After a wonderful time in Venice that was utterly too short, we left. We wanted to be on schedule to get into the rythm of our cycling trip quickly. Especially because we are starting with a straight climb into the Alps!
I had planned to do a few small days: 50km to Conegliano, which was all flat. 60km to Longarone, where the hills turned into what they call prealpi (pre-alps). Them 50km into Auronzo, even higher into the mountains.
So we left Casale sul Sile after dropping off the girls at school, and a last cappucino at the local bar with Cla et Gio. We recognized the was to Treviso, having done it the first day we arrived, and so we went along the Sile again, the lazy milky-green river with so many ducks and swans (and their little ones!). We followed the road proposed by Maps with Me to Conegliano and realized it was only 1pm. So we had our saussage and our gelato, and we decided to keep going. We stopped for peanuts and a bottle of vino and went further north.
The road we took was an alternative to a main road, so we passed by villages and there was a bike path sometimes. Other times there was more traffic, but nothing too hard-core. We passed by the wineries of Prosecco, which comes from Conegliano, so you can imagine fields of grape vines on hilly land, with old terra-cotta roofed houses and little rivers framed by bigger mountsins up ahead. We got to Vittorio Veneto, which I want to do more research on, but it seemed like a medieval village, all the houses were in stone of orange and burnt yellow, with canals along the middle, and from that point on, we started to sense the mountains looming over us. The climbing started, slowly but surely, Alps here we come.
It was Ju’s first real time in the mountains, but he did good. As usual, I trudged along my slow way, and we made our way on another secondary road, which hugged the mountain sides. There was a huge highway which was 100 feet higer than us, all shining and new, vibrating with the passing machines. Like putting a metal chopstick on a field of greens. But we were thankful for how much less traffic there was! We stopped in a little public park where there was drinking water and refilled our bottles.
We were going up a valley so of course there were bodies of water, but what was surprising was the color. The haunting milky-green of the Sile came obviously somewhere upstream from here because the lakes all share the same mystifyingly opalescent turquoise color. Hopefully it has always been this color… We stopped at the biggest lake (Lago di Santa Croce) to eat some peanuts and drink some wine, which was as epic as it sounds, before continuing our climb to Longarone, which we finally arrived at, exhausted, near 8pm. At this point we were so hungry, I requisitionned me a meat-plus pizza. There is a picture of it, but that was all i could do before scarfing it all down! We got in contact with Gio, to reassure the family, and our Warm Showers host, who gave us indications to get to his place.
Nearly comatose from the pizza (and 8+ hours of biking the mountains) we made our way to Provagna, 4km down the way we came, on the other side of the river and made our camp. Our hosts were very helpful: they’ve cycled a lot around their mountains, so they know the difficulties ahead, the snow the passes, which roads to avoid. We took note of everything we managed to understand, but unfortunately, they had to leave in the morning, and so did we.
Our first night of camping went by without a hitch and so, we were on our way to Auronzo. We had unfortunately underestimated one important factor: the wind. On some of the steep passes, we experienced headwinds like i have never seen before. Like enough to bring a fully-loaded touring bike going downhill to a halt! So we finally found a little place to have a cappucino and a croissant before continuing ever higher into the dolomites.
Revisiting i dolomiti was on my absolute to-do list ever since I came here in 2008. The naked mountains stretching out forever, the crazy italians with their impeccable mountain wear, the food! But mostly the mountains. We are not yet in the best part today, but already we are surrounded by awesome peaks, still snow-covered, here in Ospedale di Cadore.