Corvara and the surroundings wake up early on the day of the race I had been waiting for so long. As the first light of the day shines on the rugged rocks of the Sella group, the last clouds dissolve over the Passo Gardena and give way to a cloudless sky. The ideal setting for my Maratona dles Dolomites!

The busy preparations for the race give way to an expectant tension, and the rising adrenaline gradually chills the cold of the morning. I’m on the first starting block. Motivating music roars from the loudspeakers, then the greetings. All of a sudden, time stands still – the mood is tense, expectant, great. Finally the starting shot is fired, and 9000 cyclists from four starting blocks start hectically in motion. Now I have to prove whether my many thousands of kilometres of training were sufficient preparation for the tour…

Nature, culture and the voice of sanity

The first five of the seven passes to be covered are around the Sella massif. In many places, enthusiastic spectators cheer for top performances: In the Val di Fassa, drums and cowbells create the atmosphere for the way to the Sella Pass, in Corvara you can hear the crack of whips, alb horns roar behind Arraba. In front of the Gardena Pass an excellent espresso is served on the bike. I ride the euphoric slope and enjoy the view of the fantastic, bizarre rocky landscape in the morning sun. The fast acceleration during descending covers my body with shivers – a constant battle between enjoying the force of speed and reminding yourself of sanity. Descending at high speed while keeping your senses alert for potential uneven tarmac and warnings ahead of tight turns and corners. Every time I adjust my speed by pulling my brake levers the reality check kicks in …I am so grateful for the reliability of my disc brakes!

Decisions: Going the full distance or cutting it short?

Then after the second crossing of the Passo Campolongo, a nearly 30 km long section with predominant gradient. Just short of the point of no return, the fork junction where you have to chose if you finish the full route or admit defeat and take the shorter 106 km route, my body tries to win the battle with my mind. Heavy legs don’t make my life easier at that point and trigger the anxious question for a moment: Did I actually manage to proportion my power properly for the whole tour? I have no time for a long diagnosis. A decision has to be made…I will crack on and do the full bang! 138km, let’s do this!

At the foot of the 6th Passo Giau, it gets hot, the sun tiles mercilessly from the almost cloudless sky. Bananas at the last food station give new strength, and my two bottles of water for the upcoming mountain torture are both reassuring and loaded at the same time. The legs are already burning after 300 of the almost 1000 meters of altitude to be covered. The speed is between 6 and 10 km/h – perceived standstill. Constant change from sitting to standing. The view into the faces of the cyclists next to me shows glowing cheeks, sweat, effort, exhaustion. The constant fight with myself is blocking my view of the gigantic rocks above me. I am craving for water and cooling down…if I just had a few of those snowflakes from the top of the mountain down here to cool my forehead and neck…the struggle is real! It has never been more real! After an endless 70 minute climb: THE SUMMIT!

After the slope is before the slope

When descending, my overheated body finally cools down, I focus on the beautiful descent towards Cortina d Ampezzo, I don’t feel a real rest for my legs. From Pocol, it goes again on to 2200 meters to the Passo Valparola. I hardly notice the moderate slope at first, it almost felt as if I was riding on a flat stretch. Only the view of the cyclometer reminds me that I am going uphill. I’m struggling, I don’t have what it takes to ride fast. Sitting and pedalling is tortuously exhausting now… Before the summit there is another feed station, I have an appetite for something salty. After rolls, cake and Coke I feel refuelled for my attack on the last meters to the pass follows.

When descending to La Villa, I enjoyed the speed. The feeling of safety in the bends has increased, it feels naturally…finally. When braking, I feel how the muscles transfer the deceleration of the wheel to my entire body. Muscles I wouldn’t have thought I needed for cycling. The feeling of having the finishing line approaching is over-flooding my body with endorphins.

In La Villa, the 19% slope of Mur dl Giat challenges me once again. I’m craving for a much smaller chain ring, I run out of gears, I fight and have been standing and out of the saddle for a while now, slowly but surely overtaking others that gave in and pushed their bike. The last few kilometres … here I go… the finish in Corvara is near…I am flying…and done!

Everything really worked out so well

Exhausted but overjoyed, I enjoyed tortellini and a non-alcoholic beer. This cycling race, one of the most prestigious bike events in the world, will always remain in my memory as a unique experience and I feel pride that I have managed to finish it. The beautiful places we passed along the route, the breath-taking natural scenery, the emotional reactions of the people on the side of the road – all this contributed to giving the sporting event an incomparably intense atmosphere. Everything was perfect! A big shout out to the perfect organisation. Even the weather was perfect and played a large role in making this event so amazing..

The Maratone dles Dolomites – an unrestricted recommendation for anyone who wants to combine cycling and nature in a unique mountain landscape!

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