After 4 years of failure, I was lucky enough to win an entry into the 2014 Maratona dles Dolomites. It’s easily the most beautiful and professionally run event I have ever entered (I rode it in 2009 too).
The course is 138 kilometres, 7 main climbs including a loop of the Sella Ronda, and the very tough Passo Giau (all passes labeled on map at bottom). In total, roughly 4000 metres of ascent.
I rode with my good friends: “The Boys from St. Etienne” – Philippe and Xavier.
Breakfast at 4:30am, we left for the start at 5:30am before the roads closed. The race started at 6:30am. But we were at the very back of more than 10,000 cyclists. We crossed the start line at roughly 7:00 am.
The course is absolutely beautiful, and the weather was as good as could be expected. The first climb to Passo Campolongo was very congested, but things eased up for the long and beautiful climb up to Passo Pordoi.
I’d be lying if I claimed I knew where all these photos were exactly located.
After Passo Sella the route was a little bit easier to Passo Gardena. I felt reasonably good and enjoyed the pro photographers:
I was happy to finish the descent from Passo Gardena to Corvara. We’d circled the Sella Ronda, I’d been eating and drinking like a pig, and the day was going well.
We had to cycle up Passo Campolongo again, but with a less congested road, it wasn’t too bad. Next a long, long stretch before the feared Passo Giau.
This is a brilliantly run event in every way. For example, some fool knocked Philippe’s bike over at a drink station and bent his deraileur hanger thing (technical talk). He was having problems changing gears when we passed one of many repair stations. There was perhaps the best mechanic I have ever seen, who using a myriad of tools, fixed Philippe’s bike in 4 minutes. Grazie mille!
Passo Giau next. 10 kms at 9.3% with some steep ramps. Lots of tired legs but we made good progress.
Once at the summit, we took a long, long food (cheese!) and drink break – we were tired but success was in sight. We weren’t particularly fast up the long but not too steep Passo Falzarego / Passo Valparola climb, but we kept moving.
It started raining here – quite hard at times, but fortunately it wasn’t that cold. No worries.
After descending Passo Valparola, the only difficulty was the new addition to the course: Il Muro del Gatto (the cat wall). Just a fun, short 400 metre very, very steep stretch. My main goal was not to put feet to ground.
We certainly weren’t the fastest. And it certainly wasn’t easy for us. But all-in-all it was a remarkably fun day on one of the truly great Alpine routes.
60 seconds after the finish:
Finally, a few more photos of me taken by the pro photographers:
While the roads are closed to traffic, the route is certainly full of cyclists. It can be tricky at times, but this course is as beautiful as it gets, and very professionally organised.
Quiet / No Traffic