A Descender’s Grand Tour of Emilia-Romagna and a piece of Tuscany

After years of borrowing a colleagues bike when visiting my company’s office in Bologna, I decided to bring my own bike to leave here so I can ride any time I’m here. I arrived this week – with my new bike – with great anticipation of riding this weekend. After having suffered through the 3-day Monster Climb 8, admittedly with a very poor showing on my part, I figured I was good for about 90-100 km (55 – 60 mi). Late Friday night I received a message from an Italian riding friend, Nazareno Storani (see photo below), whom you may recall from previous ride reports I had met a few years ago through Strava. Nazareno has, over the past couple of years, been very kind to invite me to join him on weekend rides and show me the many beautiful valleys and best climbs in the area. His message indicated he was planning to ride 120-130 km, so I thought I could try to hang in there, and gladly accepted his invitation.


We met at our usual spot, the WWII cemetery in San Lazzaro and discussed possible riding routes. Nazareno suggested we head up a valley I have ridden with his club before, but then continue on to a different climb I had not experienced yet. Off we went, a beautiful morning in the region of Emilia-Romagna with a pleasantly warm temperature and clear skies. There were not many other riders out in this valley and few cars so we had the road and scenery largely to ourselves. Deer in the fields, fresh cut hay and incredible little towns one after another (See picture in front of a Castle del Rio above.) The ride up through the valley was a modest grade and we had one or two little climb sections of a few kilometers each at 4-6% grades. Then we made a sharp left and hit the main climb he had wanted us to ride – up the Strada Provinciale of Mount Faggiola. This is a Cat 2 climb of almost exactly 10km at an average 6% grade. It’s marked every 100m so even if you follow Larry’s advice and “don’t look up” the signs remind you how much further you have to go. This is a fabulous climb that the Descenders would eat up. The first 3km are the hardest, probably averaging about 8% and the last 3km are a steady 4% or so.   No cars, perfect road surface, shaded for long sections – need I say more?

Somewhere out there we crossed from the region Emilia-Romagna to Toscana (Tuscany). The descent from Mount Faggiola was great as we passed from town to town. Almost every town and even many of the remote roads have natural spring water available. Thankfully Nazareno seems to know where every one of them are so we were able to replenish with fresh water regularly. There was long gradual descent down a nice valley where we had a slight tail wind and we pushed the pace taking turns on the front. By around 100+ km we were both getting hungry so we stopped in Riolo Terme where there was a nice castle (see pics) and a sweet little town where we were able to get a warm salami picante sandwiches and a coke, followed (of course) by an espresso. Feeling more refreshed we headed back out, still with more than 50km to go. I felt good for a while but by 20km or so later the sandwich had worn off and I was feeling low on fuel again. I was lamenting having pushed the pace down the valley and I hung on Nazareno’s wheel for quite a while going through waves of feeling okay to feeling like I needed to coast. I managed to hang on to get Nazareno back to his home town of Osteria Grande where I decided to stop and rest a bit. Nazareno brought me to the local park where I was able to find, fresh water, shade, and a gelato! Nazareno headed home while I recouped some energy. I got back on the bike for the final 9 miles home. About 4 miles later my Garmin 405 watch ran out of battery so my ride on Strava ends at 98 miles in San Lazzaro (near to where I met Nazareno in the morning.) I peddled the rest of the way home trying to maintain a respectable pace and got back safely. In the end I was out for 8 hours, 104.5 miles and 7400 ft of climbing. Just plan awesome.


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