12 April 2021

In Constant Competition

Words by Fulcrum, Images by Tornanti.cc

The story of Jacopo Lahbi and his non-stop challenge to climb Monte Grappa from all of its 10 routes. 455 km and 16,500 m elevation gain, all in one go!

From the athletics track to the bike for the brevetto del Grappa: To conquer the ten climbs of this iconic climb of Italian cycling.

Eclecticism and multi-disciplinary success in sport is rare, as few athletes can handle the demands made on the body and the mind.
Once example is Remco Evenepoel, the new prodigy who has taken global cycling by storm. He was an excellent football player until he was sixteen (in the youth teams of R.S.C Anderlecht and PSV Eindhoven and captain of the Belgium under-16 team) when, in 2017, he turned to cycling and as a junior he won everything he entered. But we have local examples of such skills too, such as Jacopo Lahbi, the twenty-seven year old promise of Italian athletics, who many are hoping will help the movement regain some of its former glory, after the doldrums of recent years.
Genetics help too: his mother is a volleyball player and his father, Faouzi, was a first class international-level middle-distance runner, who won the bronze medal in the 800 metres at the 1987 Indoor World Championships. The 800 metres is Jacopo’s distance too. From 2014 to 2017 he studied and trained in the United States, at the University of Alabama. He came back to Italy to pursue his Olympic dream. Now you might be asking yourself what’s all this got to do with bikes?
Keep reading.


From the Tokyo dream to the Brevetto del Grappa.

As we all know 2020 was to be an Olympic summer, until the global pandemic forced organisers to postpone all events in Tokyo until next year. Jacopo has been chasing the dream of running at the Olympics for a long time, and unfortunately he’ll have to wait a little longer to fulfil that dream. The highlight of his career so far has been the semi-final at the 2016 European Championships in Amsterdam.
His love for sport is clear, you can see it in his face: athletics is his first calling, but the bike is an innate passion.
The challenge that we’re talking about here began on a hot bike ride in June with us at Fulcrum. Almost as a joke we threw Jacopo a challenge: to obtain the gold Brevetto del Grappa, non-stop, all in one go. The brevet consists of riding all ten climbs that lead to the highest peak of Monte Grappa in the Veneto Prealps. “Ok, I’ll do it”, he replied with a smile: challenge accepted.
A month to prepare everything and source the right bike and, on a torrid day in late July, he was off along these ten infinite roads that lead to the peak. Ten climbs on the road, but the considerable preparations required could count as an eleventh climb: changing over from an old and broken road bike, that was being repaired, to a new bike, a biomechanical visit to find the right riding position and setup were all part of the test. But in the end, mission accomplished. Jacopo covered 454 km in a little over 31 hours of riding, over 16,000 meters of climbing, 19,000 calories burned; average speed 14.5 km/h and a maximum speed of 71 km/h.
Not bad at all.


A mesmerising landscape with a momentous history: the uniqueness of Monte Grappa.

Monte Grappa is a unique mountain in Italy. Loved and respected by cyclists due to having been featured in the Giro d’Italia, its uniqueness lies in the fact that Monte Grappa is not a pass, but a mountain that doesn’t rise up from an alpine landscape but from a plain. It rises alone, from 200 to 1,750 metres, with unique panoramas and views.
Close to three provinces (Vicenza, Treviso and Belluno), from its peak you can glimpse the bell tower in Saint Mark’s square in Venice. Monte Grappa has a rich history that encompasses cycling, having crowned Bartali and Nibali, right through to the First World War and the hard-fought battles between the Italian and Austro-Hungarian troops on its flanks one hundred years ago. The military ossuary that welcomes those who climb to the summit is a reminder that events that took place a century ago are not fiction but hard facts.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Monte Grappa encapsulates the beauty of cycling. From the pros who train and race on its roads, to the amateurs of all ages and walks of life who set off early in the morning, when there are few cars and the sun is less strong. Each one with their own pace, they all aim for the same destination. But what makes Monte Grappa unique is its many faces and personalities.
There are ten climbs that reach the summit, each one with its own unique characteristics and peculiarities. It’s not a climb for beginners, but climbing it can be everyone’s dream. With a stamp for each climb the Grappa Brevet is a testament to endurance and spirit.


All roads lead to the summit, but…

Everyone can dream about conquering Monte Grappa once. Doing it by climbing all the ten roads that lead to the summit is a monumental achievement. Each climb covers a similar distance that ranges between 20 and 30 km, but that’s where the similarities end, as each one is very different, alluring and sacred. The easiest climb, which is the one that is most often used in the Giro d’Italia, is from Romano d’Ezzelino (VI) along the Strada Cadorna. This route covers 27 km with an average gradient of 6% and a maximum of 10%: the entry-level climb, but still a respectable effort. The ideal time to try this climb is early in the morning, because car traffic increases considerably during the day. The hardest climbs? The Salto della Capra, from Fietta (TV), the Strada degli Alpini from Possagno (TV), which is the most demanding, according to Jacopo and the Chiesa Nuova San Luigi, which starts from the northern side in Seren del Grappa, in the Belluno province. They all feature maximum gradients of 20%. Another unique climb is along the Strada del Col dei Prati, from Cismon del Grappa (VI): cars aren’t allowed on this climb and with a couple of kilometres of gravel, this road ramps up the spirit of adventure of the challenge. As Eddy Merckx said, when the road rises you cannot hide. Monte Grappa, with its continuous changes in gradient, and steepest pitches, not only makes hiding impossible but also makes it really hard to find the right pace. 
Give it a try!



Watch the full video on YouTube ▼