Photo courtesy of Gary Resnick.
This week we've been following our Maratona tour participants who are winding and climbing in the majestic Dolomite mountains in northern Italy. Their trip culminates on Sunday (July 10th) as they participate in the Maratona dles Dolomiti Gran Fondo.
One of our guests celebrates the climb holding his brand-new bike that he had built with this trip in mind. He had it designed complete with Italian colors.
The Ciclismo trip began on the 4th and since then, our guests have ridden 210 miles, have been in the saddle for a little over 18 hours and have climbed 26,813 feet. Not for the faint of heart!
But the stories and pictures from them show a whole lot of gladness that they have taken on this challenge. Lest I digress... (Take a look at some of that crazy-cool riding, though:
The Maratona is the most famous of all of Italy's Gran Fondo races and people come from all over the world to do it. There are 9,000 participants in total and well over 20,000 enter the lottery every year in hopes of winning a spot to go. There are scores of other Gran Fondo races all over Italy that no one except the Italians are aware of.
Here's the start of one of the Gran Fondos I did, the Nove Colli (it means 9 hills).
Think of riding a Gran Fondo like running a marathon, except everyone is on a bicycle. All participants have timing chips and everyone races together - men, women and all categories start the race at the same time. The winner is the person who takes the least amount of time between crossing the starting and finishing lines. Distances for a Gran Fondo race are typically 80 miles or longer and often a medio fondo option is included in the same race which is shorter, around 50-60 miles total with a lot less vertical climbing.
Aside from the timing differences and with everyone riding together, gran fondo racing in Italy is the equivalent to signing up to do a USCF (USA Cycling) or ACA road race here in the United States. Everyone must have a race license to participate and the level of cyclists racing is what you find here: a mix. A few pros will likely show up and there will be a lot of men and women amateurs of all ages. Every weekend in every region in Italy, there are Gran Fondo races being held. But it's nearly impossible to find a criterium.
The coolest part of Italian Gran Fondos is not the racing itself. (However, since these are Italian races, the views are absolutely spectacular and it's hard to imagine a course that couldn't be considered a dream ride aside from the race.)
This is what it looks like during the race...this landscape is common to find in Italy.
So what IS the coolest part? It's the pasta party after the race is over. Promoters almost always provide good showers for everyone to use after and then it's time to eat Italian-style. The pasta party is always something I anxiously anticipated. There are large tables in a courtyard or gymnasium to accommodate everyone. The pasta, though served up cafeteria style, is always tasty. It's not just pasta. The meal includes a cooked vegetable or salad, meat and wine. Friends and teammates sit together and rehash the events of the race over this wonderful meal. Thank goodness the races are long and hard for the calorie-burning aspect alone.
Gran Fondos are starting to gain popularity in the U.S. If you can't join us for the Maratona in 2012 (though I highly recommend you consider it...we have guests who come back year after year on this same trip), check out Colnago Gran Fondo and other U.S. Gran Fondo races.
If it's not already totally obvious, these are fun events. Good for serious racers and for people who simply want an organized ride who don't care about their finishing time. It's all done in Italian style: an excuse to ride the bike in amazing places and enjoy great food together.
With that, we at Ciclismo would like to wish everyone who will be racing the Maratona dles Dolomiti this Sunday a very successful race and in boca al lupo (good luck)!!!!
To read more about each day of the Maratona tour, see what David Bernstein of the very popular FredCast has been saying of his experiences. He includes pics, maps & all sorts of neat details: