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Four More Tours in the Italian Dolomites

By Marco Buffa,, Mon, 22 Sep 1997 06:50:52 EDT



You can read this report in addition to the older one written by Milosz Wisniewski always within Trento Bike Pages. On July 10, 1997 after paying a visit in Trento to A. Caranti my wife Marta and I, reached Pozza di Fassa. Main purpose of our holiday was to perfom trekking within the different Dolomiti groups you find here (Catinaccio, Sciliar, Sella, Marmolada): however I was granted some days for cycling, crossing for the first time in my life some of the famous Dolomiti passes: in the end with some trick you understand by reading I went to 13 different passes.

Note: the times taken during these journeys include very long breaks I had to take because of lack of training.

Prologue July 12, 1997

Pozza di Fassa - Passo Costalunga - Passo Nigra and return on the same way. Km 35 from 19:50 to 21:30

From Pozza, going southward you have to turn right (not an easy turn: go slow) and start immediately the ascent. In this part the route is made up of straight stretches joined each other by sharp bends: the gradient should be high (however < 10%) so I'm glad to see the route almost flat passing through Vigo. Once you exit from Vigo you have still 3 kms. still steep and now also some hairpins; then the slope decreases and you can run faster or have some relax watching the landscape (Marmolada at your left Latemar in front of you). The true climb is ended and you approach the pass once you turn right and go on mainly westward (at the pass: 10 km. 40 min 432 mt. of devilement). From the pass, (very quiet but it's eight and a half in the evening) you enter Bolzano region: the route with a couple of hairpin starts its descent towards Bolzano but you soon see direction to Passo Nigra. You use the descent as a run up for the second climb of this day. It's a very easy climb: you ride under the Roda di Vael mount with the greatest of ease. I'm a bit disppointed when the route starts sloping down and no sign in sight; when I see a sign saying "4 hairpins and gradient > 14 % at 300 mt.) I think I've gone beyond the pass but suddenly just at the beginning of the slope previously announced here's the sign of passo Nigra (till here: 17,5 km. 65 min. 510 mt. of devilement).

It's almost nine in the evening: I've to hurry before dusk ends. But It's too late: when I reached again the route to Costalunga I have no time to go down to Lago di Carezza (a charming point of view over the Latemar) so I got back to Pozza from the same way, the last three kms. in total darkness (no light available for me;luckily I had no crashes during this period).

Stage 1 July 14, 1997

Pozza di Fassa - Canazei - Passo Sella - Passo Gardena - Passo Campolongo - Passo Pordoi - Canazei - Pozza Km 85 from 8:40 to 15:00

Also Milosz reported this tour in his article: it's the shortest path of Dolomiti Marathon but the side is reversed. The route from Pozza to Canazei is useful as warm training session; from Canazei the route is steep at once (I didn't expect so much: I think I've been deceived by images of 1996 Giro when Zaina climbed up very easily). At first the route is the same one to Pordoi and you read at every hairpin your height above sea level. Except for a short stretch along the "Lupo Bianco" restaurant the route goes always up with many bends in addition to hairpins. At hairpin 14 (each one has its own number) you turn left to Sella pass: the first stretch with a couple of hairpins is quite steep but then a straight one almost flat allows you to rest. You're at the beginning of "Val Lasties" beautiful valley to enter easily (on foot) inside the Sella group till Piz Boe' the highest point of the group. Go on cycling you have almost 5 Kms to Passo Sella made up of steep straight stretches and hairpins: Sassolungo e Sassopiatto are getting closer and you can see also Marmolada on distance. A curious completely flat hairpin brings you to the last 2 km. not very demanding as you can see the pass not far from you (and it's so) (at passo Sella: 22 km. 90 min. 900 mt of devilement) Where the descent starts you're 2244 mt above sea level: however the exact location of Passo Sella is at 2214 mt. a.s.l. at the first bend while sloping down.

After a break I set out to Passo Gardena which is far only 11 km. from Sella: the ascent is made up of two stretches a bit steep separated by a flat straight stretch. What a pity, the pass is surprisingly full of cars (is not a beautiful day) and there's a lot of chaos. (till here 33 km. 150 min. 1150 mt of devilement) Descent to Corvara is amusing: on the way you pass through Colfosco where begins Val Mesdi' maybe the most fashinating way to enter inside Sella group (on foot). Also Corvara is chaotic: I prefer to start ascent to Campolongo at first made up of steep hairpins. The difficult stretch ends with an hairpin on descent: from here you ride in a quiet environement the route straight with some short steep stretch. The sign "Passo Campolongo" maybe is located too much early before getting to the pass where you find a fountain at your left: I take a long break . (till here: 50 km. 230 min. 1500 mt. of devilement). The place is not so charming compared to the previous ones but it's very quiet.

Descent to Arabba is quite steep, but the most disappointing thing is that from Arabba starts immediately the ascent to Pordoi made up of 33 hairpins each one reporting the height; besides the pass is soon in sight (on distance). I take it easy during the climb: luckily this side is less steep than the Canazei one. Sella group at your right seems very close when you reach the height of 2000 mt. a.s.l. The last hairpins allow you to take a glance eastward and you see Campolongo route and towards Tofane (very small). Pordoi is similar to Stelvio as far as concerns the chaos: however I'm tired and I take another long break. (till here: 63 km. 290 min 2150 of devilement). Descent to Canazei is amusing (however beware of cars in the opposite way). From Canazei to Pozza some up and down that in the morning was useful for warming now turn to be tedious due to wind blowing opposite to me ... but it's over (85km. 380 min. 2150 of devilement).

Stage 2 July 17, 1997

Pozza di Fassa - Moena - Predazzo - Passo Rolle - Passo Valles - Passo S. Pellegrino - Moena - Pozza di Fassa Km 85 from 8:40 to 14:30

The start is very amusing: long descent stretches not very steep makes you riding very fast. In Moena you find a bit of traffic that gets you to slow down; in Predazzo even more (you're inserted into a one way loop). Unfortunately many people thinks of getting to Passo Rolle by car: it's just a question of minutes because long straight stretches help cars to go faster and me for their steepness to slow more and more. Besides it's hot and a bit stuffy today: I begin thinking I'm completely out of shape. But after 5 Km you see two positive things: 1) that you've already climbed 400 mt. (average gradient: 8%) 2) a long flat stretch is beginning coasting also Paneveggio lake within the corresponding Park. Last 6.5 km are not so demanding (maybe the last one): you should see Pale di S. Martino (today is not the best day for that) and mainly the Cimon della Pala mount. (till here 35 km. 110 min 965 mt of devilement)

After a break I go back till corssing route to Passo Valles: some days ago a stage of women Giro d'Italia passed here and it's plenty of signs on the route for all the women racing. The route is very well paved and the environment is beautiful with a little river at your right green grass some little rock and enough trees. After 3 Km. you cross the route to Baita Segantini suitable for MTB in order to get back to Passo Rolle; besides the slope brutally increases in a straight stretch. Only 4.5 km to the pass: a left bend introduces yourself to the last part less demanding and full of bends (till here 49 km. 200 min. 1400 mt of devilement) The pass is very quiet and very fashionable: they sell a nice post card in the restaurant at the pass. I prefer to stay outside to have my lunch (there's a small fountain on the left). Descent is in Belluno region and it's very steep with few bends and a couple of hairpin: it's very easy to gain speed. If you're lucky to stop at the very right point you can see a good view over Falcade and its valley known as "Agordino". When you cross the route to S. Pellegrino pass you have to respect a STOP sign before turning left to the pass but if the route is free you can use the final descent form Valles as run up for S. Pellegrino because a sign informs you a slope > 18% is coming ... and it's true. The ascent is demanding but not very long (5.5 km. ) and full of many hairpins almost flat: landscape is not very remarkable and you have to face another 18% stretch.

After 3.5 km the most demanding stretch is definitively ended ... but not the climb now made up of a long straight stretch that turns to be demanding at this point: S. Pellegrino pass is very wide full of skilift ... maybe during winter is more fashionable. (till here 63 km. 290 min. 2000 mt. of devilement) The descent to Moena is very very fast (not well paved): beware when in sight of Moena, of a couple of hairpins that suddenly appear. At this point it remains the ascent from Moena to Pozza: as the weather is not good I ride with wind blowing behind me and that helps me (till here 83 km. 350 min. 2200 mt of devilement).

Stage 3 July 21, 1997

Canazei - Passo Fedaia - Caprile - Selva Cadore - Passo Giau - Pocol - Passo Falzarego + Valparola - Livinallongo - Passo Pordoi - Canazei Km 115 from 9:15 to 17:50

Luckily the route is not very steep exiting from Canazei: there are also some descent stretches very useful. Till Piano Trevisan there aren't much difficulty except some short stretch. Four hairpins are at the beginning of the most demanding part: thanks to them you can alternatively look at Catinaccio group and Marmolada. Exit from the last hairpins the dam of Lago Fedaia is in sight and you seem to be at the same height so the climb is ended ... it's false. A long stretch with no lighted tunnels (only the last one whose length is 400 mt. can give you problems if you have no headlights) brings you, locally steep to the lake where the climb is finished (till here km 14 min 55 600 mt of devilement) The descent to Caprile is steep (at first bend a sign informs you about gradient > 15 %) and requires your attention at first for its bends and then for a straight stretch that makes you to go faster and faster (be careful). Malga Ciapela is the first village you meet: maybe in winter is more fashionable.

The descent goes on till Caprile: the route is narrow and still steep. The more surprising thing is that the air is very cold although it's plenty of sun along the streets: if I had gloves I'd use them.

From Caprile there are two ways of reaching Selva di Cadore: one through Colle S. Lucia and one less demanding through Val Fiorentino (two short tunnels no lighted: no problems). My choice is the less demanding route you find almost at the end of Caprile (find a sign saying "Selva di Cadore turn left"). Last 1500 mt. before Selva are bad paved and the street is narrow, a bit steep and full of bends: suddenly you enter a wider route and to go to Passo Giau turn left.

A steep descent allows you to start the climb with a bit of ease: the route is wide but steep and you need a regular pace to face it Bridges over little river Codalonga allow a bit of rest: meanwhile landscape becomes wider and Mount Nuvolau is so in front of you that you're a bit disappointed when the route suddenly turns right and the mount is going out of sight: it lasts 2.5 km (the last ones) to the pass when you can see Nuvolau again together with Tofane Cristallo Sella Marmolada (till here 48 km. 200 min. 1800 mt. of devilement). After another break the descent to Pocol starts immediately steep: there are more trees and slopes are varying (two signs saying gradient > 10%: beware of that because the street is narrow). You get to Pocol in ascent: local booklets say about a good view over Cortina from Pocol but I don't see nothing (maybe you have to go down but I don't want to add more climbs). I turn left toward Falzarego pass: there's more traffic than previously (here' s within the known "Dolomiti route") and I cannot enjoy a straight stretch almost flat within wood because of a lot of cars and buses overtaking me at highest speed. On the right I can see the huge mass of Tofane: then, as the gradient increases, bends show up again but not so demanding. The pass is overcrowded, so without stopping I goes on to Valparola pass: two straight stretches a bit demanding take you to the highest point but the better view is available from the hospiz at the beginning of the descent. From here you see till S. Cassiano and Val Badia: if I were in good shape I'd go down to S. Cassiano and then get back to Canazei through Corvara, Gardena and Sella (that would be 7 pass crossed during the tour) but as this is not one of my best years I prefer to get back to Falzarego. (till here: 75 km 300 min. 2400 mt. of devilement)

The descent towards Arabba ends approximatively in Pieve di Livinallongo where you find on your left before a circular bend a drinking fountain. From Arabba to Pordoi I've already written before: luckily the ascent doesn't turn to be more demanding than the previous time when I faced it in a shorter tour. The descent to Canazei is free of problem. (till here: 115 km. 500 min. 3200 mt of devilement)