There are so many great places in the world to ride. How do you choose where to ride next? If you like amazing views, a mix of easy and hard climbs, a rich local culture and some great food, your next cycling break should be to: The Dolomites. One of our favourite places for cycling, here is what we love about this region:
The Dolomites: Overview
Situated in northern Italy, the heart of the Dolomites is close to the Austrian border and German is a common language. The food, architecture and culture is very different from other parts of Italy, think more Austrian wood chalets and strudel rather than mummy's boys and mopeds. The main airport to get here is Venice which is about three hours from most of the main cycling towns - this is one of the reasons you see fewer international riders in the Dolomites than the Alps or Pyrenees. Once you arrive, you have a more comprehensive road network over the mountains and the area is fairly compact so it is possible to base yourself in one town and still get to ride most of the classic climbs within a one day loop.
The region is used often in the Giro d'Italia and is famous for it's stunning scenery with incredible rock formations. A lot of the climbs here are over 2,000m so expect long ascents and quick, fun descents. This is a quite well off part of Italy and the road surfaces are generally very good. Mix in great riding conditions, lots of long climbs and world class scenery and you have a pretty amazing cycling destination.
When & Where to Go
A lot of the climbs are over 2,000m so the season doesn't start until relatively late in the season. The roads are closed to traffic for the Sella Ronda bike day on the last weekend of June and typically this signifies the start of the cycling season. Many of the hotels shut by late September so you are limited to riding in the 3 months between late June and mid Sept. There are a few great towns to base yourself in if you are in the region for a week or less. Our favourite is Corvara, home of the popular Maratona dles Dolomites where you are close to so many classic rides but Cortina is also a great place to stay as well. There are numerous pretty towns in this region with stunning views but nowhere else offers the range of climbs from one base as Corvara.
Our Favourite Climbs
There is such a wide variety of climbs in the Dolomites including some very tough, long & steep rides and plenty of easy, 4-6% gradient climbs suitable for riders of most abilities. All of these can be ridden from Corvara:
Passo Pordoi - 9.4km, averaging 7% and summiting at over 2,200m. The Pordoi is a long, steady climb that rolls through some mountain meadows over even hairpins. A great ride for finding rythmn and enjoying the views.
Passo Fedaia - 14.1km, averaging 7.5% and summiting at over 2,000m. This is one of the toughest climbs in the area, the second half of the climb is steep and intimidating with some long straights requiring every ounce of enegy.
Passo Gardena (pictured above) - 9.6km, averaging 6.5% and summeting at over 2,100m. Another absolutely beautiful climb with amazing views either side. Your rythmn can be broken up by both the uneven gradients and constant stops to take phots of the incredible views.
Passo Giau - 10km, averaging 9% and summiting at over 2,100m. The Fedaia and Tre Cime have tougher sections but this is the hardest overall climb with long stetches of 10% gradients with little rest. The pain from the tough climb spoil some pretty incredible scenery.
Tre Cime di Lavardo (pictured below) - 7.5km, averaging 7.5% and summiting at over 2,300m. A climb of two halves, after an easy start the second half is incredibly steep but the summit is so worth it with an out of this world view and phenomenal place to stop for coffee and cake.
On & Off the bike Unmissables
- Riding the Sella Ronda. Often called the best one day cycling route in the world, the Sella Ronda is a loop of four climbs that you can start and end in Corvara. The route takes you up the winding and easy Campolongo, the longer and more wild Pordoi, the slightly steeper Sella and then the picturesque Gardena. Despite it's short distance, you can easily spend a good half day riding this with a couple of nice coffee stops.
- Climb to Tre Cime. This is a very popular spot for hikers and climbers and for our money is one of the most stunning views from the top of a climb on the planet. Getting there is tough as the final 5om of the climb is steep and relentless but coffee and cake awaits you as well as the million dollar view.
- Apple Strudel. The food here is generally very good, mostly Tirol mountain food with a hint of Italian classic but for our money the thing we keep going back for is the delicious apple strudel served at most restaurants and cafes. Delicious.
- Ride the Maratona dles Dolomites. This popular sportive runs on the first weekend of July every year and sees thousands of riders coming from all over the world. Ride the best climbs on completely closed roads at an event shown on live TV. The locals turn out in force to cheer you on and the atmosphere.is so fun.
Top Tips for Riding in the Dolomites
Because of the long transfers, this is best suited to a 4-7 day trip. Any less and you are really cramming in your rides, any more and you will run out of new routes to ride from one spot. There are numerous popular Dolomites Raids and you can easily combine the Dolomites with riding in the Italian Alps or Lakes.
Be prepared for all weather conditions. It is not unusual to see snow or baking heat in summer here and on any one ride you will be climbing above 2,000m where it can be cilly even if it is a warm day in the valleys. Layers are essential.
Unlike the Pyrenees and Alps where you need to move around to get a variety of routes & climbs, we suggest basing yourself in one town and doing all your rides from there. This makes is much easier logistically and you can get more comfortable for the apres riding.
Why Your Next Cycling Break Should be in the Dolomites
We don't think you will find a more beautiful region on the planet for cycling. On every route you will have numerous points where you just need to stop pedallling and try to capture the moment. Yes, the transfers from Venice are long and the region is more expensive than other places to ride, but nowhere else can take your breath away quite like the Dolomites. Stop what you are doing, and start planning your next cycling break.
Ride With Us:
Sportive - Maratona dles Dolomites. More info here
Custom Tours - Four Night Dolomites Break from £569. More info here