Five hundred kilometres on the saddle of a Vespa scooter, admiring the stunning landscapes of the Dolomites, a UNESCO world heritage area, in the Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Alto Adige regions and Austria. This is the “500 km delle Dolomiti” rally, organised by the Treviso Vespa Club over the weekend of 17-19 June 2016.
Sappada-Plodn was the locality in the Belluno Dolomites, on the Austrian border, chosen as the start and finish for the fourth edition of this international Vespa reliability trial for tourists and sports lovers. Among the 220 entrants who registered for the 500 km event, with riders from all over Italy, 15% came from abroad: Germany, Austria, Belgium and Switzerland. The 500 km is a challenging and fascinating ride for Vespa enthusiasts, which attracts growing numbers of competitors with each new edition. Snow, rain and fatigue are no obstacles.
This year’s special guests, reports Ivan Zanatta, vice president of the Treviso Vespa Club and the “driving force” behind the rally, were Gianfranco Montaldi, 84, from Verona, a former Piaggio rider, who completed the 500 km route on a Piaggio Mp3 three-wheel maxi scooter, and Antonio Zin, 92, from Vicenza, another former Piaggio rider and great Vespa enthusiast, who followed the race from Sappada.
Friday saw the first edition of the “Crono Sappada”, a reliability trial with prizes over a 70 km route, starting from Sappada and riding up to the source of the Piave, located within the municipal territory of Sappada.
Saturday was the main event, with the “500 km delle Dolomiti”: things got underway before dawn, with the registration of the participants from 5.15 to 5.30 in the morning, and the departure of the first group of riders at 6 a.m.; the second group left at 7.30 a.m. At 1 p.m., the first rider reached the intermediate finish at the Three Peaks in Lavaredo, where refreshments were provided for everyone at the Auronzo Refuge at an altitude of 2,330 metres.
Then it was back on to the saddle of the Vespa with the finish in Sappada that evening, and a party in the winding streets that make this Dolomite village such a unique spot, with its well-known traditions like the wooden Carnival masks, notably the Rollate, and the Germanic dialect that originated with the migrants who came down from the north. Not to mention the local gastronomic specialities.
The highlight of the third day, Sunday, was the Vespa procession through the old streets of Sappada. This was followed by a gala lunch at the sports hall in Borgata Kratten, and the award-presentation ceremony for the 500 km race. In first place on the podium was Paolo Wegher, second place Leonardo Pilati, third place Nicola Lonati.
THE 500 KM CIRCUIT: A HIGH-ALTITUDE TOUR. The circuit begins in Sappada and heads east, in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region, before turning north to go into Austria, via the hairpin bends of the Plӧcken Pass, to reach Kötschach-Mauthen and travel westward through the Lesachtal valley and back into Italy via the Puster Valley.
From San Candido the route changes direction again, through the Sexental and the Cadore region to Auronzo and Lake Misurina, climbing up to the majestic Three Peaks of Lavaredo for the intermediate finish. The second stage passes again through Alto Adige, via Dobbiaco, Plan de Corones and through the Val Badia to Corvara, then down to Selva di Cadore and Cortina d’Ampezzo. From here the route heads for Pieve di Cadore, the Pesarina Valley in the region of Friuli and then from Forni Avoltri to Sappada. The next rally will be held in 2018.