Eat. Sleep. Ride. Repeat. – 7 days of cycling in the Italian Dolomites

The idea of going on the 100th edition of the Giro d’Italia came to my mind as soon as the race route appeared. In 2013 we were at the 100th edition of Tour de France so we couldn’t miss the edition of Giro d’Italia and
I think that Giro is one of the most interesting grand tours. I chose the Dolomites as our location mainly because of the beautiful mountain passes and the lack of our traces on Strava in this area 😉

A few day before the trip, the forecasts weren’t optimistic so that’s why I decided that it would be the best to go for specific road trips at the very beginning of the whole trip, and then we would see what would happen. On our way to the Austrian-German border, as a part of the “Europe without borders” campaign we heard: “Halt!”. Let’s say that a nice man with a rifle questioned us about everything he could.

italian dolomites

Day 1 – Arrival

After 15 hours of driving, we arrived at Pozza di Fassa. The weather was great so we thought – we’re going to hang around on our bikes for a moment. Accidentally, we found ourselves in the Rolle Pass (Italian: Passo Rolle). I must admit that it is one of the nicest mountain passes and the way from Predazzo is quite easy. We started from a short ride of 1.5 hours but we ended up on a little longer ride. Looking back, 3 hours of cycling was just a small warm-up.

passo rolle ascent
fot. Michał Makyo

Link to track in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/998998281

ATTENTION! The full list of the tracks with maps is available HERE

Day 2 – The Dolomites in a nutshell

Why in a nutshell? Because we chose “only” 6 passes, including the iconic Passo Sella, Pordoi, Giau, Gardena, Valparola and Falzarego. The whole way had a bit over 160km and 4600m of altitude.

At the beginning, we were going to Passo Sella, unfortunately Piotrek turned right to Pordoi. Being already at Sella we contacted him to go the route opposite us, and we were heading towards Gardena. We had a short way up to get to Gardena. On our way for a break which we planned to be in Cortina, we still had to cycle through two passes. During the break, the sky was getting dark and cloudy so the return was going to be interesting. Piotr called us telling that there was a downpour on Giau and that it had been snowing.

Passo Sella descent

fot. Michał Makyo

We had no choice so we started to cycle up to Passo Giau (the shortest way back home led through two passes). We were very lucky because going up to Giau the sky was going blue and bright. The way down wasn’t pleasant, there was a lot of water and it was wet. We were careful not to bruise ourselves on the first day.

fot. Michał Makyo

On the way Michal lost his glasses and we were waiting for him in some bar/shop/café – Italian all-in-one. On the way up near Pordoi we divided into two groups. What I can recommend to you is an evening stay on the pass. Peace, quiet, beautiful views and marmots 🙂 That’s the only period when passes are free of motorcycles.

We came back home barely alive late in the evening, exhausted on the first day.

Typical epic ride.

A link to the track on Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/1000755871/

Day 3 – Exhaustion to death

On that day we rode through 5 passes only – Passo Pordoi, Passo Campalongo, Passo Valparola, Falzarego and Passo Fedaia – so let’s say it was a rest. When it comes to the numbers it also looks less frightening – 120 km and 3300 of altitude. Passo Pordoi is fantastic, very nice views and relatively easy ways up from both sides as well as pleasant ways down.

fot. Michał Makyo

What is new on the way is Passo Campalongo, which I can’t fully recommend. There aren’t any views on the pass. Way up from Arabba isn’t interesting too. The only positive thing is way down to Corvara. We have good weather conditions this day so we can go a little bit crazy at the way down from Falzarego. Passo Falzarego is less commercial, so there are fewer motorcycles which is a big advantage for us and other cyclists.

cold lake in Dolomites

fot. Michał Makyo

Our way back was a bit different because we were going through Passo Fedaia. Nobody knew that there is such hardcore way up there. For the first time this year I was so exhausted that I was only counting kilometres to the end of the pass. Krzysiek and Kuba were already on their downhill ride while I was still cycling on my way up to the mountain.

fot. Michał Makyo – Canazei is ready to stage

The whole way back home went down so it was a perfect solution at the end of the ride. After entering the house I got a flat tire in my bike – lucky me 😉

A link to the track on Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/1001816151

Day 4 – Recovery ride

We decided to adopt the following tactics: “we ride until the weather breaks down”, so we wanted to go on two neighbouring passes on which we haven’t been yet – Passo San Pellegrino and Passo Valles. At the initial stage of our way up there was a nice view of the town but unfortunately when you cycle further there is only the forest

Later, we were passing a large group from UAE Team Emirates. We were trying to recognize the cyclists but we failed to do that. They were cycling too fast 😉 Just below the summit we were passing by a Team Sky cyclist alone and it was probably Moscon. On our way down there was a place where we could cycle really fast.

The traffic in this area is small so that’s something what cyclists like the most.  After a few kilometres of a nice downhill ride, we were turning into a narrow lane to get to Passo Valles. We were keeping the pace similar to the German pensioners in wheelchairs 😉 The only thing which pushed us forwards is the idea of the Giro’s stage ending in Canazei so that was 8km from our house.

From Passo Valles, we were heading towards Predazzo and we were cycling a narrow path with unlimited switchbacks. We were having a lot of fun with Krzysiek. From Predazzo, we were keeping a good pace, probably the best that day and the whole way was a little bit uphill.

After a short pit stop in our house we were going to stand on a small hill nearby the route. This place turned out to be perfect because the cyclists were cycling a bit slower here and we could look at them and take photos. In this place there was about 6km to the finish line. Rolland (who was the winner of the stage) didn’t have such significant advantage at that time but he was in front of the group.

giro italia 2017 cycling stage finish in Canazei
fot. Michał Makyo

As always, we ended up in a local pizzeria and on such a nice way we ended a long day. This evening Michal came to us (53×11.pl). You can find Michal’s reporting from this trip on his  blog .

Our track before Giro’s stage: https://www.strava.com/activities/1003329388

Day 5 – 18th Stage of Giro

Our first idea was supporting on the Passo Pordoi, but our whole group decided to stop to support on Gardena because we expected some attacks on this pass.

We had to gather quickly to be able to go to Pordoi before the peloton and it was quite difficult to leave in the morning. It was our fastest ride up to the mountain. Along the way, we passed about three groups of CCC. On Pordoi, we drank espresso with croissant and we went to Passo Campalongo and then to Gardena. We were waiting about an hour for the peloton.  Taking into account the speed with which we were cycling to Gardena we must say that the pros were flying, not cycling 😉

fot. Michał Makyo

We secretly hoped for Nibali’s attacks. Unfortunately, it was Quintana who was attacking… The peloton didn’t care too much about his attack and didn’t accelerate. After all the turmoil we were forced to cycle on Passo Sella. The pass is beautiful from every side. It will probably be my favourite pass in the Dolomites. This place is amazing with soaring rocks and a great road.

fot. Michał Makyo

Track: https://www.strava.com/activities/1005273235

Day 6 – Doppio Stelvio

After 2 days of relative “relax”, we temporarily left the Dolomites and attacked Passo dello Stelvio. It’s one of the most iconic cycling passes. I was on Stelvio 5 years ago during Giro 2012 but at that time we managed to cycle only from Bormio side.

eagle stelvio pass
Today no one was higher

The whole group was curious about the way up from Prato. Unfortunately, this side has a disadvantage – a huge amount of motorcycles. During our way there were 2 accidents involving motorcycles. It wasn’t possible to count motorcycles passing us. They were often driving over 100km/h right next to us. The first 10-12 km of the ride is quite boring, the views appear on the iconic switchbacks. What is more, we were cycling with the pace of very old pensioners so it took quite a long time 😉

Stelvio cycling climb. Piotrek wear Ride for Pink Jersey by Luxa

On the pass there was a really beautiful view on the switchbacks and you could hear the sounds of motorcycles as if it were a MotoGP track… We divided into 2 groups. One team got directly to Switzerland, and I together with Kuba and Michal got to Bormio. On the way down, I had to stop before the tunnel and at the same time Michael Matthews arrived together with the second cyclist from Team Sunweb.

Michael Matthews with our crew

drobny kontrast
‘Climbing by car? That’s not for me’

I lagged behind on the switchbacks, but later I was cycling with them without any problem. I left the pros at the turn to Livigno. We made a short break in Bormio and then we returned to Stelvio. The way up from Bormio was more pleasant. We were admiring nice views all the time and in addition there was less traffic. We arrived on Stelvio at 5 p.m. a little tired but it was already 18°C. We met Marcus Burghardt along the way, who probably stayed a little longer on Stelvio because this was our second meeting that day. The way down to Switzerland was amazing, great views combined with the lack of barriers always make a positive impression.

ride for pink jersey at the top of stelvio pass

Before Santa Maria town there is the second epic place on this way, namely it is a part of switchbacks. We couldn’t decide whether to go down and have fun or to stop and take some nice pictures. The choice fell on both options 😉

stelvio pass winter snow and cyclists
a few meters from the pass peak
20 minutes later….

When we were getting to Prato we had enough of everything. We only thought of good food. We still had more than 2 hours of driving by car to our house during which we were racing against time before closing Lidl.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1006741629

Day 7 – Lazy day

We didn’t want to cycle too much on that day so we went to a nearby valley to lie in a meadow. After 2 hours of lying down and after drinking all the drinks we had to return to the house.

After eating our last pizza and coffee during this trip went to the nearby mountain. In the evening, the worst thing had to take place that is packing up. We had to leave the next morning as soon as possible and return home.

dolomity photo day on Gardeccia

Summary

It was a beautiful but at the same time hard week. The weather couldn’t be better, we were tanned in the same way as we were after returning from Tenerife. We discovered one of the most iconic and wonderful mountain passes. In my own ranking Passo Sella, Passo Pordoi and Passo Giau come high up on the list. When it comes to other passes I can recommend these are Passo Rolle and two other passes: Passo Valparola and Passo Falzarego. Other passes are less interesting.

Dominik

List of tracks  Here

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