketday is Saturday in Bolzano and we will have the day to explore this historical town at the confluence of Adige and Isarco rivers; a natural hub of trading and commerce.
Rising high above the Adige River we finally arrive on the western shoulder of the Dolomiti beneath the Scilliar cliffs. We are entering the heart of the Dolomiti as we climb passes made famous by il Giro della Italia. The famous Sella Ronde becomes our domain for the next few nights before cycling further into the dramatic peaks and valleys of the Dolomiti. The serpentine routes of Passo Pordoi, Passo Pellegrino, Passo Giau and the mighty Marmelade beckon us to press ever upward to view stunning scenery. Cortina d’Ampezzo is the Aspen of Italian skiing circles, so we are treated to great meals and gracious hospitality from our Italian hosts.
Completing our tour, we pedal along the picturesque strada della vino as we leave the Dolomiti behind us. We will arrive back at our hotel in Castelfranco in time to pack our bikes before a fond farewell dinner and a final gelato in the piazza.
Kilometers - Std Route
Vertical Meters Climbing - Std Route
Kilometers - Long Route
Vertical Meters Climbing - Long Route
SEPTEMBER 2-17, 2023
DAY 1: SEPTEMBER 2, 2023 : ARRIVAL VENICE MARCO POLO AIRPORT (VCE) THEN TRANSFER TO CASTELFRANCO IN VENETO.
We meet you at Venezia (Venice) Marco Polo airport (VCE) for transfer to Castelfranco or to collect your luggage. Water taxis are available directly from the airport to transport you into the heart of Venice for an afternoon exploring the canals and passageways of this romantic Italian town. Trains leave from the banks of central Venice to transport you to the center of Castelfranco on a regular basis.
Our hotel in Castelfranco is ideally located in the heart of the old town, where you will find an abundance of cafes, gelateria and shops. We will assemble bikes in the basement of our hotel and organize a shake-down ride prior to our evening meal.The ride is thru the farmland and vineyards of the fertile Veneto region with a delightful stop in Asolo, one of the most enchanting regions in Italy, for our first taste of gelato. An Italian dinner tonight within the walls of the old town is planned as a welcome to the Veneto and Dolomiti. And we will enjoy the fine Italian tradition of a post-dinner walk with gelato and perhaps cafe.
BELOW IS A SAMPLE ITINERARY AND MAY VARY FROM OUR ACTUAL TRIP.
DAY 2 – CASTELFRANCO : MAROSTICA
DISTANCE: 57 KILOMETERS / CLIMBING: 315 METERS
Following in the footsteps of the inhabitants of Vicenza, we’ll head north toward the cool green mountain plateau of Asiago (1000m elevation). The fertile Veneto region has nurtured the creative soul of Italian culture from Medieval to modern times.
Bassano del Grappa, famous for its ceramics and distilled liquor, is a fascinating town, inviting exploration and a mid-day lunch at one of many small restaurants.
We ride thru Bassano del Grappa and across the recently restored Ponte Alpini footbridge across the Brenta river in the old section of town. From here we ride along the base of the Asiago plateau to the medieval town of Marostica with it’s lifesize chess board forming the central piazza in town just a few steps from our delightfully modernized Historic Albergo.
DAY 3 – LEVICO-TERME
75KM / 500M CLIMBING -OR- 84KM / 1650M CLIMBING
The Asiago plateau separates the Brenta and Adige rivers from each other and forms the dominate cheese producing region by the same name. We have two ride options on offer today; a ride along the banks of the Brenta river upstream to Levico-Terme or ride onto the Asiago plateau and over the top to a final descent into Levico-Terme. The Brenta river grades are gentle and the scenery always changing and the climbing to the Asiago plateau is a bit more challenging; either way, we have a great ride in store for you today.
DAY 4 – LEVICO-TERME LOOP
115KM / 2600M CLIMBING
The Passo Mánghen is the highlight of this option; we fell in love with this route option several years ago.
As it happened, a couple of riders on our Dolomiti-Classic Climbs tour looked at the map and asked about the Passo Mánghen. I said, “sure, let’s see what it looks like.” Well, 9 hours and 3600m of climbing later we arrived in Kaltern totally worn-out, but very happy to know another great climb in the Dolomiti.
The loop route from Levico-Terme is not nearly as daunting; and we are treated to some of the most picturesque pastoral climbs in the Dolomiti region over Passo Manghen and Passo Redebus. Or, a more leisurely day featuring a ride along the shores of Lago di Levico and Lago di Caldonazzo, stopping for a visit to the old castle of Pergine for a visit and café.
DAY 5 – MEZZOCORONA
56KM / 550M CLIMBING
Today we leave the foothills of the Dolomites and ride into the Trentino and Alto-Adige wine growing regions. The ride today is relatively short and the climbing is fairly mellow as we ride over a ridge to descend into Trento.
Trento is a busy city with centuries of history as one of the “gate-keepers” of the most important trade-routes between Italy and Northern Europe (Germany, Austria, Czech, Belgium, France). It is a little busy leaving the northern edge of Trento, but then we join the beginning of one of the longest “cycle-paths” in Europe; the path stretches from Trento to Graz in Eastern Austria and on to Hungary.
Mezzocorona is located at the base of the Brenta mountain massif and at the junction of the Noce and Adige rivers. Ideally situated for vineyards and commerce the town has become a hub of wine making and distribution. Abundant vineyard roads afford riding options to enjoy a leisurely day. This afternoon we will visit one of the premiere winemakers in the region, De Vescovi Ulzbach winery for tours and tasting.
DAY 6 – MEZZOCORONA : BOLZANO
73KM / 350M CLIMBING -OR- 88KM / 1700M CLIMBING
OK…vineyards, orchards, river paths, castles, wineries and mountains…does it get any better? We’ll ride quiet farming roads linked to the riverside bikepath to intersect the SüdTirol Weinstrasse or Strada della Vino along the way to Bolzano (Bozen). We are entering the historically Austrian region where the majority of the populace is of Austrian (Tirol) descent. Politically the region was brought into Italy’s borders after the war, but the people retain their rich traditions and customs. The riding is pleasant and the visual treats are many along the route. Make sure your cameras are charged and you have plenty of memory available for capturing the moments of the day.
The medieval city of Bolzano is truly the “gateway” to the Dolomiti with castles, spires and cathedrals pointing the way to the mountains. We have scheduled two days in town to fully appreciate the richness of the culture and history dating back over a thousand years. Our hotel is strategically located near the historical center of town.
DAY 7 – BOLZANO MARKET DAY
It’s market day in the historical center of town and there are many sights to see, so we propose a short loop along a portion of the SüdTirol-Weinstrasse or along the Adige river bikepath after breakfast. A must see is the Museum of the Oetzi man found at the edge of a nearby receding glacier.
DAY 8 – BOLZANO : BRIXEN
57KM / 1700M CLIMBING
Bolzano is the gateway to the Dolomiti and our route today affords us amazing views into the wonderful and magical Dolomiti from our high pastoral farmroad traverse high above the Isarco (Eisach) river. The 900m (3000ft) climb from Bolzano up to Collabo (Klobenstein) begins by winding thru hillside vineyards as we leave the city below us in the distance.
Collabo (Klobenstein) to Barbiano is only 17km, but sometimes it takes me over 2 hours to cover the distance. The reason: too many photo-ops to really get any serious riding done. The sunnier and clearer the skies, the longer it will take you to follow this amazing traverse. Enjoy!!
Eventually all things that go up must come down, so we stay on the high traverse as long as possible. Finally we will descend to Chiusa (Klausen) and join the bike-route into Brixen.
Brixen celebrated it’s 1000 year birthday a few years ago, so you know that this is a special town to visit. The twin towers of the church are stunning and the main square facing the church is a great place to enjoy an afternoon beverage or gelato. Again enjoy!!
DAY 9 – BRIXEN : CORVARA IN ALTA-BADIA
65KM / 1900M CLIMBING
The beauty of the Dolomiti surrounds us as we ride upstream along the Isarco (Eisach) river and transition to ride along the Rio di Pusteria (Mühlbach) toward Brunico (Bruneck). The historical trade-route over the Brennerpass is a collector of commercial traffic from SüdTirol and Kärnten to the east, so the main roads are very busy.
With that in mind an initiative was begun many years ago to create a cycling link from Verona, Italy to Graz, Austria using local farmroads and old railbeds. Today we are blessed to ride on mostly very quiet roads and bikepaths all the way to Bruneck, but we are planning to leave the Mühlbach to follow the Gardena river upstream to Corvara in Badia.
Of course there are other options for anyone desiring a more challenging option, but the designated route is pretty tough as designed.
DAY 10 – CORVARA LOOPS
52KM / 2100M CLIMBING
The Sella Ronde is THE classic loop in the Dolomiti, both in wintertime and summertime. So, it is fitting that we include this spectacular loop in our itinerary. Of course, there are numerous other options for anyone looking for more elevation or distance than the 4 passo day we have on the itinerary.
Clockwise or counterclockwise —that is the big question. Since we will leave Corvara toward Cortina over the Passo Pordoi the next day you will get a different perspective by riding the Sella Ronde in an anti-clockwise direction. The only downside is the rather rough pavement and narrow section from the Val Gardena-Sella intersection; a distance of about 5km. I actually enjoy the descents from the Sella and Pordoi going in this direction best.
DAY 11 – CORVARA : CORTINA D’AMPEZZO
49KM / 910M -OR- 96KM / 2680M CLIMBING
The roads crisscrossing the Dolomiti are many, so the choice of where to ride is difficult.
In Italy it is often said that all roads lead to Rome, but today our choices all lead to Cortina d’Ampezzo. The question is which views you want to see along the way. Whether you choose to ride in the shadow of the mighty Marmolada or cycle the valleys leading to the Passo Falzarego you will not experience visual or sensory disappointment; it’s all a good thing. Either way we all share the gentle climb over the Passo Campolongo and descend to Arraba before making our choice for today. Perhaps in the Dolomiti we should say, “all roads lead to beautiful times.”
The climbers route traverses the lower flanks of the mighty Marmolada as we climb over Passo Fedaia before plummeting to the lower approaches of Passo Falzarego or perhaps the more strenuous climb of Passo Giau. Either route will be richly rewarded with breathtaking vistas and beautiful road surfaces.
DAY 12 & 13 – CORTINA LOOPS
42KM / 850M CLIMBING -OR- 118KM / 2220M CLIMBING
The “must do” ride is the classic Passo Tre Croci (1805m), but for energetic riders we offer a bigger loop taking us into Austria near the Lienzer Dolomiti. You won’t miss a thing as we include all of the high points in the region on either loop. And of course, a visit to Cicli Cortina to purchase local “team kits” from Marco and his father after your ride will cap off a great day in Cortina.
DAY 14 – CORTINA D’AMPEZZO : FELTRE
112KM / 1600M CLIMBING -OR- 127KM / 2800M CLIMBING -OR- 151KM / 4500M CLIMBING
Today we say arrivederci Cortina d’Amezzo as we climb over Passo Giau, which is perhaps one of the most pastoral and beautiful climbs of the Dolomiti. What a great way to start the day!! At Selva di Cadore choose from routes with 1, 2 or 3 more climbs and resultant longer distances:
OPTION 1 CLIMB
Down valley to Agordo, riding a mixture of old roads without cars and lake or streamside main roads; we’ll bypass the tunnels on the way to Agordo.
OPTION 2 CLIMBS
Climb Passo Staulanza and Passo Duran 127km, 2800m – another stunningly scenic climb to a wonderful restaurant perched at the top of the pass. The remoteness of Passo Duran provides a very relaxing ride to the top of the pass, then it’s a thrilling rush to the valley floor a Agordo where we join our friends for one final climb of the day. The mellow climb toward Vallee di Mis rewards us with a road carved into sheer stone walls forming a narrow gorge as we ride downstream. Following farm roads above the busier commercial roads we enjoy final glimpses of the mighty Dolomiti as we pass thru Cessiomaggiore, home of the SanVido bicycle collection. The final kilometers to Pedavena gently roll downstream by the Pedavena Brewery where a pause to enjoy a refreshing beverage and share tales of the day is encouraged. The entrance to Feltre is through a pedestrian tunnel traversing under the old town to our hotel for the evening.
OPTION 3 CLIMBS
Climb Passo San Pelegrino, Passo Valles and Passo Rolle. We include this option for the benefit of anyone who just cannot get enough climbing in the Dolomiti.
Cortina d’Ampezzo to Belluno is a net elevation loss, but we do need to pedal. The route is a blending of bikeroutes and shared roadways all the way to Belluno. Oddly, the maps of Italian roadways do not show all of the roads that exist on the ground, so we must use the maps today as mere guidelines as we descend from the high valleys of the Dolomiti.
We generally follow the Cadore river downstream on an abandoned railway (rails-to-trails) project that is part of the via Lunga della Dolomiti for bicycles and walkers; each year more of the route is resurfaced with asphalt, so we’ll use the route when appropriate.
As a very special treat, we’ll stop at a small ristorante featuring “pumpkin gnocchi” that literally melts in your mouth! The final treat of the day is a visit to a collection of historical bicycles and memorabilia so extensive the local town had to build a modern museum to display items that were tucked away in the basement of the local bike shop.
DAY 15 – FELTRE : CASTELFRANCO-VENETO
100KM / 1000M CLIMBING
Our last riding day presents two diversely opposite route choices. Each will be remembered for distinctly differing aspects of topography and energy expenditures.
One choice today: Do we want to see what is on top of Monte Grappe enough to ride a 27km climb with an average gradient of 6% and numerous 10-12% short sections? The ride begins with a wonderful rolling warmup on the way to Seren del Grappa where the climbing begins. The summit is a WW-I battle memorial with an always-busy restaurant and stunning views into the mighty peaks of the Dolomiti on one side and the expansive Veneto farm and industrial lands on the other. Please be extremely attentive on the descent to Semonzo—this is a very narrow and twisty road. Once in Semonzo, the descending is finished leaving a pleasant 24km spin back to Castelfranco.
The other choice is the more relaxing route that follows the Pieve river downstream toward Venezia. The road is often busy, but the exceptionally wide shoulders of the roadway make for spirited pedaling and chatting. A turn off of the main road before entering the light manufacturing zone takes us once again over gentle rolling terrain amidst vineyards and farms on the way to rejoining our Asolo loop ride route of two weeks ago. Either way, enjoy!!
Years ago when I first led a group thru the Dolomiti we stopped at the San Vito bike shop in Cessiomaggiore. It was a tale of two generations with the father and son. We explained that we wanted to ride over Monte Grappa on our return to Castelfranco. We asked which of the two routes from the northside was the quieter road; it was a Sunday and we wanted to stay away from all of the Italian motos that enjoy the Alpine roads on a Sunday. The son pointed to one road and said “this road is the quietest”. The father pointed to the other road and said “this road is the better road.” So we pedaled thru Feltre after discussing the options intent on riding the quietest road. That day we all learned an important lesson of communicating in a different language and culture. Both men had answered our question perfectly from their individual perspectives. The son correctly pointed us to the quietest road; we did not see a single car on the climb once we crossed a little bridge at the base of the climb. The reason became quite apparent after about 3km, when the grade became so steep it was impossible to remain seated and still keep the pedals moving; one rider literally fell over backwards when he tried to sit to rest his back now aching from the strain. Eventually we made it to the junction with the “other” road, where we discovered a wonderfully paved road with not much traffic AND grades where we could easily sit and pedal comfortably. What the father meant by “this is the better road” was that you can pedal comfortably. You see, the son answered from the perspective of a 25-year old and the father answered from the wisdom of a 55-year old former pro racer. The father had assessed our ages and probably abilities before giving his answer, while the son picked his favorite “quietest” road to send the unsuspecting cyclists on that HE enjoys. The takeaway? Consider the life experiences of those from whom you ask information; are they similar to our todays or our yesterdays?
DAY 16 – SEPTEMBER, 17, 2023 DEPARTURES, FROM VENICE, ITALY, MARCO POLO AIRPORT (VCE).
Van transfers to Venice, Italy, Marco Polo airport (VCE).
Comfortable family operated B&Bs, inns and hotels well situated to enjoy local culture and flavors
Group breakfasts and dinners featuring typical local flavors and dishes prepared individually for our enjoyment. Breakfasts provided by our lodging partners. Dinners generally include a variety of choices for each course (starter, first course, main course, dessert); paired with wines, beer and after dinner coffee. Most dinners served from the kitchens of our hotels, others taken in nearby restaurants.
14 nights, 14 breakfasts, 12 dinners, daily road snacks/picnics, maps and route descriptions, luggage transfers, on-the-road ride guides, van support (sag wagon).
Lunches, 2 dinners, tips & gratuities, airfare, museum entries, trams or lifts, trip insurance
Arrive into Venice, Italy (Marco Polo airport, VCE) on September 2, 2023. We will pick you up at the airport and transfer you to our start hotel in Castelfranco. We have hotel space reserved for earlier arrival dates, so let us know your flight itinerary to confirm extra room nights.
Depart from Venice, Italy (Marco Polo Airport, VCE) on September 17, 2023. We will transfer you to the airport. Later departures may be arranged.
— $6000 double occupancy per person
— $6800 single occupancy per person
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