Dolomites: Mamma Mia

The season is winding down slowly here in Le Sud (very slowly – it was 36C here yesterday), so I find myself with a little time to talk.

A couple of weeks ago, 2 days after getting back from a punishing week in the Pyrenees, John and I (and hired gun, Andrea) put on our guide helmets and drove to Venice to pick up 9 returnee clients for our inaugural HighRoad Dolomites tour.

First, if you’ve never ridden in the Dolomites + the big passos around Bormio, you really should. With that out of the way, get ready for plenty of other people with the same idea that you have, except they will be behind the wheel of a car, sitting on a tour bus, or ripping up the mountains on a BMW motorcycle. The area is at the crossroads of 3 countries (Italy, Austria and Switzerland) and Germany is also close enough that it’s an easy drive down to see what’s what. It’s definitely not the Cévennes, is what I’m saying.

But it is beyond beautiful, full of Giro d’Italia history and ‘tough as’. The very first climb we did never seemed to get under 15% the whole way up, but look at the shot of Scott (below Katy – the author of many of these photos) and tell me that doesn’t make you want to find out where the Dolomites actually are and buy a ticket to someplace near.

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One major bonus of this part of Europe is the high quality of hotels and restaurants, presumably due to the aforementioned shit-ton of tourists. Whatever the reason, we ate very well in our week in the mountains and the hotel management tended to bend over backwards to make us happy.

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Product placement, brought to you by our savvy Millennial.

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Below is taken from the Gardena, the first of 4 cols we climbed on our Sella Ronda day, a near-perfect 50 km ride that must be on someone’s Top Ten list of most awesome cycling loops. If such a list doesn’t exist I might create it myself.

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Nearly every ‘Dolomites’ cycling tour actually does more than advertised. The reason being that the must-climb trio of the Stelvio, Mortirolo and Gavia are all reasonably close (but in the Alps proper). Who are we to buck tradition? Here are a few of our cold, wet, but elated riders at the top of those famous 48 switchbacks.

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Below are a few pics from our last climb of the tour: Passo Gavia. This is best served after the Prima Platti of the Mortirolo, an insanely steep goat track of nearly 13 km that will have you praying for another gear, no matter what your biggest ring is. The Gavia is 17 km long and has an average gradient of Alpe d’Huez, more or less. If you’ve got the legs to do this double after a week of climbing in the high mountains, you deserve to sit down and enjoy the view.

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Although I think I still have mixed feelings about the crowded nature of the Dolomites, I was won over by the sheer number of epic things you can do on a bike there, all within a pretty compact area. From a tour operator’s perspective there’s a lot to like about it.

It’s for that reason that John and I have already booked two tours in the Dolomites (one that will include Lake Como and friends) for 2020 and have one more on the calendar that has yet to be sold out. If you are feeling like you just have to see what all the fuss is about, click on the link above and we’ll help you out.

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