CLIMBING MONTE GRAPPA
When I started this site in 2001, few cyclists outside of the Veneto Region had climbed Monte Grappa, and it was practically unknown to the rest of the cycling world. (It was of course known throughout Italy for the terrible battles and heroic exploits of World War 1). In 2010, on occasion of the Giro d'Italia's first visit to the mountain since the 80's, I wrote an article about it for CyclingNews, prophetically entitled . Thanks to the exposure provided by three Giro d'Italia stages in recent years, it is now world famous and on many cycling tour companies' routes. Its time has indeed come!
Monte Grappa is the mountain of the Veneto people, and "fare il Grappa," to do Grappa, is the obligatory climb and right of passage of every local cyclist. The oldest person to do it is a 90-year-old area resident, Feruccio Lunardon. Another local rider, the late Ginesio Ballan, had ridden up Monte Grappa over 2000 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 , there are ten paved 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 ).
The "classic"route from Romano is well-traveled and there are a number of bars and restaurants along the way. The 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 brutal, lesser-known route from the center of Seren has been "discovered" by climb aficionados and discussed in cycling magazines and websites. 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 road from Valle San Liberale to La Vedetta/Salto della Capra is also extremely difficult (in fact, some consider it the hardest of the 10 routes) and has attracted the attention of climb connoisseurs. 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 , a cycling camp based at the foot of the mountain, as their local guides are intimately familiar with all of the routes and variations.
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, and 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 race for U23 category riders was first held in 1930, The race would have celebrated its 78th anniversary in 2020 (it has not been held every year). For a time was for professionals, and was won by the legendary Gino Bartali in 1934 (my late neighbor, Bruno Foscarini, finished 5th). The names of Leonardo Piepoli, Ivan Gotti, Gilberto Simoni, Damiano Cunego, Fabio Aru, and Giulio Ciccone appear on the list of winners. Here's a about it.
If you climb (or descend) Grappa by the "classic" route from Romano d'Ezzelino, you can stop at the restaurant at and see autographed photos of Gino Bartali and Marco Pantani. (It has changed hands, so I hope they're still there).
CYCLING EVENTS YOU CAN DO
was run for the first time in May 2014, and has become an annual event. One road to the summit, and another for the descent, are closed to motor vehicles for several hours.
is a 200 km randonée which will climb the mountain from Caupo, on the north side.
, the brainchild of the aformentioned Feruccio Lunardon, is a program that awards brevets (certificates of achievement) 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 location at the start of each ascent, and at Rifugio Bassano on the summit. It is available for purchase at most local bike shops and edicole (newspaper and magazine stores). There's a list of them on the site, as well as a with addtional info and rules.
The Monte Grappa massif has often featured in the course of the Granfondo Pinarello, but is not on the .
Monte Grappa Cycling was a granfondo that is no longer held, nor is the , a noncompetitive event in which participants climbed the mountain multiple times by several designated routes, all in the same day.
Monte Grappa, Strada Giardino, Giro d'Italia 2010
Always remember that Monte Grappa is a sacred mountain. I recently came across a disgraceful photo of a bike leaning against the partisan monument below the summit. Did the cyclist not realize, or care, that seven young men were murdered on that spot by German troops with flame throwers? Monte Grappa is not about you, your bike, or self-glorification. Not only the monumental zone at the summit, but the entire mountain, is the final resting place of heroes. Remember this and conduct yourself accordingly.