138km, 4230m, 9000 people and a maximum gradient of 19%. It is the Maratona dles Dolomites! We all met up in Venice Airport and the two vans and a trailer made our way up through the ski resort of Cortina and into the Alta Badia Valley. The boys have been doing some training with Tom and Tim looking particularly lean. We were up for it.
Friday was the warm up day. 50km around the stunning scenery with the exposed cliff faces that make the Dolomites so recognisable. Richard bought along some of his dutch mates for a joint VCT x ZOCT outing. It was a great atmosphere. Capuccinos at the top of the Valparola pass, before swinging back around to have lunch in Badia before signing up at the Maratona Village. The first of many pizzas. On the route, I found a pair of sunglasses which I thought that I would carry up on my bike to see if anyone had lost them. Turns out that they had fallen out of Jim’s pocket - what are the chances.
Over lunch Matthew Raw was discussing his target time, 6h30 for the Sunday. Sounded impressive. Others like Chris and Matt H were more happy to relax and do the middle distance of 106km - still no mean feet. The short distance of 55km was not on anyones menu. Marjolein was still undecided but impressed everyone with a solid performance on the long route.
Saturday was more relaxed with a short ride and coffee for some and a lunch trip to Cortina for Teak, Chris, Matt P and Ross. Then it was time to put numbers on bikes and start to think about the 0430 start in the morning.
After breakfast and a few toilet visits, we were all ready for the action. It was an incredible atmosphere at the start with music, fireworks and a catholic grace! We were in Italy with an Austrian twist.
The first climb, the Passo Campolongo was busy with everybody getting into their stride. A few twitchy moments but it thinned out after to a comfortable amount. I thought that the next climb, the Passo Pardoi was pretty challenging, it was one of the longer ones and the first time we went over 2000m. From here there were the shorter passes of the Sella and Gardena. The atmosphere and number of cow bells was ramping up and it was still only about 9am! It was a comfortable temperature and the rain forecasted earlier in the week had not materialised. Dropping back down to Corvara saw the finish line for the short route but everybody else was going up the Campolongo for the second time. This really is a pleasant climb with gentle gradients and meadow views.
Next up for the long route could not be more different, the Passo Giau. The middle route misses this out which could have been a brave move. It is 9.9 km with an average gradient of 9.3% but we were not sure where this came from. Teak convinced that his Garmin never read below 11%. It was tough but even tougher that we had already cycled for 90km.
Then, something strange happened. I was caught in a hailstorm on the descent. Asking around, I found nobody else that experienced this. I could have been hallucinating but I had the bruises to show for it!
Immediately after this, with no flat, we were straight up the Pass Falzarego which compared to the Giau was really enjoyable. It was fun to move at a reasonable pace, catching the wheels of people in front. It was then downhill to the finish and a beer and pasta.
Oh, that was a mistake, the route takes a short deviation up the Mur de Giat. Not sure why, it goes up and then back down to the same road. Someone has a sick sense of humour. It was 19%! Ask Gary about his time up here, he would love to tell you!
Now it was time for the home run to the finish. A message out to everyone, and replies back with them all doing well. Matthew smashed his target to get 6h08! Rob and Dermot were the other end of the scale, chilling out with a beer at the top of the Giau apparently!
The people coming in a bit later did get caught by some rain but this did not dampen their spirits as they had just completed one hell of a challenge. Ian came in with a smile on his face and looking at some of the official pictures, looks like it was a permanent feature. All the different bikes on display got Jerry thinking about his dream bike, it is hard not to have bike envy throughout the weekend. Olly like always hated it! But after pasta and a bit of a rest, he perked up and realised our much type 2 fun he had had.