Once again, Team Cycling Weekly made the annual pilgrimage to Maratona Dles Dolomites in Northern Italy, the biggest and best cyclo-sportive event the country offers. The CW team put in a remarkable 10,108 kms.

From data sent to us by Datasport, the timing people, we improved our position this year by 12 places to be placed sixth overall out of 186 teams entered. An amazing result and one we can be jolly proud of. We were 110 strong this year, our biggest group to date and we benefited from being placed in the first main start group this year as a reward for our great performance last year. This was superb as we were all straight off with the minimum of stop/start expected with a field of over eight thousand. Some of the group are pictured here relaxing on the day before the race.

Brit, Jamie Burrow, got another third place overall to go with his finish in the Gran Fondo Campagnolo a couple of weeks before. This time he was behind Italians, Emanuele Negrini, winner in 4h 29m, and Antonio Corradini. The women’s race was won by Monia Gallucci in 5h 15m.

The Maratona is covered live on national television and has an incredible atmosphere. It’s certainly the closest we’ll ever get to feeling like professionals. Last October over 21,000 applications were made for the 8,500 places, making it the most oversubscribed event of its kind in Italy. An incredible 36 nations are represented and, thanks to Cycling Weekly’s links to the event, the British and Irish riders combined, now make up the joint fourth largest group, equal with Austria, behind Italy, Germany and Holland.

Maratona dles Dolomites 2008

“Team Cycling Weekly” and some big mountains

Leading the field off was the usual group of celebrities, which this year included Mario Cipolini and ex-soccer star Fabrizio Ravenelli, who did a very credible two hours 18 minutes for the shortest of the three courses, with Mario taking almost an hour longer over the same distance. He never was one for the mountains, our Mario.

In recent years we’ve rubbed shoulders with Gianni Bugno, Francesco Moser and Maurizio Fondriest amongst others. It’s hard to think of another event in which it is so easy to mix with legends and to find that these guys really do have time for the ordinary participants.

Maratona dles Dolomites 2008

Mario Cipollini took part in this year’s event

Our group of 10 who travelled together was, as usual, very mixed, with riders aging from 16 to 66 and included two, a man and woman both firmly in middle age, who have been riding road bikes for less than a year. One of them, Mick Hunt, missed his flight out and had a mammoth journey with several detours (he actually went backwards at one point) and no sleep, to make the start.

Given the choice between congratulating him on his dogged determination or winding him up about his stupidity, we naturally chose the latter. Ironically, our 66 year old, Dave, was flying for the first time and, when the engines started, it was him who wished he’d missed the flight. Worthy of special mention is 16 year old David McGinnerty who, whilst very fit, was only on his fourth ever road bike ride.

Some of us judge our form by how quickly Australian CW reader, Glen Ingram, overtakes us. Last year he didn’t pass the last one of us until close to the top of the second pass, the Pordoi. This year he flew by us all on the first Campolongo ascent on his way to a rocket assisted six hour finish for the long course. We were going to say it was because we’re all unfit this year, but we’ve grudgingly decided to give him some credit as six hours is pretty damn good for the long course (we are all unfit this year though).

There are three routes to choose from on the Maratona and the best thing is that you don’t have to decide which one to take beforehand. After the short course of 55kms with four major passes, Campolongo, Pordoi, Sella and Gardena, there is the option to finish or continue up Campolongo again, which is now the fifth pass, to do the middle course. A little way up the sixth pass, Falzarego, you are again given the choice of continuing on the middle course of 106kms or turning off to take on the mighty Giau and rejoining the Falzarego from the other side and completing the long course of 138kms.

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The organisation is first class and from start to finish, you are guided by officials, fed by volunteers and, should you need mechanical or medical assistance, it’s there. If you submit your mobile number, you receive information about road conditions, the weather and are also sent your split times as you cross the timing mats. Top quality action photos are taken by the many photographers around the course and everyone receives them in due course. This year there’s a new video service. On the results web page you can click a link to see a video of yourself at various points on the ride, so think twice about walking up that last bit of the climb, everyone you know will be able to see you.

One of the most common questions we get asked is about what gearing to use and it’s an impossible one to answer, as everyone is different. We would say, however, that those who see ‘compacts’ as ‘get out of jail free cards’ would probably welcome being able to play their joker to relieve the feeling of incarceration we all inevitably feel when on the last climb of our chosen route. Looking around we reckon most riders are now using compacts with 27 or 29 toothed sprockets and we absolutely appreciate why. Mid-Shropshire Wheeler and first time flyer, Dave Nicholas doggedly struggled around the middle course whilst severely overgeared and reckons he’s definitely buying a compact for next year.

Other common questions are from couples asking what there is for a non-cycling partner or from families asking about facilities for children. This region has so much to offer and non-participants will love the place nearly as much as the cyclists. The whole thing is family friendly and there are children’s events and activities in the week leading up to the event. The ski lifts are all open for walkers and the bars and restaurants on the peaks are all operational. Many of the CW readers have brought families or non-cycling partners and all have loved it.

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Some practical information. The Maratona starts and finishes in Corvara. The nearest airport is Innsbruck, but most people use the budget airlines and fly to Venice, Treviso, Verona or Bergamo. Depending on which airport you chose the drive is between 2-4 hours, but it is through some very rewarding scenery.

Our immediate group of 10 were looked after by Paolo, Margareth and Phillip at the lovely Osteria Posta in nearby Piculin/Piccolino. Paolo is one of the founders of the event and he and his family know exactly what we cyclists need. Although Paolo doesn’t play any part in the event these days he’s still a keen cyclist and good to chat to. A big thank you to them.

Those wanting to take part in the 23rd edition in 2009, as part of the Cycling Weekly group, should send an email to wdcyclesport@hotmail.com for details of how to enter with us and avoid the online lottery.

The website of the event is www.maratona.it and it is full of news, the results and the video recordings.

Cycling Weekly would like to thank Ian and John with all their efforts in organising the places for readers and helping the riders before, during and after the event. And big thanks to all 110 riders – sorry the T-shirts didn’t get there on time!

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Cycling Weekly April 17 2014 issue
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