Brenta - Ortles cycling brevet tour: (officially: 363 km + 8088 m)
For August 2015 I found a great and motivating cycling event, brevet tour that was an ideal challenge after cycling a week in the Dolomites. This challenge is the Brenta – Ortles permanent brevet (363 km + 8088 m) with maximum riding time of 34 hours and with the wonderful Lago di Molveno and legendary and hard climbs of Passo dello Stelvio and Passo di Gavia, etc.
I had some experiences with hard brevet tours after cycling and finishing the Monte Grappa chellenge in the year 2012 ( 4 climbs of Monte Grappa with additional extra climbing for the fun: 261 km+7241 m) and in the year 2014 the Valtellina Extreme Brevet (3 rounds + going to the start and back to the house it was 360 km + 9124 m) and at last, few weeks earlier (June, 2015) finished Super Randonne Prealpina (officially 618 km + 12674 m) within 56,5 hours.
I got informations about the challenge / brevet in italian calendars and musseu's blog ; he (Giorgio Murari) is one of the organisers; the other is Fabio Albertoni who gave me the controll card a day before the start.
I had known ca. 90% of the route and had real hope to avoid detours. I thought that the maximum time of 34 hours to ride the route was not so strict than the 55 hours range by the Super Randonnee Prealpina, but because in June I needed 1.5 hours more than the 55 hour-long period, this time I tried to watch the time, follow my schedule with more strict, than I had done that in june. I wanted to show to myself that I’m able to cycle fast enough and with not too much stops than I had cycled in june. I thought that ca. 28 hours could be enough to finish, but later – experiencing the time-need of videorecording and taking photos - I had to say, maybe 30 hours could be more realistic.
Because the fact that previous night I could go to sleep too late I postponed the time of waking up because I knew that too short night could cause serious problems and struggling during the ride.
In the morning of 7th August I woke up at 6 am and left the starting place of the brevetto, the Vertical Sport shop of Pietramurata at 7:25, after taking the photo at the start. I reached Sarche village within 10 minutes and enjoyed to start the 1st climb of the day. I pushed the pedals in a canyon (after a while riding on a bicycle path) and enjoyed the early sunlight and panorama of the Brenta Dolomites. I felt that it should be a great day. The ascent towards Molveno was beautiful, but the landscape along the Lake Molveno (Lago di Molveno) with the views to the wild rockwalls was even more wonderful, breathtaking. Few times I had to stop to take photos and videos, although sometimes I did it during cycling, from the saddle. Until I reached the lake I kept an acceptable pace with rare stops, but so great beauty made me not bother with the time. Andalo (1040 m), the popular holiday resort was the top of the 1st climb, from where the descent went down along apple plantations to the height of 300 m. Cycling wasn’t let on the major road of Val di Non, so I had to turn right. The next long ascent started in the Val di Non, at first going through small villages, then along or between apple plantations, the thing this valley is famous about. I was happy to find bicycle paths or calm agricultural roads towards Fondo. At a place I missed the right direction so I cycled few extra kilometers and found a 14-15% steep section Since I had left Andalo I didn’t stopped too often and didn’t stopped for too long: during pushing the pedals I ate some food: banana, MaBaker energy bar, bakery or gel, etc.
After leaving Fondo behind (1:11 pm.) the steepness decreased to a ca. 2-4 % and the road went through or along great forests. When I met with three italian cyclists I joined them for a while, but after a while I left them and went my own – little bit faster – pace. At Passo Palade (1518 m) (2:20 pm.)
I didn’t spend too much time: I got the 1st stamp onto my controll card, filled my bottles and then started the sometimes panoramic descent to Merano. For my surprise I could go through the edge of Merano in a short time; I cycled in Merano only a few minutes. The following section went on the Venosta bicycle path that I had already known.
After few kms along the fast stream the bicycle road twisted and turned in few hairpin bend and after less than a km long ascent the road and bicycle path remained flat for a while to let me keep a good pace. I enjoyed to reduce my delay I gathered comparing to my schedule. For a while I could keep my speed about ca. 30-33 km/h and enjoyed it . Sometimes it was better to cycle on the main road, but sometimes I preferred the bicycle path. I didn’t watch the odometer too strict, so when I stopped at a map / sign along the bicycle path, I hoped I’m about halfway towards Prad, the bottom of the Stelvio climb, but the sign told me bad news: I needed more than 32 kms to Prad. At the half of the valley I found a great fishing lake with a bench „calling me” to sit down and eat enough without any hurry. I didn’t stop too long in the last minimum 4 hours, so I deserved it. Beside taking some food I spent ca. 20 minutes on sharing infos and 1-2 pictures on facebook .
I went on cycling feeling refreshed again and tried to keep a good pace, but unfortunately I didn’t know where to leave bicycle path (to avoid cycling on dirt road) so I realized too late that the bicycle path’s pavement was changed for dirt road… at last I remained there. I had to face with two ca. 1,5 kms long dirt road sections. Not much after I overtook two german cyclists – a guy and his father – I realised tha the father could’t accept it and followed, then overtook me. He started to race with me, although I was cycling an ultracycling challenge (363 km + 8088m). Of course, he didn’t know it. My challenge was more serious than competing with him there, so I let him be happy to win that local race
Not much before 7 pm. I thought it was better to buy enough food for the night and morning so I entered a shop to buy bakeries and rolls and in an other shop isodrink and apples, bananas (Yes it’s my style - the mix of bicycletouring and ultracycling).
At Prato allo Stelvio (950 m) (at 7 pm.) I started to climb the ascent of Passo dello Stelvio (2760 m) 3 hours behind my schedule (I knew that it was not a problem) and with the fact that I had no chance to reach the saddle before darkness. In spite of the cloudy weather I was surprised when - as I was closing towards Trafoi (1540 m) – I could hear the noises of the thunders and not much later it started raining. Because of the heavy rain and the thunders I hurried under the roof of a building (**** Hotel) and when the air became colder I entered the entrance-hall of the Hotel. The receptionist was friendly: he offered me to sit down there. After ca. 40 minutes the intensity of the rain decreased, but the thunders didn’t go away so I had to wait another ca. hour (to ca half past 10 pm. ?). It was raining a little bit, but it wasn’t a problem; I had to keep on cycling !
I was listening to music during asceending in dark and rain towards Passo dello Stelvio; I had no problem. I took video twice about when I was riding in the hairpin-bend in the dark; I enjoyed the adventure, the ride, the challenge. It was fun and it was strange that the air didn’t cool much: I reached Passo dello Stelvio at about 1:35 am. and measured 12 degrees Celsius!
It was strange that after midnight I could cycle above 2500 m high and I didn’t felt cold in my short bicycle trousers. I took photos at the top, took a video about myself, put on warm clothes for the descent and left the pass. Not much after leaving the junction that goes to the Umbrailpass I found a sign and barrier that the road towards Bormio is closed. It was strange! My thought was that it could be similar to Passo Rombo which is closed for the night, but I hardly left the barrier I experienced that a ca. 2-3 meter long section of the road is covered by gravelled mud. I took video about it, and then kept on descending, because it was not on option to have a huge detour with Umbrailpass, Ofenpass and Passo Foscagno. I had no problems on the serpentines, enjoyed the lights in the tunnels that let me increase my speed and later I could see the lights of Bormio (1217 m) when I had to stop because another landslide.
By the this 1st real landslide 80% of the road was covered by 2-3 meter high rocky-mud mix, but mainly rocks. I was amazed at what I saw. Not much after this I realized an other pile of rocks on the road which totally closed the road and was ca. 3-4 m high just in front of a tunnel. After carefully climbing onto and down from the rocks I went trough the tunnel, but the following mass of muddy gravel closed the road so much and so high that it was too dangerous to climb onto it, so I turned back and decided to choose the dirt road going down at the previous pile of rocks, by the entrance of the tunnel. I descended carefully on the dirt road to the 1st small village from where I could descend faster on the asphalted road to Bormio. In the town the road was closed (the was the end / start of the road-closing) and I saw a policecar there.
After such adventures and arriving at Bormio (3:30 am.), I told my experiences to the young guys on the street and after finding a proper bench for eating I didn’t bothered with the time and spend enough time to get enough food before starting the next climb to Passo di Gavia (2621 m). I spent there about 35-40 minutes, then I left the center about 4:20 am. (?).At the end of Bormio I took the controll picture and then started the variable steep ascent to the pass. I had a gentle memory, when in a small village I cycled in front of a house, a car came out from a garden and the driver told me „-Bravo!”.
I smiled :) I was wondering if he thought that I started my day of cycling so early or was there any chance that he thought that I had been cycling for nearly a day. At the end of the night the clouds went away and the Sun rose in the maily clear sky. I enjoyed cycling on the calm road, but that meant it was much harder to be awake! Around St Catherina (11 degrees Celsius) I could turn off the lights but I felt very sleepy and I was struggling because of that. For me it’s harder to fight with sleepiness than with the ascents. I think I stopped twice to close my eyes and lean my head onto my hands for a minute long time. Fortunately I didn’t need to sit down and try to sleep few minutes as I had needed it during the Super Randonnee Prealpina (June, 2015) because of the lack of enough sleeping before the start.
After the time of the sunrise I had to wait nearly 40 minutes to enjoy sunshines because of the high mountains around the climb. However I knew that the ascent would contain two short 12-14% steep stretches, it was harder than I had thought. I couldn’t enjoy that. After the hard sections, during the last few lightly ascending kilometers I enjoyed the ride, the nature, landscape in the early morning hours.
It was strange and great to arrive at a pass so early part of a day. I think I was the 1st cyclist on the Gavia pass (2621 m) that day. I stopped for few minutes not much before the pass, by the beautiful lake and by the pass (8:15 am.). Since the start I cycled 251 kms + 6388 m heightdifference and I had to ride 128 kms + 1853 m heightdifference yet to the finish
(based on the officially route data.) Because of the fact that I had visitied and climbed Passo di Gavia during the Valtellina Extreme 2014’ , I enjoyed to ride it again and it was interesting to realise much less snow on the mountains. After enjoying the panoramic descent I arrived at Ponte di Legno (9 am. ) where I bought and ate some food and spent few minutes to get the stamp onto the controllcard (in the 1st bar the waiter didn’t stamp – I didn’t know why). After leaving the town and starting climbing the ascent of Passo del Tonale (1883 m) I calculated the remaining time to reach the finish in time. By the Super Randonnee Prealpina, in June one of my mistakes was not to recalculate my schedule after the detours and delays. That was one reason why I missed the timelimit with a 1.5 hours.
My schedule-recalculation’s result was that if I cycle my own normal pace with few short stops and ca. 1 longer stop than I could finish ca. 1 hour before the timelimit. The road to Passo del Tonale wasn’t a calm road, but the traffic was acceptable. At the half of the climb I stopped for eating a little bit, because my goal was not to have long stops till Passo Carlo Campo Magno. The ascent’s upper section was partly panoramic and windy. At a point I just caught a cyclists when young people along the road started to imitate Tour de France fan’s clapping and cheering along the road and cheered us as we were pro cyclists on a pro cycling race. It was funny.
I didn’t spend too much time at Passo del Tonale (1883 m): after taking a picture I started the descent towards Dimaro. I enjoyed cycling at a good pace and the fact that I had to push the pedals only in the last few kilometers before the village, the bottom of Passo Carlo Magno’s climb.
The following climb wasn’t unknown for me either, last time I cycled there in the year 2011 with ca. 26kgs weighted panniers on my bike. It’s first 6 kms contain a 8,1% steep, 5 kms long section, but after it the steepness decreases to 4-7%. As I knew that only 5km long is the hard section I felt motivation to ride a good pace and than stop for few minutes by the edge of Folgarida (1250 m). Before the climb, in the valley I felt a little bit sleepy, but this climb with a good pace woke me up It sounds strange that I enjoyed the steeper part of the climb much more than the upper, lighter and boring part of the ascent.
After a short break at the top (2:07 pm.) (video-recording + taking photos) I started the descent towards Madonna di Campiglio. I had 60 kms + ca. 300 m heightdifference + long and a short descent left to the finish and I had 3 hours 18 minutes left. In Madonna di Campiglio I spent only few minutes to get the stamp and took another short break on the descent because of a beautiful view to the peaks of the Brenta Dolomites. In the hotter and more humid valley my pace decreased, but the rain not too far from there made me hurry. The finish was closer and closer.
The last climb towards Stenico wasn’t a steep one, but went along wild rockwalls and sometimes gave great views to the valley. Few kms before the village the rain caught me, but – so close to the finish – it didn’t bother me too much: I put on a windvest (didn’t want a jacket for few minutes and not much later stop again to take it off) and let the rain fall on me in the hot summer weather (34 degrees Celsius). In Stenico I got my stamp and after a fast descent I arrived at the valley where I started the previous day. The main road’s twisty descent went down to Sarche, from where I had to cycle only 3 kms to Pietramurata, to the finish. I arrived there with huge smile on my face… I was the 1st hungarian who participated and finished this brevetto in time. I needed 33 hours and 25 minutes to cycle this mountainous circle, but I lost minimum 2 and 1/2 hours because of the heavy storm. I felt much more and better than I had felt after finishing the Super Randonnee Prealpina (for me 643 kms + 12… m heightdifference within 56.5 hours with only ca. 3 hours of sleeping). This brevetto was another great challenge, its difficulty was similar to Valtelline Extreme (2 rounds for me) or Monte Grappa challenge, but this brveetto is a self-supported challenge opposite of the others which offers some food, refreshment during the challenge(s) and however I took some food, eneryg bars, gels with me, beside those food I needed others to, so for me ensuring some the extra food needed extra time.
Since the success I analysed my ride and I was happy to identify that for example between Passo di Gavia and the finish I precisely rode almost the same time that I had planned, scheduled. Otherwise I cycled 19 kms more than the official route; my extre kms were caused my few detours or changing the bicyclepat and main road in the Venosta valley or was caused my the detour before Bormio and turning left for the ascent to Stenico. My route was 383 kms long with 8424 m heightdifference and the ride gave me happiness and satisfaction.