While a blizzard was raging in Salzburg, we arrived at Torbole at the northern end of the Lago di Garda with no plans in mind apart from actually finishing the Festive500. Like an excited kid on Christmas morning Boban woke up early and planned a route that goes up and around the backside of Monte Baldo over two passes peaking at 1500 meters, then descends to the lake town of Garda and finishes with a 60k cooldown ride back to the hotel. He didn't really keep in mind the goal was to actually get some miles in today so it took quite a few webcams, weather forecasts and Street View pictures to convince John the ride was doable, scenic, and at least 120 kilometers long.
We eagerly started off to check out what all Lake Garda fuss is all about and got our answer delivered 500 meters in on the cobbled climb that started at our hotel's doorstep. While we missed sunrise, the sun was barely shining on the peaks of Monte Rochetta and the other western Garda Mountains while the rest of the lake was still in the shade of our destination, Monte Baldo. After taking a break to look around we were back on our way to Mori, the base of the climb. Due to the frozen bike paths we had to take the busy main roads for a while (where bikes were prohibited), but we soon got to a tiny relatively ice free road, which winding itself through vineyards leading us to Mori.
Once there, we immediately started the climb with its easy gradients while riding through vineyards and snow covered palm trees with the sun shining on our faces. We were only slightly turned off by the intermittent heavy traffic. Eventually, we had the road to ourselves when we reached the small town of Brentonico, as it got steeper -reaching 16% while narrowing down and gaining a more remote vibe.
The few people we saw from then on gave us increasingly weirder looks especially when Boban dressed down and rolled up his sleeves after racing up the ramps despite negative temperatures. Reaching the town of Giacomo, we had a brief descend before cresting Passo san Valentino at around 1300meters.
After quickly putting on our jackets and gloves we descended into a sunless valley with an artificial lake which meant temperatures plummeted quicker than us descending towards it. Without shedding layers we rode up the old army road with frozen toes and runny noses. We warmed quickly however due to it's steepness and occasional rays of lights. After climbing a couple hundred meters on icy roads we reached a sunny plateau. Joking about how uneventful this ride is so far, we rode through a last few sections before reaching the final pass at the Malga Pra Alpesina and encountered yet another twist of fate. We realized just why we hadn't seen anybody else for the last half hour - the road turned into a dead end as the other side of the pass was not plowed at all. Having done goofed yet again, Boban lost all route planning credibility and didn't even try to improvise a route around it, instead we laughed it off and decided to play it safe and just ride straight back to the hotel.
Back through the freezing valley and up Passo San Valentino again by now the sun has melted away all the snow from the road letting us enjoy the descent at full speed.
Another wrong turn later in Nago Torbole which ended in a unrideable cobbled downhill we arrived back at Lago di Garda just in time for sunset and pizza.