My Ride - Verona
Nestled about 100km west of PH Apparel headquarters in Padova lies a network of roads seemingly made specifically for cycling. Just west of Verona, the roads of the Valpolicella, Adige River Valley and Lake Garda are renowned for their beauty, and home to numerous professionals due to the climbs, flats, and rolling hills that define the area. We set out to experience how our neighbors ride, taking in some of the classic climbs of the western edge of the Veneto. Though we are used to hot & steamy summers here on the northern edge of the Po' River Valley, visitors may be surprised just how warm it can get here. So it was this particular weekend, with high temperatures reaching almost 37C (100F) with very high humidity.
When it's this warm, heading toward cooler or shaded locales is the only way to ride, so we woke up early and had a quick coffee at the bar and set off on our planned route from the Verona city center towards Lake Garda. As we rolled out of town towards the lake, the stunning hills of the Valpolicella set a beautiful scene to our right, with the Lessinia mountains towering over the famous vineyard hills. It really is no wonder why so many pros have chosen to live here over the years. With pan-flat roads to the south, and huge mountains immediately to the north and rolling hills in between, one can choose whatever route suits him or her.
Arriving along the shores of Lake Garda, there are always large groups out for weekend rides. As we joined up with one particular group, a man tells me they are going to ride the Torri-Bivio. Apparently, it is a 7km climb at XX% that goes from Torri del Benaco on the shores of Lake Garda up the side of the mountain on the east side of the lake and is used as a testing ground for aspiring amateurs and professionals alike. A good professional, I'm told, will ride the climb in 15-16 minutes if he's riding hard. Michael Rasmussen is rumored to have ridden the climb in under 14 minutes, an average speed of over 30km/hour. But... those are just rumors.
As we start climbing, it's quite clear that we will not come close to Rasmussen, or any other professional's time, but that is neither here nor there. The climb rises steadily and with each switchback the view of Lake Garda becomes more and more impressive. Across the way, one can see Salò, and to the south the peninsula of Sirmione jetting out into the lake. What a place for a weekend ride.
By now the temperature has risen significantly, so we stop at a fountain to top up our bottles and I take the opportunity to dunk my helmet, soak my head and give my jersey a thorough soak for good measure. After all, we still need to get back to Verona. Thankfully, the majority of the trip back to Verona is downhill and we find another group to tag along with headed in the same direction.
Typical Veneto characters populate this group, always joking and laughing, one even tries to get us to go do another climb "just to Passo Fittanze" he says. Evidently, that's a mountain pass topping out well over 1200m above sea level on the border with the Province of Trento. He gets an emphatic "no" from our part, but his friends continue trying to convince us to go with them. We can't tell if they are serious or not until they turn left towards the wall of mountains, giving us our cue to follow the road signs back to Verona. It's a bit true what they say... Veronesi tutti matti (people from Verona are crazy). However we cannot help but admire their explorative spirit. For this particular crew it seemed to know no bounds. Next time, we'll have to join them.
Until then, it's back to Padova to recover and plan the next adventure.