It’s been half a year now that I have moved to a little town just outside of Bergamo and very close to the new 3T factory, but it wasn’t until some weeks ago that I could actually take some time off to explore my new “backyard” on the bike. I have always enjoyed getting to know a new place from above two wheels as it gets you so much closer to feel the people, their culture, language, music, way of interacting, communicating, etc.
So, October turned out to be a big month of riding starting with the Haute Route around and up Mount Ventoux, exploring all climbs around Bergamo, and cruising around Lago di Como and Lago d’Iseo. My weather App predicted one last day of up to 20 degrees Celsius followed by weeks and weeks of pouring rain and cold. That was my call to action: one last crazy ride before months of boring indoor training and short rides in the cold.
I decided to go for something long and challenging, full of speed and climbing, lakes and mountains, but eventually with spectacular views included, to not only make this ride RIMBY-worthy but to also challenge you to visit our 3T office and go exploring Lombardy yourself! (And I’d be extremely happy to take you out on a ride also…)
The adventure started on said day at 8AM on my bike of choice: a 3T Strada Team from the demo fleet that usually sits around at bike shops and events waiting to be put to the test. The Strada came equipped with Discus C60 wheels, our Torno crank with a 44T chainring and the 9-32 bailout cassette. I will tell you further into the adventure how the setup behaved on this tour…
After roughly two hours on the bike heading northwest of Bergamo towards Lecco, the southeastern tip of Lago di Como, and then speeding alongside the lake, I decided to take a quick stop for some photos and breakfast in Dorio. I have not quite adapted yet to the Italian coffee shop and “caffé” culture, and I honestly doubt I ever will. I personally prefer to take no longer breaks at all while training, but to simply stop in the middle of nowhere/nature to fuel up on whatever I have brought. So, don’t be looking for photos of me sipping a coffee or exploring neat Italian towns (I save that for the easy recovery spins – recovery in my back yard, anyone?!).
My friends at Clif Bar were so friendly to provide a whole Christmas menu of energy bars and gels and bloks, so one energy bar for breakfast and I continued heading north to Colico and the northernmost tip of the lake. (By the way, besides food, spare tubes and tools, and a wind breaker vest I didn’t bring anything else on this ride.)
I have actually ridden around the entire Lake Como a couple of times already (a 200km loop from the office), so up until there there was nothing “new” despite the mountains surrounding me that just take my breath away over and over again – no matter how many times I look at them.
Before joining 3T, I have spend fours years living in Bogotá, Colombia, right in the middle of the Andes mountains. And with climbs right in front of your door step going up to 3.300 meters above sea level, I think I started road cycling in the best place of all: la cuna de los escarabajos (the cradle of climbers, “escarabajo” is a Spanish term typically used for Colombia’s good climbers). The only side effect that I still “suffer” from is my constant addiction to massive mountains, and climbing higher and higher, and a bit of unease whenever I spend too much time in flat areas…
Therefore, and to avoid withdrawal symptoms from my climbing addiction, I headed east from Colico to Morbegno to find the 25km climb of the day, that would lead me all the way up to 2.000 meters of altitude. (Nothing to compare to Bogotá really, but Italy balances lower altitude with way steeper sections on literally every climb you may possibly find.)
To my surprise, the road leading to Morbegno was actually a 15km cycle way – the Sentiero Valtellina – that I randomly chose while mapping the route on the Strava route builder. According to the sign, there seems to be a (cycle?) way all the way up to Bormio, but I think those 100+km I may explore early next season… And by the way, this cycle way was the only place I saw some other cyclists that day, mostly elderly folks on city and trekking bikes and some joggers. It seemed like the average Italian roadie had already ended this year’s season.
Now already in Morbegno and heading towards the climb I looked down at my Garmin and saw the first hairpins popping up. I have found that most climbs around Lombardy have the hardest section right at the beginning, as if those first curves are like an “all-or-nothing” type of challenge, survival of the fittest (legs) I would say. If you go too hard in the beginning, you’re either out or you will probably have a quite painful journey to the top.
Since I would stop every now and then anyways to RIMBY everything possible out this road, I took it easy and enjoyed the views of each hairpin working myself up higher and higher until Morbegno started to slowly disappear in the far distance.
I was surprised that over the 25km of pedalling up there was only one small town to pass. Maybe that is why I didn’t see any fellow cyclists? No town = no coffee shop = no café = no Italian cyclist? It seems logic at least 😉
I passed said town, Albaredo per San Marco, through only a couple more hairpins and soon I found myself again in the lush green forests that started to slowly transform into rocky fields of dry green.
With only two kilometres left to conquer the Passo I had to take the obligatory photo/video/Instastory break. I couldn’t help myself but sit down on the side of the road and soak in the views of pretty much everything that I love so much coming together: steep hairpins carved into gigantic mountain masses, tall rocky mountain ranges in the far far distance, the relaxing sound of the stream in the valley right underneath me, the bright blue sky and warming sun on my salty face, and the luxury of having all of this to myself, just a single soul with a beautiful bike in a paradise setting.
I hopped back on the Strada to climb the last bit before I would do my happy-dance of having reached the top at 1.992 meters above sea level. Up here you’d find everything typical of an Italian alpine pass: the road sign full of stickers from all over the world, the sign teaching you all the names of the mountain ranges surrounding you, the Italian flag and electrical tower, and after a couple of minutes also the obligatory motorbike driver enjoying the beautiful day as much as I did.
I celebrated my victory over the Passo San Marco with another Clif Bar, put on my wind breaker, and headed back to Bergamo. The remaining 60km turned out to be a continuous long descend all the way down.
The Strada Team behaved very well during my 175km ride. The first part until the climb in Morbegno was very fast, and the deep dish wheels did my average speed a big favour. The range of the 9-32 cassette with the 44T chainring was totally sufficient to find the right cadence on the flats as well as on the climbs. I would personally go for a 40T chainring as I prefer the higher cadence even on 15+% inclination, but considering that I was too lazy to change anything about this demo bike, the ride turned out perfect whatsoever. I must say though, that I got very very lucky that there was no wind up the Passo. Simply put, the Strada is a speed rocket that can easily be turned into a climbing machine when switched to low profile rims and your preferred gearing.
If you would like to see this route on Strava and check out what else is going on cycling-wise around the 3T office, please feel free to check out this link: https://www.strava.com/activities/1926549756/
And more importantly, if you would like to see the mentioned happy dance on top of the Passo, please check the highlighted story on my Instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/mango.mamaa