Take part in the Maratona dles Dolomites — one of the larges cycling events in the world

Take part in the Maratona dles Dolomites — one of the larges cycling events in the world

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Going to the Dolomites, Italy, for the largest amateur cycling race in the world is a must for any fan of this sport and the region. As a local cyclist myself, in this article I will tell you about what the Maratona dles Dolomites is and how to take part in this competition. With this post, we are also launching a new column that will cover the world's biggest and most popular amateur sportive events.

Ivan Kuznetsov, outdoor writer from the Dolomites, Italy, and Karelia, Finland

What is Maratona dles Dolomites?

Maratona dles Dolomites is an annual one-day amateur cycling race, which takes place in the Dolomites, one of the large mountain ranges of the Alps, on the north of Italy close to its border to Austria.

The presence of such a race here is no accident. The Dolomites is considered the mecca of cycling because of the beauty of these mountains, including scenic (but challenging) serpentine mountain roads and passes that every cyclist dreams of riding at least once in their life. One of the three major professional multi-day cycling races in the world, the Giro di Italia, also always finishes in the Dolomites, even if its last stage is on flat land somewhere in Milan or Verona.

The first edition of the Maratona dles Dolomites was held on July 12, 1987. In 2022, the race will be held on July 3 for the 35th anniversary.

The name of the race is written in Ladin language, the language spoken by the indigenous people of the Dolomites, the Ladins, as a tribute to the local history, culture and traditions. In Italian, the race is called Maratona delle Dolomiti and in English is Dolomites Marathon.

The marathon is considered one of the largest such races not only in the region, Italy and Europe, but also in the world. In the last three years before the 2020 pandemic, when the race was cancelled, at least 9,000 amateur and former professional athletes from more than 70 countries participated in it, of which 90% are men and 10% percent were women.

The popularity of the race is well described by the number of participants. In the first race at the start there were just 166 people. Every next year this number has increased, except for a few years.

The week prior to the Maratona is an event called "Riders’ Week". Group rides, training rides and parties are organized and held daily. Many racers, therefore, spend the entire week preceding the Maratona dles Dolomites in the region.

Some former and current professionals (out of competition) also participate in the race in order to promote it. You can see famous cyclists like Diego Ulissi, Bradley Wiggins, and others, and even ride with them (or try to keep up with them).

Maratona dles Dolomites

Maratona dles Dolomites

Maratona dles Dolomites

Maratona dles Dolomites: routes

The Maratona dles Dolomites takes place in the very heart of the Dolomites in three of the five famous Ladin Valleys — Badia, Gardena, and Livinallongo around one of the main mountain groups in the range, Sella, which is also known as one of the longest continuous ski routes in the world of 40 km long, called Sellaronda. Administratively it is the border of the two provinces of Trentino and South Tyrol in the Trentino-South Tyrol region of the same name.

The race traditionally starts in the village of La Villa in the Badia Valley and ends in the neighboring village of Corvara.

The route around the Sella Group is “only” 55 km (34 mi) long with an elevation gain of “only” 1,780 m (5,840 ft). It passes through four passes: Campolongo (1,875 m / 6,152 ft), Pordoi (2,239 m / 7,346 ft), Sella (2,244 m / ft) and Gardena (2,136 m / 7,008 ft). Sella and Pordoi are also the two highest passes in the Dolomites.

But this is only the first and the “easiest” of the three Maratona dles Dolomites routes. The second runs twice through Campolongo Pass and then through Falzarego Pass (2,105 m / 6,906 ft), and Valparola Pass (2,168 m / 7,113 ft). The Middle Course, as it is officially called, is 106 km (66 mi) with an elevation gain of 3,130 m (10,270 ft).

The third route, the Maratona Course, is even longer and more challenging: 138 km (86 mi) and 4,230 m (13,880 ft) of elevation gain. It includes in addition the equally beautiful Giau Pass (2,236 m / 7,336 ft).

Maratona dles Dolomites

Here is also a breakdown of the routes by length and the gradient of each pass:

  • Passo Campolongo: 5.8 km (3.6 mi), 6.1%
  • Passo Pordoi: 9.2 km (5.7 mi), 6.9%
  • Passo Sella: 5.5 km (3.4 mi), 7.9%
  • Passo Gardena: 5.8 km (3.6 mi), 4.3%
  • Passo Giau: 9.9 km (6.2 mi), 9.3%
  • Passo Falzarego and Passo Valparola: 11.5 (7.1 mi), 5.8%

Interestingly, the route of the race is not only optional but can be changed during the race. But to do so, you must first of course ride the entire first and smallest lap around Sella.

It took the winner, an Austrian cyclist Steinmair Wolfgang, 10 hours and 15 minutes to complete the big lap in 1987. But in was 175 km — that was the distance at that time, and in 1980–1990 it reached 180–190 km. Today, the athletes cover 138 km in 4 hours 30 minutes for the men and 5 hours 20 minutes for the women.

Maratona dles Dolomites

Maratona dles Dolomites

Maratona dles Dolomites

Maratona dles Dolomites

Maratona dles Dolomites

How to participate in Maratona dles Dolomites?

In accordance with the rules of the competition, the full and long text of which you can read by clicking on the link, anyone from 19 years old can take part in the race. As I just said, amateur athletes are allowed to participate in competition, but not professionals.

The participation procedure is a bit confusing, but I tried to figure it out. Below I will highlight just three key points.

To participate in the Maratona dles Dolomites you must first submit the pre-application and get it approved. The sooner you do that, the better because the number of places is limited and they are quickly taken despite the huge number of participants. For example, for 2020, the deadline for the first submission was from October 13 to November 3, 2021.

But that’s not all. There are so many applications that the final participants are selected by lottery in mid-November, which means participation is not guaranteed even if you are among the first filers. In particular, 3,200 of the 8,000 seats planned for distribution in 2022 are reserved in advance for tour operators. This means that you can also participate in the event by buying a tour with accommodation, food, and transportation.

Then, if you are lucky, you will need to do two more important steps: pay the registration fee of €150 and provide a medical certificate that you can practice cycling on a special form valid in Italy. The time limit for this stage in 2022 was from December 1 to April 13.

After your medical certificate is confirmed, you will receive an email that you are eligible to participate. It usually arrives at the end of June. Also, if you do find yourself among the lucky one, you can choose to purchase one of the 388 starting numbers, the surcharge for which will go to charities.

The good news is that the entire procedure is done online at the official Maratona dles Dolomites website, you don’t need to send paper documents.

Maratona dles Dolomites

Maratona dles Dolomites

Maratona dles Dolomites

Where to get the weather forecast for the Dolomites?

The Maratona dles Dolomites is held in July, also because it is usually the warmest time of the year in the Alps, up to 25–30 degrees Celsius. But the temperature on the passes is always cooler than in the valleys at about 15 degrees Celsius during the day and about 10 at evening-night.

You can get the weather forecast for the Dolomites, including all the passes and villages along the routes of the race, in the Windy.app in a special Bike Weather Profile. To activate the profile, find the pass or village you want on the Home screen or on the Weather map and go to the forecast page.

Weather forecast for Passo Falzarego, Dolomites, Italy

Weather forecast for Passo Falzarego, Dolomites, Italy

The Bike Weather Profile includes such parameters as air temperature, wind direction, speed and gusts, precipitation, and others. On a separate line, there is a temperature for cycling, which is calculated taking into account the wind, which makes the actual temperature you feel when cycling lower.

You can also compare the forecast with data from the nearest weather station, which shows real-time wind data at 15-minute intervals over a 24-hour period. Weather stations can also be conveniently found on the Weather map by activating the corresponding layer.

Weather forecast for Passo Falzarego, Dolomites, Italy

Weather forecast for Passo Falzarego, Dolomites, Italy

Weather forecast for Passo Falzarego, Dolomites, Italy

On the weather map, you can also change the layer from wind to precipitation and vice versa to see the big picture of rain or wind in the region.

Another useful feature of the Windy.app, which will help you to prepare for your cycling adventure in the Dolomites is the Weather history. By opening it on the same Spot screen you will find weather data for each day in the history for the last 10 years to catch patterns.

For example, July 4, the race day in 2021, was a very unusual rainy day with maximum temperatures of only 16 degrees Celsius and wind gusts up to 9 meters per second. These are not the best conditions for a cycling. All of July last year was like that, with total precipitation of up to 1,100 mm for the month.

But according to weather history and reports of the Maratona dles Dolomites from the previous years, usually at this time the Dolomites have good sunny, dry and not very windy weather. My advice: anyway, prepare for the trip by taking warm clothes with you and thinking about the nutrition on the route.

Weather forecast for Passo Falzarego, Dolomites, Italy

Weather forecast for Passo Falzarego, Dolomites, Italy

 

Text: Ivan Kuznetsov, an outdoor journalist, editor and writer from the Dolomites, Italy, and Karelia, Finland, with 10 years of professional experience. His favorite sports are cycling, hiking and sauna. Read his other articles

Cover photo: Maratona.it

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