Passo Monte Ceneri
After I had conquered yesterday the Gotthard pass, today immediately the second highest pass of my trip by bike to Venice comes up to me: The Passo Monte Ceneri! The railroad and also the motorists on the highway have it again very easy and go down through a tunnel to the other side. I have of course chosen the way over the top!
After the effort yesterday, the night was definitely too short. Nevertheless, I manage to set off shortly before eight o’clock. The fact that I have made the Gotthard Pass, gives me especially mental energy, but I also have jitters to make today immediately again so many altitude meters. I also have a little bit of time pressure, because in the evening I meet with Dani in Como, from where we will continue together. He started yesterday in Brigg and while I was struggling on the Gotthard pass (2'106 m), he crossed the Simplon pass (2'005 m). Let’s see who arrives first in Como!
It should be just under 80 kilometers today. The Passo Monte Ceneri comes right at the beginning, from the hotel it’s less than eight kilometers. Just enough to warm me up. From the hotel, it’s about a kilometer along grass and gravel, then I get to ride on asphalt again. The sky is still covered with dark clouds heavy with rain. While I’m thinking about it and hoping that it won’t get wet today, I can already feel the first drops on my face. Crap! Just started, already it gets wet. The pass road pushes itself into my field of vision and my jitters get bigger. In addition, single raindrops now become a decent rain shower. In front of me, directly on the route, a school appears with a group of trees, bench and fountain in front of the playground. Here I look for shelter, because I do not want to get wet first thing in the morning and then drive for hours with wet clothes.
While I sit on the bench, I get really cold. I don’t have a jacket with me, after all I’m heading south, but I do have a windbreaker. That must be enough. My Garmin shows me 18 degrees, but the device is still warm from the hotel room and here blows a cold wind from the north, over the mountains. According to Meteo Swiss it should be only a short shower, so I wait. Half an hour, then is only lightly drizzling and I make again on the way.
Unfortunately, I am now no longer warm and it now goes directly into the climb. Sadly, also on the very busy main road without a bike lane, but at least with a protective lane. That’ s also not quite so narrow, it can be driven quite well. Nevertheless, the many cars and especially trucks are really disturbing. I now have seven kilometers ahead of me with a 10% incline. Immediately I feel my leg muscles burning. They are probably still angry with me because of yesterday. But suddenly the clouds break and the sun comes out. Within minutes it gets warm, as if someone had turned on a heater. I enjoy that! At least for now, because it will certainly be a hot and exhausting day.
Like yesterday at the Gotthard Pass, I ride “sections” again today: a few hundred meters, as far as I can, until the legs burn too much. Then I stop briefly for a minute or two and it goes on with the next section. On the same stretch is still a couple on the road, also bike travelers. Unfortunately not talkative, probably because of the effort. They have the same strategy and we overtake each other several times.
In the lower section the pass road has four hairpin bends, then it goes in a long climb along the mountain past the highway and railroad portal of the two tunnels further and further up. With every meter ridden, the view into the valley becomes more beautiful and you can see Lake Maggiore. There memories of the SlowUp Ticino are awakened, six weeks ago we crept on closed off routes down through the valley. From up here I can see the route very well and recognize a lot.
I need about one and a half hours for the ascent. Compared to the Gotthard, that’s almost nothing. But the cars and trucks are really annoying. So I hardly took any photos and also didn’t really enjoy the view. Because the longer I drove uphill on the protective strip, the more unpleasant I felt the traffic. Unfortunately, the pass at the top is also anything but respectable. Neither is there a sign as in other passes, nor a possibility to stop. This is a real pity and annoys me a bit, because I would have liked to take a photo with a sign like at the Gotthard Pass. That would have been still nice.
So I drive on and after a small stretch comes a gas station. Time for a first real break! In the store I buy myself an ice cream and something to drink. But there is nowhere to sit. So the break is not so relaxing and much shorter than I would have wanted. I eat the ice cream standing and also the Fanta is quickly destroyed. Not 15 minutes later I throw myself into the downhill. But it doesn’t go down on this side as far as it went up on the other. The valley on this side of Monte Ceneri is about 100 meters higher than the valley from which I started this morning.
After only one kilometer of descent, my navigation system directs me away from the main road. I would have liked to enjoy the descent on the main road, because it rolls much better and you have to stop much less than on side roads. But I’m still happy to turn my back on the main road, because there’s almost no traffic on the side road and it’s much more pleasant. Even if you can’t let it roll as fast downhill here. The more relaxed driving is much more important for me!
The route is almost permanently slightly downhill along the small river Vedeggio over many bridges that lead you sometimes to the left and sometimes to the right of the river through small villages. Here, one village follows the next. With every kilometer there is also more industry. Directly after the airport of Lugano I reach the Lake Lugano, which I will now follow for 25 kilometers. On the other side of the lake is already Italy! But I will still spend a few hours on the Swiss side before I pass the border.
As it had already announced in the morning, it has become quite hot in the meantime. Almost 30 degrees, although the sky is slightly overcast. Fortunately, it is pretty flat along the lake, but a steady headwind blows. It’s noon and I get really hungry, but I drive and drive and find no restaurant or cafe. That seems to be here at the lake a pure residential area with hundreds of expensive villas. Because the hunger but now already develops into a real hunger hole and I do not want to miss a restaurant in a side street, I stop and use Google Maps to search the area. There is really almost nothing. But only almost nothing, because three restaurants show up nearby. Two of them are closed according to Maps, but one is supposed to be open and even directly on my route!
I really hope that the information is not out of date and set off again. According to Google Maps it should be only 500 meters. And indeed, two curves further in the next village I find and the “Osteria Degli Amici” is even open. My rescue! Outside there are nice shady places and I can park my bike in sight. Perfectly. Minutes later I already have something cold to drink and my ordered pasta comes also quite fast. I have not been in such a hunger hole for a long time. Even though I don’t want to arrive so late in Como, I take my time. It takes a bit of it until the hunger hole closes and the first energy arrives in the muscles.
A little over an hour I have recovered before I make myself freshly strengthened to the second half of my daily stage. But now I am preoccupied with a technical problem. Already yesterday I have heard a creaking noise from the direction of the bottom bracket on the ascent to the Gotthard Pass. But then it was still quite quiet and occurred only now and then. Now, however, it has become louder and can be heard almost permanently. This is starting to worry me, because I still have a few hundred kilometers to go before Venice. On a surface inspection, I can’t find any problem. Everything is tight and has no unnecessary play. Strange!
For now I continue to ride, albeit a bit worried. In the process, I start to look along the route for a bike mechanic. If I find one who can take a look, that would be great. Maybe the bearing is just dry and a little grease will do the trick? A good half hour later I’m riding through the village of Melide and luck is with me: Although today is Monday and most bike repair shops are closed on Mondays, I find an open store with the funny name “BicycleRace by Poggi” right on my route! And not only that, I am also helped immediately! The mechanic also localizes the noise in the bottom bracket. He removes it, cleans and greases it and installs it again. The noise is still there! Since seems to be probably the bottom bracket itself defective. He has a replacement, a basic one, but still. He immediately builds it into my bike but on the test ride, oh no, the crunching noise is still there. He tries out some more, but can not solve the problem.
After a good hour I break off, so we come here unfortunately no further. I pay for the new bottom bracket. On the calculation of his working time he waives, because he could not fix the problem. I think that is fair. So I go with a crunching bottom bracket to Venice in the hope that thereby nothing worse happens or more will break. When I’m back home, the bike mechanic of my confidence will take care of it. He will fix that properly.
Short addition: When I was back home and my bike mechanic could take care of the problem, he knew immediately at the noise, what it was and was able to fix it within a very short time. He also noticed that the old bottom bracket was installed again and not the new one that I had paid for. However, this is good news, because the old bottom bracket is a very high quality and definitely better than the one supposedly installed in Melide! And the fact that I paid 70 francs for it is also bearable, because the mechanic has worked after all an hour on my bike. So in this regard surprising, but with a good end!
But back to the third day. After over an hour lunch break and now another good hour at the bike mechanic I am now quite late. That’s not a big deal, the reception at the hotel is manned until 10pm, but I’m meeting Dani from Brig at the hotel and we still want to go out for dinner together. So I feel a certain pressure. So on we go! Out of Melide we go to Bissone over a bridge over Lake Lugano. The sky has not been blue all day, but now it seems to be getting darker. Hopefully I will arrive dry in Como.
Arrived at the southern end of Lake Lugano, I leave it and roughly follow the little river Laveggio to Mendrisio. At the beginning of the town I still have to master a slope of almost ten percent. This is only about one kilometer long but it is still quite warm and so I treat myself to a delicious ice cream in town. When passing Mendrisio looks really nice, but of course I take no time for sightseeing. Today is not the way the goal, but the hotel in Como. Out of town it’s a wonderfully relaxed downhill and I’m already in Chiasso. Here it is not nice to ride, the place is not made for cyclists. Many one-way streets and detours. But here is the border to Italy, that I have to cross. Eventually I made it, after what felt like dozens of direction changes, sometimes left, sometimes right. Fortunately, I have a navigation system, because signage for cyclists does not seem to exist here.
Now it is not far anymore! In Italy I have only about five kilometers ahead of me. But one last climb. About two kilometers with six to twelve percent. After a long day and the two passes yesterday and today, I’m exhausted and even such a small climb suddenly seems like a mountain. But you know: small gear in, ride, break, ride, break, and so on. I need a good 20 minutes for the two kilometers, then I can let my bike roll downhill to Como on Lake Como. Done! At the lake I quickly make a photo with my gravel bike and then off to the hotel.
In the hotel I am then actually the first! Dani arrives not much later, I was just finished with my shower. Then we picked out a restaurant by the lake to fill our energy stores for the next day. On the way back to the hotel we had a delicious Italian ice cream and we both fell into bed dead tired. After all, I was on the road with everything today just under ten and a half hours, of which I was not quite five and a half hours in motion and I have managed in this time just under 80 kilometers with almost 700 meters of altitude.