San Leonardo – Passo Giovo – Passo di Pennes – Passo Mendola –
Passo di Manghen – Cavalese
DAY 4: Monday 3.9.2018
This is the first real alpine day and we wake up to a bright blue sky between white clouds. After a good breakfast we are on the road by nine o’clock. After refuelling we ride the SS44 towards Passo Giovo (Jaufenpass). We get into traffic already in the first turns through the forest up from San Leonardo, and a local bus contributes to slow down the traffic. Near the top we take a quick stop for the guys to take a smoke and some pictures below the Enzian hütte. The view is amazing already here. We are at approx. 2000 meters and has about 100 meters altitude before we are at Eidelweisshütte and the highest point at 2094 m.a.s.l. We take some more pictures before we head on towards Sterzing.
Before entering Sterzing we are going to enter the SS508 to take us over Passo di Pennes (Penser Joch). Before we get that far, the GPS will take me to the right into a smaller road that will according to the map will lead us to the SS508. But not in real life, and after some metres we realize that we are on a dead end and make a U-turn. After this I am a little sceptical to the GPS’s recommendations, but I even so did I do some bad navigation. Well on the SS508 we meet a sign that says the road is closed due to road work. We go anyway and hope for the best. And luckily, after a while we meet several motorcyclists, and no one signals anything that might indicate that the road is closed.
The road climbs through the woods in more or less predictable curves and offers entertaining riding. As we get to the roadworks area we get green light right away and sneak past the back of the cue. It is only a few kilometres to the top of the pass and a new break and fantastic views to mountains both south and north. At 2211 m.a.s.l. we are not alone, this is a popular road among German and Austrian riders as well. The clock is only half past twelve and we have already had lots of entertaining riding.
What a day! And it’s not over. Before we head south towards Bolzano and the next pass, Knut takes a small refill of engine oil while he talking to his bike. We ride down the Sarn valley which offers entertaining riding, but we are held back by the traffic. We ride around the centre of Bolzano and find the SS42 that will take us over the Mendelpass. There is a lot of traffic, and the road takes us in a leisurely pace between the vineyards. The SS42 is part of the Strada del Vino which starts in Bolzano, and for wine lovers this is worth a trip. It is well signposted to Mendelpass and Passo Mendola, but the exit can come a little abruptly so be aware.
The speed limit doesn’t encourage to use the road to its potential, this is a fantastic road even when its ridden at the speed limit. The start of the climb to Passo Mendola (Mendelpass) is a real highlight. Then the road gets narrow and twisty, but still with perfect asphalt. The pass is only 1362 meters high, but when we stop in turn 8 to enjoy the view we are already at 1190 meters altitude and have a fantastic view of the Adige valley. While standing here, we are joined by a German on his original Kawasaki Z900.
We stop once more before reaching the top of the pass. This part of the climb is very narrow, and the parking area cramped and the view at turn 8 was better as well. As we arrive at the top of the pass we decide for lunch. The original plan for the day was relatively ambitious and included Passo de Manghen. It is not among the highest and most spectacular passes, but the riding should be among the best. In terms of timing we are ahead of our plan, and during lunch we agree to take to take on the detour south.
After lunch we continue the SS42 south, take one of the GPS recommended shortcuts (a bit risky, but it works), then we head towards SS43 and then follow the direct route Trento without using the highway. We ride to the east of Trento, onto SS47 and pass Lago di Caldonazzo. We take off at Borgo Valsugana and ride onto SP109 and through Borgo Valsugana centre and onto SP110 which becomes SP31. Where the SP31 and SP65 meet keep right and follow the signs to Passo Manghen.
The first stretch has a fantastic view of the Brenta valley, then the road enters a narrow valley and runs through the forest, at the same time as it becomes narrower. This is not for those who are in a hurry on a trip, and we set the pace to a speed with a good safety margin. We ride gently and smoothly an as the climb starts the road gets even narrower and the turns get very tight. In the tightest turns, I would have appreciated a smoother throttle action, but with some concentration I get through without any problems. What a road! At 2042 meters altitude, we are still surrounded by forests. The road down on the north side takes us to Val di Fiemme and is just as challenging and rewarding as the road up on the south side when it comes to turns and riding.
At Hotel San Valier in Cavalese we are well pleased with the day. The clock is ten minutes before six and we have had some challenging riding, but also some very entertaining riding where we have danced through the turns and really found the rhythm. And the views – the Italian mountains are magnificent!
Todays distance: 277 km – 173 mile