We met with Mike, Sandra, Erin, Mason, and Paula at a beautiful Italian villa outside Bassano del Grappa for a week of riding. Paula and I arrived early and briefly walked on a country road behind the house. The others came shortly after; in the meantime, we had met Roberto, the host, who handed us the keys and gave instructions about the house.
The house was huge, and the walk from the kitchen to our bedroom on the 3rd floor was quite the hike. Soon, Mike, Erin, and Mason were working on putting their bikes together. I had my Austrian bicycle with me and only replaced the saddle with the new Brooks saddle I had brought.
Tuesday morning, Erin and I went for a quick bike ride to fetch some fresh buns and pastries. Mike, who had organized all the trip details, had created a route that brought us to Cittadella and Asolo. We started with an urban ride through the outskirts of Bassano to a cafe where we would meet Paula and Sandra, who had loaded their bikes into the van and met us there. Soon after the stop, we were on the quiet single-track dirt bike path along the river.
Mike joined us later as he had to get his hydraulic brakes checked out at the local bike shop. The trail was beautiful, with 1 little hiccup as we got dumped from the path onto a gravel and sand pit. It took some spelunking before we found our way out of it. We left some instructions for Mike on how to maneuver through. Shortly after that, he joined us again.
After 20 miles, we arrived in the historic town center of Cittadella, where we had an extensive lunch. After lunch, Paula and Sandra returned to the van on the bike path we came in on. The rest of us rode through the fields on gravel and dirt roads to the town of Asolo. You could see the town from afar as the old town and its castle rested on a hill. We rode a beautiful little road up to the little square of the old town.
We stopped here for photos and some refreshments. The last 10 miles were mostly downhill and contained a beautiful gravel section where we flew down. It even turned into a shallow river bed at some point. All in all, it is a lovely 50+ miles route.
Mike, Erin, Mason, and I left to ride up Mount Grappa the next day. After a 5-mile warmup lead-in, the climb started with paved switchbacks. I did my Tabata workout at the start of the climb, and when I was finished, I was at the parasailing launch area. After watching some paragliders take off, I decided to head down to find the others. Pretty soon, I joined them to ride up.
To spice things up, Mike had included some 3 gravel sections on the climb. These were definitely challenging but were beautiful and away from traffic. During the 2nd section, I noticed my rear tire was getting slightly soft.
Fortunately, it was a slow leak, and I could ride it to the top, where I could top it off. We also ended up in the clouds, literally. After a food stop at the top, we started descending the road. This was followed by a short gravel climb, which brought us to a gravel descent with breathtaking views on the town of Bassano del Grappa. In total, we climbed 6700 ft and rode 42 miles.
Thursday, we were still tired from the two intensive rides of the days before. So, the 5 of us took a shorter ride to Bassano del Grappa. After a half hour, it started raining, and we stopped at a cafe for a cappuccino and waited out the rain.
It stopped quickly. We then continued and rode along the river a little and ended up in the town, where we walked and did some sightseeing. We ended up at the covered bridge and had lunch at a restaurant nearby. After lunch, we returned to the villa via the north side of the river.
Along the way, we crossed a very cool mansion and crossed the river on an abandoned bridge that got new use with a bike bridge laid over it.
Friday was rained out, and Mike had found a Prosecco vineyard in the Prosecco hills to do some wine tasting. It was a 45-minute drive, and before the tasting, we went to a nice restaurant. It had beautiful views of the vineyards. After lunch, we went over to the vineyard Col de Lupo.
Our host, Julia, first gave us a tour of how the grapes are carefully squeezed with a bladder to release the grape juice. The juice ferments into base wine, which then gets sweetened in 2 stages to get the CO2 (bubbles). After the tour, we went to the tasting room, where we tasted 4 different types of Prosecco: Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Dry, and Dry. We also had various food pairings with the Proseccos, from salami to cookies.
For Saturday, Mike had an excellent route for us. It was based on the last 45 miles of the official 2023 Gravel Worlds Champions course, which would be held in the Prosecco Hills in 2 weeks. The route started in Pieve de Soligo, where the finish will also be. After a short walk over the Saturday market, we soon hit the gravel roads.
For the first 30 miles, we rode through the Prosecco vineyards and mostly flat. The last 15 miles had a bunch of super steep climbs and descents, initially to the now vertical vineyards.
At some point, we even rode underneath the grape vines. The last climb before descending back into Pieve de Soligo had a super steep (>20%) loose gravel finish, and the gravel descent after had an over 30% grade. Even the last mile into town had some exciting features, riding down a 3-foot wide water canal and what seemed to be someone's backyard. But then we returned to town for a well-deserved beer and gelato. We had just packed the cars back on the van when the t-storm that had been threatening the last few hours came down hard, just in time.
On Sunday, our last day in Villa Ines, we took a short road ride to Marostica. A town with a very impressive castle. We had lunch at a Michelin-recommended restaurant called Osteria Madonnetta, which I also highly recommend.
After 21.5 miles, we returned home and had to pack it up for our next adventure. But not after we are pizza in Bassano del Grappa.
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