While the train starts ascending on the hills east of Trento, I start revising today's itinerary. I'm doing a tour described in the second book by the Margoni brothers. The train passes on the border of Caldonazzo Lake, a favorite holidays resort for Italians and foreigners alike. Levico Terme (= Spa) lies on a smaller lake. I arrive in Levico at a quarter to nine. I ride slowly through the town centre, which is coming to life; still plenty of tourists around.
I now start the main ascent of the day, which will take me to Vetriolo Terme with a 1000m (3280ft) ascent on 12km (7.5mi) on a good asphalt road. The Margoni brothers recommend a different, more tortuous approach to Vetriolo. But I have learned to save my energies in the first part of such long tours. The weather is unsettled, but it's not raining, and the day is cool and pleasant. The ascent is rather monotonous. I stop a couple of times to drink and eat. Three kilometers before Vetriolo, a car with a plate of another province slows down when passing me. They ask me: "How long does it take to Vetriolo?" I tell them. This is of the "Man bites dog" variety, I think. From Vetriolo I have a very nice view on the Valsugana Valley from where I started. The couple from the car meets me; they are admired at my performance.
I now start climbing from Vetriolo (1500m or 4900ft) to La Bassa (1834m or 6000ft) on a good gravel road. I meet a small group lead by a priest. "Forza e coraggio" he wishes me, "Be strong and brave". I pretend to be both. "Vis et robur", the Latin equivalent (or also "Spes et Robur", "Hope and Strength") are typical names of Catholic Sport Clubs. It's getting colder up here, and it starts raining. I take from my rucksack warm and waterproof clothing. Before La Bassa the road becomes so steep, and the road-bed so bad, that I have to walk for a few hundred meters. La Bassa ("The low one") is a saddle between Panarotta, a favorite skiing resort for Trentonians, and Fravort. A pleasant meadow at a crossing of several trails. I've already been here, coming from a different direction, Val dei Mocheni, but that's another story.
There are not too many people around, in such a weather, but that's not bad as it seems. I will now start the best part of the route, a narrow, but not overly technical single track which will lead me, with a slow, continuous descent, to Rifugio (Alpine Refuge) Serot. On a nice summer day, the track would be full of hikers. In such a weather only a few people are around, so life is easier. I eat a couple of sandwiches; it stops raining before I start again. The single track is really beautiful. It goes through a very varied terrain, slightly desolate at the start, then surrounded by sparse trees. A particularly nice spot occurs when crossing a creek near to a "malga", a wooden Alpine hut. At a couple of rough spots I prefer to walk for a few meters, so I have a chance for looking at the scenery. On such technical tracks I should really remember to stop every now and then anyway, to avoid the risk of looking only at the trail in front of me in search of the best path, and missing the scenery entirely.
Rifugio Serot is located on a nice balcony on the Valsugana valley. It is a favourite target for mild weekend excursions. Next time I'll stop for lunch. This time I prefer to start descending. The road is wide and has a comfortable gravel surface. By riding close to the mountain side one can even avoid the drain channels. After a while, I start ascending again, the idea being to reach "Cinquevalli" (Five Valleys), an area where silver ores have been exploited for centuries. Here I realize that I am a bit tired, so I get off and push my bike for a while. Cinquevalli is a pleasant place, meadows with some holiday homes and some more interesting eating places. But the weather is getting really bad, so I start the descent, turning left on a forestry road. By continuing straight on, one would get back to Vetriolo without too much effort. In fact, a nice alternative to the present tour, suggested by the Margoni brothers, is to drive to Vetriolo, saving the biggest part of the ascent, and get back on this road.
The descent is not technical at all, but it's quite long, about 900m on 6km. I have to stop a couple of times to relax my upper arms and shoulders. No problems with the brakes, forearms are OK. But there is a bit of "washboard" road-bed, and there's no way I can damp properly with my arms alone. On this kind of terrain I see very clearly the point of suspension forks.
The road leads, with several nice views on the lower Valsugana valley, to Roncegno Terme. Since there is still some time for the next train to Trento, I get back at a leisure pace to Levico. This turns out to be a good idea to unwind. Once in Levico, I sit at the open air Cafe' at the station, sipping tea, and looking at the mountains to the South. During World War I the Austrians built a road to get from here to Lavarone. This is now asphalted, but it's quite steep, and it's a nice way of getting to Lavarone, a place with many nice and easy mountain biking trails. But that's yet another story.
The ascent on pavement to Vetriolo is a bit boring, but its bonus is the long downhill at the end. I made it in an hour and a half, keeping my bpm at about 140-145. A roadie would have done it in half the time, I guess. It's an 8% slope on average, but the final third goes up to over 10%.
The trail from La Bassa to Serot is really beautiful, very varied, not too technical, but entertaining and scenic. My new suspension fork worked well (no testimonials here: suffices to say it's bright yellow...), enabling me to get even more fun than the first time.
This time I didn't bonk on the last bit of ascent to Cinquevalli. Seems that I have kept myself properly fed and hydrated, especially in this hot weather.
And, yes, a suspension fork makes a big difference in the final descent, and took out the unpleasantness of the terrain.