For the first time since 25 years, as the Schengen Agreement came into effect, we are not
able to cross borders freely anymore inside Europe.
While of course this is related to a crisis no one could have planned for, the situation is
quite absurd regarding the call of rightwing politicians to shut down the EU and close our
national borders. Your next beach holiday in France? Get a special permit. Go have a beer
in your neighbouring country? Nearly impossible.
You get the point: We have grown so used to roam freely throughout a whole continent,
the idea alone of this freedom being taken away is a nightmare.
Deep in the 2020 Corona crisis ultra distance athletes Bruno Ferraro (Bassano del Grappa,
Italy) and Max Riese (Salzburg, Austria) digitally fantasised about riding together soon
again, after all their races got cancelled. But what if there was a way to meet each other
legally even in those times? With the restriction of movement in Italy it had to be a touching
point between the state of Veneto and Austria. While no tarmac road connects the two,
there is a historically important piece of trail, that does. The Tilliacher Joch (Forcella Dignas)
is a gravel trail where Italian and Austrian soldiers opposed each other in WW1.
Why not meet your friend at this historical place and enjoy a night under stars, while still
staying on your side of the border? Just within sight, enjoying each other's company as a
piece of normality.
We should all remember how this situation feels like and use it to fight for the freedom and
rights we have grown so used to. The Schengen Agreement and therefore the European
Union. Together we are stronger and better than as small, isolated countries.
Leaving Bassano del Grappa with the sun rising made the depart of this adventure even more epic. I immediately approached Monte Grappa where I found other road cyclists but as soon as I took the off-road track no one else crossed my path for the next couple of hours.
At the top of the climb Rifugio Bassano it was surprisingly busy, people were finally enjoying the freedom to ride their bikes again and the weather was amazing. I took the alternative route downhill and crossed the war trench, where I 'enjoyed' a bit of hike-a-bike with a stunning view of the valley. A rewarding stop at Birrificio di Quero (a beer was needed) and then straight to Santa Giustina for ice cream with my old bud Stefano, who lives locally and wanted to cheer me up before the last climb of the day.
In Valle del Mis I had a bit of rain but then the sun came out again and light was reflecting off the walls of the canyon, making for a surreal and beautiful moment. I pushed hard in order to cross Alleghe lake and to reach Caprile for dinner.
Starting the day in Selva di Cadore and having Passo Giau "for breakfast" was really challenging. I couldn't miss the iconic pass but then I went back for a couple of kilometres in order to follow a really steep but incredible off-road track that lead me to Rifugio Averau and then Rifugio Scoiattoli, among the stunning Cinque Torri. Being at the heart of the Dolomites and riding through those paths made me feel incredibly lucky, I've always had those special places relatively close to me but it took me until now to cross them... looking meticulously for alternative paths. I had a coffee in Cortina d'Ampezzo and rode passo Tre Croci straight after.
What followed was a long and fun off-road downhill to Auronzo and then the stunning Val Visdende, where I finally approached Forcella Dignas, very near the Austrian border. After a lot of fun and hundreds of pictures, I finally met Max. Over a (warm) beer, we exchanged all the thoughts and feelings about our epic journeys.
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