What better way to celebrate the reopening of borders following the most critical phase of the COVID-19 pandemic? Bruno Ferraro and Max Riese are both fans of gravel bike and adventure. So, to mark the end of the lockdown, they wanted to meet at a symbolic spot, the meeting place of two tortuous paths starting in Bassano del Grappa in Italy and Salzburg in Austria, a spot representing renewed stability and a confident certainty. So, their meeting point had to be both real and imaginary, historical, but physically present: Tilliacher Joch, which marked the border between Austria and Italy from 1920 until the entry into force of the Schengen Convention in 1995, met those criteria.
The ride from Bassano del Grappa to the summit of the Puster Valley, and then to Tilliacher Joch / Forcella Dignas, was a physically and emotionally challenging zigzag, following the tracks of Monte Grappa, which still bears the wounds of World War I, and through the site of an environmental disaster in Val Visdende, where the forest was destroyed by the storm Vaia in 2018. But nature heals its wounds, and the soul of the places over time.
Cycling through them gives us a better sense of nature’s beneficial healing instinct and we sense that “life goes on even if the world seems to have been destroyed”.
All the symbolic meanings of the meeting on the border also found an adventurous and sporting expression on the bicycle; during the ride, Max and Bruno’s preference for gravel found its fullest expression.
The ride from the Monte Meatte military road on the Grappa Massif to the Cinque Torri trail, and then to the final climb to Forcella Dignas, offered everything a gravel lover could wish for with challenging ascents and descents, fords, and spots where the cyclist was forced to carry his bicycle, marking a true merging of the man and his machine. In cases like this, the cyclist needs to trust and understand his bicycle so that everything that may seem impracticable at first glance becomes possible.
What a thrill it must have been for Bruno Ferraro on his Jaroon to see Max Riese’s silhouette on Tilliacher Joch. That thrill expressed their relief that recent difficult times, like so many others, had finally ended. “Although the lockdown forced us to postpone our plans, it made our meeting up there all the more special and unforgettable.”
© Video & images are courtesy of Chiara Terraneo, Gianluca Miotto & Matteo Polo.
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