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Team Clif Bar Blog
Oct 19, 2009
A White-Road Adventure in the Dolomites

Gary’s off in the Dolomites, riding his bike with a few good friends. Delicious food, amazing views and a few hearty climbs (and descents!) makes for another awesome white-road adventure. Here’s a recap of the first few days of the trip, in Gary’s words… enjoy!

I started taking my own bike trips to the Alps and the Dolomites with my good friend Jay back in 1986. I’ve been coming back nearly every year. This time it’s trip number 30-something and it’s just as good as it was nearly 24 years ago.

Nothing beats riding in the Dolomites, Alps or Pyrenees; the roads are great, the views are great, the food and wine is delicious. It’s a fun and wonderful atmosphere to ride some challenging roads.

I met my friend Paulo in 1989; he and his wife Nene own a Birreria Pinnoteca in Bassano Del Grappa. He’s also an awesome rock climber, a great cyclist and an all-around wonderful guy.

Bassano by the way is situated in the Veneto, at the base of the Dolomiti, a perfect and beautiful place to ride.

The first full day in Bassano, we went out to dinner with another good friend from Northern Italy, who’s also the owner of Selle Italia. He knows a ton about the history of the area so it was nice to get that perspective before we hit the roads.

For our first day of riding, we were to climb the Cima Grappa, it’s a huge mountain 6,000 feet of elevation gain from the base. Once we got to the top, we had an hour-long downhill—absolutely amazing. It’s mushroom season over here; on the climb, people were walking along the side of the road, hunting for fungi. You’re only allowed 2 kilos per person, per day, but everyone we saw had way more than the limit.

Not sure what happens if you get caught. It was great riding with an Italian who loves to cook with local and organic foods. He knows what’s in season and can rattle off all sorts of recipes along the way.

At the end of the day, after 130 kilometers of cycling, we snacked on some delicious pizza made from foccacia from a local bakery in Bassano. The food here is so darn good; it’s difficult not to overeat, even when you’re riding as much as we are.

My American partner this year is a good friend, Gregg Bagni from Boulder Colorado. Gregg works in the outdoor industry and is a long-time friend. Not sure if he knows what he’s in for.

These white-road journeys never get old, especially when you’re riding with good friends and beautiful views along the way. I just love doing it. But it’s all about climbing passes, very little flat road. Average day is 75 miles, 9,000 feet of climbing, 6-7 hours in the saddle.


Day one was a day ride, from Bassano as we road the Cima Grappa; Day two we started riding with our small packs and will be out 8 days riding in the Dolomiti and Italian Alps staying in hotels and eating out at some great local Trattoria or Osteria eateries. 

Today we’re heading to the town of Cavalese, riding over three passes. Paulo joined us on the first pass—Cima Campo—a 4,000 foot climb.

We were in the middle of nowhere; in fact, we saw two cars in just two hours.

At the top of that climb, we made it to a road house, a stopping place, osteria, for people who work around the area.

We snagged some lunch here; for just $10, we got a full plate of pasta, bread, water and coffee.

After lunch, we headed down the hill for our next climb—a very difficult, or “brutto” climb which was part of the 2005 Giro.

We climbed from 500 meters to over 2,000 meters in one shot.

Today, we’ve climbed 10,840 feet with packs. Our small packs, carrying only the essentials, one change of clothes for night, cycling clothes, tools and misc, weighs in at around 10 pounds each.

In the old days, 24 years earlier, I didn’t carry much food, but it’s hard to not carry a supply of Clif products; on day one, I’m carrying about 3 pounds more.

This is a minimalist cycling trip; we ride without support, we do our own route finding; we find our own hotels along the way, places to eat.

If the bike breaks, we don’t have a van waiting for us and a mechanic to fix it.

If we’re cold and wet, we can’t jump in the van to warm up. 

After Paulo headed back home after the Cima Campo, Gregg and I headed up and over the third pass for the day, the Passo Manghen which was another brutal climb of 23 kilometers, or 14 miles.

We climbed another 5,000 feet on this amazing pass. It was a road just 10-feet wide in some spots. It makes me tired just writing about it. To make matters even more exciting, I probably had the wrong gearing on my bike.

For those who know, I was using a 34-50 compact on the front, and a 12-25 on the back, when I probably should have used a 34-27 as my lowest gear.

In 1986 I used a 41-23 as my lowest gear. I’m getting older and it shows.

My legs are hurting…

We went up and over the pass into Cavalese and stayed at Hotel Bellavista. My wife Kit, the other owner of Clif Bar, and I have a small farm in California that we call Bellavista so it was quite the coincidence to come across such a fantastic little hotel with the same name. 

Tomorrow we are headed over three passes to a place called Selva Val Gardena. The weather looks tentative but that’s the way it is here in the Dolomites.

That’s all for now.

Stay tuned for more from Gary...

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