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"Fare il Grappa," to do Grappa, is the obligatory climb and right of passage of every local cyclist. The oldest person to do it, so I've been told, is a 90-year-old area resident. Another local rider, Ginesio Ballan, has ridden up Monte Grappa more than 1000 times! It's the tradition of Paduan cyclists to climb the mountain on June 13, the day dedicated to their city's patron, St. Anthony. The worst time to climb the mountain is on the weekend, when thousands of cars, motorcycles, scooters, and buses crowd the roads and belch out fumes.

As you can see from the route map below, there are ten ways to the top! All of them are difficult, challenging, and for experienced climbers--and descenders--only. (For an extensive discussion and tips on this topic, read Climbing and Descending).

The red route from Romano is well-traveled and there are a number of bars and restaurants along the way. The blue road from Caupo (a frazione--i.e.section, of the comune of Seren del Grappa) on the north side of the mountain, on the other hand, is lonely, atmospheric, and more beautiful.

The lesser-known gray route has been "discovered" by climb aficianados and discussed in cycling magazines and websites. The yellow route, Via degli Alpini from Possagno to Bocca di Forca, has been rated the third hardest climb in Italy, with an average gradient of 11.44%. This route too, has garnered its fair share of attention: even the Giro d'Italia commentators discussed it during stage broadcasts. (The hardest climb in Italy is the Zoncolan, in the neighboring Friuli region).* The purple road from Valle San Liberale to La Vedetta/Salto della Capra is also extremely difficult. It has attracted the attention of climb connoisseurs, and to my knowledge, has not yet been rated. Even experienced, expert, local riders advise against descending on these roads. They are not only steep, but narrow, with tight, tricky hairpins--very technical and demanding. In addition, the foliage overhead creates shadows which can hide holes and rough pavement, leading to some rude surprises. These descents are definitely not fun to do, and it's not a good idea to ride these roads alone. There are no houses or bars and very little traffic, so there'd be no one to help you if you should get into trouble. I recommend riding with Your Cycling Italia, a cycling camp based at the foot of the mountain, as they have local guides who are intimately familiar with all of the routes.

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THE GIRO D'ITALIA

The Giro has scaled Monte Grappa six times. The 2017 Giro climbed the mountain from Caupo, on the north side, and descended to Romano d'Ezzelino (from there the riders continued on to the Valstagna - Foza ascent and finished in Asiago). In 2014, the Bassano del Grappa-Cima Grappa time trial finished just below the summit. On three other occasions, the race went over the mountain but did not go all the way to the top (a dead end road). The last of these was in 2010 in the Ferrara-Asolo stage won by Vincenzo Nibali. In 1982 it was in the Comacchio-San Martino di Castrozza stage won by Vincente Belda of Spain. It was on the route of the Misurina-Bassano del Grappa stage in 1974, won by Eddy Merckx over Moser and Gimondi. (I purchased a videotape of that Giro, The Greatest Show on Earth, hoping to see some of the action on Monte Grappa, but alas, there was none). The only other time it it finished on the summit was in the Trento-Monte Grappa stage in 1968, won by Emilio Casalini, a gregario (domestique) of Merckx.

The
annual Bassano-Monte Grappa race for U23 category riders was first held in 1930 (for a time it was for professionals). It was won by Gino Bartali in 1934 (my late neighbor, Bruno Foscarini, finished 5th); the names of Leonardo Piepoli, Ivan Gotti, Gilberto Simoni, Damiano Cunego, and Fabio Aru (2011) also appear on the list of winners.

If you climb (or descend) Grappa by the "classic" route (from Romano d'Ezzelino), you can stop at the inn at Ponte San Lorenzo and see autographed photos of Gino Bartali and Marco Pantani.

CYCLING EVENTS YOU CAN DO

Monte Grappa Bike Day was run for the first time in May 2014, and has become an annual event. The road to the summit, and the descent, are closed to motor vehicles for several hours.

Il Brevetto del Grappa, the brainchild of local cyclist Feruccio Lunardon, is a program that awards brevets (certificates) to riders who scale 10 (gold level), 6 (silver level), or 3 (bronze level) of the routes, over the course of the season. To participate, you pay 10 euro and receive a pamphlet which must be dated and stamped in the spaces corresponding to the routes, both at the specified locations at the beginning of the ascents, and at Rifugio Bassano on the summit. Here is the 2017 brochure.

The Monte Grappa massif ihas often featured in the course of the La Pina Cycling Marathon. In 2016 the riders tackled the tough climb from Alano di Piave to Monte Tomba, then descended through Monfenera to Pederobba.

Monte Grappa Cycling was a granfondo that is no longer held, nor is the Monte Grappa Challenge, in which participants climbed the mountain by several designated routes, all in the same day.

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(top) Salto della Capra, on Grappa's south side (obviously not for the inexperienced or faint of heart), rises from Valle San Liberale to La Vedetta. (below) Along the main road from Seren (more precisely, Caupo), on Grappa's north side.

* (Passo Mortirolo, average gradient 10.5% - Zoncolan, 11.5%; Mortirolo, maximum gradient, 18.5% - Zoncolan, 19%). There is actually a much steeper road going up to Malga Palazzo, between Trento and Rovereto, but with some strappi (sections) measuring over 30% (!) it is virtually unrideable on a road bike, and therefore is not included in any list of climbs.  

PAVED ROADS TO CIMA GRAPPA

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THE REWARD

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FeruccioLunardon

Feruccio Lunardon, the man behind the Brevetto del Grappa.

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