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We went to the Italian Dolomites to have a crack at the region's signature ride

We went out to Italy at the start of the month to have a go at the Maratona dles Dolomites. It’s been on Dave’s bucket list for a while, and he also managed to rope in Jon Woodhouse, editor of our mud-streaked sister site off-road.cc. “How hard can it be anyway?” was basically the pitch there.

If you don’t know the Maratona, then in a nutshell it’s the headline event in the Alta Badia region of the Italian Dolomites. Taking in six passes over 2,000m, including the the fearsome Passo Giau (9.9km at an average of 9.3%), the long route manages to rack up over 4,200m of climbing in 138km. If you’re not going up a great big hill, you’re going down one. Jon had never ridden a road bike up a proper mountain before, so it was a bit of a baptism of fire for him.

> Going the distance: how to ride further without breaking yourself

With 9,000 people on the start line, TV helicopters buzzing about and the equivalent of a whole county closed for the event, it’s a full-fat gran fondo experience. Our aim was to get around the long course (106km and 55km routes are also available) without dying, and preferably under eight hours. Watch the vid to find on how we got on (spoiler alert: we didn't die). The ride is through the most stunning scenery you could possibly wish for, with the passes winding between the sheer limestone peaks of the region. So when you're not staring at your stem, there's plenty to look at.

Maratona dles Dolomites - scenic

Maratona dles Dolomites - scenic

Dave was riding the Simplon Pavo Gran Fondo that we’ve recently reviewed on road.cc. You can read the review of the bike here, which reviewer Stu called “A pure cruiser, so subtle and comfortable that you might not notice until you stop riding.” Thanks to Simplon for the lend. Thanks also to Luis from High Cadence Cycling Tours for putting us up here, right by the start line.

www.maratona.it

www.altabadia.org

Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.

6 comments

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joeegg [64 posts] 5 months ago
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A couple of us set out to do the 136kms route. In the info for the route it said a certain road would be closed at 11.45. Not having done the event before it meant nothing to us. Sure enough it was the junction for the 136kms route.Confused we carried on on the 106 route.

Looking at my mates Garmin at the end we seemed to be at the junction before 11.45.We started in the last group with riders who hadn't ridden it before or if they had recorded a slower time.This time cut off is biased against these riders as the quicker group is set off half an hour earlier.We were disappointed.

Apart from this its a fantastic event with superb descents and the Cat at the end is not somewhere to unclip and be seen walking.

Just one more point. If you're looking to sell more Pinarellos get a front man who looks a bit less miserable !

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srchar [706 posts] 5 months ago
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It's the best ride I've ever done and has become an annual event for me and some friends... when we can all get in (which I didn't this year... boo)

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niceguysean [119 posts] 5 months ago
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I did this for the first time this year, although I'll confess the middle course, a mere 106km and 3130 metres of climbing. Although the decision was made for us, as when we arrived at the junction where you choose which route to follow, middle or maratona, the maratona road was actually shut due to a rider having fallen, so the decision was made for us. 

Like you, my aim was to get around the course without dying, and I thoroughly agree with the comments "when you're not staring at your stem, there's plenty to look at". Amazing scenery, great organisation, a splendid swag bag, and a wonderful experience. The Mür dl Giat was a kick in the tail, but I got up it when many were walking.

Will I be back next year, without a doubt...

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dave atkinson [6330 posts] 5 months ago
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joeegg wrote:

A couple of us set out to do the 136kms route. In the info for the route it said a certain road would be closed at 11.45. Not having done the event before it meant nothing to us. Sure enough it was the junction for the 136kms route.Confused we carried on on the 106 route.

Looking at my mates Garmin at the end we seemed to be at the junction before 11.45.We started in the last group with riders who hadn't ridden it before or if they had recorded a slower time.This time cut off is biased against these riders as the quicker group is set off half an hour earlier.We were disappointed.

Apart from this its a fantastic event with superb descents and the Cat at the end is not somewhere to unclip and be seen walking.

Just one more point. If you're looking to sell more Pinarellos get a front man who looks a bit less miserable !

I think the road was closed early because of an incident on the descent just after it.

didn't see brad at all but heard the was the very definition of surly. not sure why you'd pick him to do that kind of thing really, it's been obvious for years that he couldn't care less about it

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joeegg [64 posts] 5 months ago
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Dead right about his attitude,Dave.His manner at the podium presentations was terrible. Even signalled to his mate to get off as quickly as possible. I won't repeat the adjectives used in our group to describe him.

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niceguysean [119 posts] 5 months ago
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Quote:

I think the road was closed early because of an incident on the descent just after it.

 

When we arrived at the junction they opened the barriers briefly to let an ambulance through, so I think you're correct, that there had been an accident, as many riders were waiting for the road to re-open.