I take a train at 8 in the morning. While the train takes me North, I do a bit of stretching, especially for my quadriceps. Some over-enthusiastic downhill running during a hike, a couple of days ago, has left me a bit stiff. Although I will be able to cycle relatively normally, I will definitely feel an impairment when it comes to short, intense efforts.
Once in Bolzano, I take a cable car that will goes up to the plateau, with a 1000m gain. There used to be a railway going up from Bolzano/Bozen main square to the plateau, that has been dismantled in 1966, but for some km's on the plateau itself. While I wait, I notice that the company that runs it used to be called Ferrovia Elettrica Altopiano Renon (Renon Plateau Electric Railway). The acronym is thus FEAR. Ouch!
The ride is very scenic, with a nice view of the town, the mountains around, and the gorgeous, orderly vineyards exploiting all possible open spaces. One can also catch a glimpse of some Earth Pyramids (Erdpyramiden/Piramidi di terra). These look like audacious spires with a flat stone on top. These formations are due to the particular geological structure of the plateau. Hoping to be rendering it correctly, the plateau consists of Cretaceous (clay) background with a relatively thin layer of solid granite on top. In some places, erosion has cut through the clay, except where some hard stones have protected the underlying clay, forming these strange concoctions.
I get in Oberbozen/Soprabolzano, and start my ride on the well-marked path #6. This climbs very gently, and goes through woods and beautiful meadows. The landscape is very gentle, and I tend to like this kind even better than the rockier mountains further up. This place is great for a very relaxing holiday, especially for families with young children, and elderly people. The trail is not difficult, but I typically hesitate where I shouldn't really. This has happened to me quite often, for instance when giving exams: I start with a certain lack of self-confidence, only to build the right concentration during the performance. It will be the same today.
The road-bed is somewhat muddy at times, due to yesterday's liberal rain. The sky was perfect blue this morning. There will be some cloud build-up later in the day, but no rain.
I come out of the woods near Pemmern/Tre Sentieri. This is the starting point of a lift that allows easy access to Rittnerhorn/Corno del Renon, the mountain top I'm heading for. The parking lot is only one-fourth full, mainly Germans. In high season, there are hundreds of cars here.
The hard part of the climb starts here, with a steep paved road. I then turn right into the woods on a forestry road. I did this a couple of years ago, with a lesser bike, and less training, so I'm curious to see how I will perform on the walls that are waiting for me. The start is not bad, but then I'm forced to stop twice anyway, first to make room for a coasting truck, and then, when I'm probably close to give up anyway, because of a traffic jam (cows). I finally come out of the woods to the nice Alpe di Belmonte/Auf der Schön. Besides the cows, there are many horses around, of the Aveglinesi/Haflinger (from Avelengo/Hafling, near Merano/Meran) race. It's an elegant horse, that used to be for work, but it's now only for leisure. Accordingly, it's been bred recently for longer legs and narrower body. The contrast between the horses, roaming around with agility, and the heavy bovines strikes me somewhat.
The next wall, that I remembered as challenging, is not really difficult after all. I stop to open a gate, a recurring event here, and start the final climb to the top. Some short walls, with rather uneven road-bed, force me to dab now and then, but soon I'm on top, at about 2200m, after a 1000m gain. The view of the Dolomites, unimpeded in all directions, is really magnificent. I skip the pleasure of Südtiroler cuisine at the hut, and begin the descent. It will be a 2000m drop from here to Bolzano/Bozen.
The first part is quite rough, but my new suspension fork (it's yellow, you know) serves me well. In the biker/bike combination, it is often said that the human factor accounts for perhaps 90% of the equation. True as this may be, with a suspension fork there is improvement on both sides. Not only does the fork save you from some stress, but by giving you more control, it contributes to your confidence, so that you end up being a better biker. Sometimes one can end up with being overconfident. Later in the descent, in fact, I go on purpose over an obstacle I could have easily avoided. What I assumed to be a small, round stone turns out to be a serious root, and only the prompt reaction of my fork saves me from going over the bars: another lesson learnt, I hope.
So I have my fun on the walls that made the final part of the ascent hard, then zoom down the forestry road and the paved part, and reenter the woods on path #6. Later I take path #5, and pass through Wolfsgruben/Costalovara, a delightful small village where I have spent a couple of short holidays.
The map shows a forestry road going down nearly to Bolzano/Bozen. The road turns out to be paved, the only excitement being provided by the dirt produced by some roadwork. Just before entering the paved section, however, I catch a glimpse of a deer silently running away. This is quite a frequent occurrence here, but I'm always delighted by these encounters.
I make it to the station for the train back to Trento with ten minutes to spare. On the train I meet a guy who's back from the Dolomite Marathon. A 180km, 4000m gain event. Wow!
Two itineraries on Renon/Ritten, partly overlapping this one, are described in the second book by Margoni, and in Oliver Renzler's book. In the latter, the author proposes a shortcut to go back to Bolzano that I have tried once, and would deem to be on the far side of difficult.
Daredevils may want to take this more direct trail downhill, that follows the old railway track. Be sure to have your brakes in working order, it's extremely steep at times.