The first roundabouts are a nightmare, at least 6 exits each and I get three in a row wrong, after a few km we enter the woods and start climbing, the landscape changes, alternating pavement and dirt roads. The first obstacle is a tree trunk right in the middle of the road that the rangers are trying to move; after a few minutes we are told to take a side road up the mountain; the GPS often loses the signal in the woods and this causes us to go in the wrong direction more than once… but we aren’t the only ones!
At 9:15am we reach the CP1 (check-point 1) in Arsiero: we already feel like heroes, we are complimented and receive pats on the back, and the destination feels unachievable, but being on mountains so near and known to us encourages and gives us the strength to continue. We proceed for the plateau of Asiago along the Costo road, famous for being a racetrack for extreme riders, we take a side road before Trescheconca, south of Cesuna we head for Turcio and then turn right towards Sasso to reach Gallio heading for the Ortigara. Here the way becomes a bit harder, the bike pipe-bangs like a charm, but we agilely overcome any obstacle, until the GPS takes us to the rifugio “Adriana Marla Moline” for lunch at noon.
Proud of what we did ‘till now, our group sits at the table. Near us there are two other participants and we discover that one of them is 69 years old: we are happy to realize that we still have a long time to live our passion but on the other hand our self-esteem dissipates a bit. But he is Bruno Bibes, a long-standing Dakar rider, used to travel on sand with a 300kg bike (… and a new dream is borne, but this is another story …).
We regain our strength and continue for Enego, then for Monte Grappa. Arriving from the north the top is to our left at about 1 km, CP2 at 3.50 pm, but the track makes us take a turn to cover 30 km more on roads never seen, before reaching the top. It’s a pity the clouds are so low our friends can’t see the unique and spectacular landscape; more than once, on the clearest days, I was able to see, unaided, the Adriatic Sea.
We stop for a hot tea and then head east along the road that looks over the plain; we ride down to Pederobba, we cross the Piave river towards Valdobbiadene and then we climb to the PIanezze, always on unknown little roads. When we descend northbound it starts to rain, we look over Lentiai, Trichiana and Limana never descending until we reach CP3 Montegarda. The rain keeps coming harder, so we stop to wear our rain gear. A few km later while descending a dirt road, we cross a truck, that, to give us room, slides into a little ditch with two wheels; we stop to push it out and after various attempts we succeed. The driver thanks us and we are back on the road heading for Ponte delle Alpi, destination Longarone CP4, which we reach at 09.15 pm, little more than halfway, where dinner and our hotel under the stars, which just came out, are waiting. In truth, at half past midnight after a quick shower in the locker room of the soccer field, dinner, a brisk bike checkup and a nap on the guest team bench, the phone rings: it’s Pietro telling us it is time to go.
We wear our gear, hop on the bike and leave northbound. Pietro tells me to take the lead: we ride along the old state road for Pieve, Domegge and Santo Stefano di Cadore. Since the planned hard off-road trail is closed off due to the rain, the organization staff make us deviate; we continue alternating paved and dirt roads following the tracks without having any idea of where we are, until at 4 am we reach a rifugio in the middle of the mountains where a special breakfast made of fresh bread, butter, jam and a giant pie is awaiting us. 30-min break and we hit the road again.
It’s dawn, the landscape is breathtaking. At 6 am Pietro gets a flat rear tire. After helping him to fix it, we separate and continue, but we have no tracks since they have disappeared from the GPS. We descend the mountain and head directly for the Italian border, skipping the last part of the CP5, it’s now 7 am.
At 8 am we reach Uccea, our CP6. I luckily meet other participants who invite us to follow them for the last track in Slovenia that will end in Re di Puglia, where we will all meet to cover the last leg to the Unità d’Italia Square in Trieste, all together escorted by the police.