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The Dolomites is probably the most spectacular of all our destinations in respect of scenery; you just can't beat riding along in glorious sunshine, surrounded by amazing snow-capped mountains, that seem to rise out of the earth like giant teeth. We offer this as an alternative to our standard Dolomites & Stelvio tour. It's 50km longer and has about 500 metres more climbing overall, taking in a few extra passes but you have another day to ride. It's definitely within the abilities of your average mixed group or club.
We spend four days in the Dolomites, cycling most of the famous passes, which are all very beautiful and yet all unique. The roads are quieter than the Alps or the Pyrenees, and the hotels are all 3 or 4*, many with pools or spa facilities, and the food is really good, with buffet breakfasts as standard, so you should never go hungry.
We pick up from Venice (Marco Polo or Treviso) before making the transfer to Belluno where we stay the night. We'll have all the tools available for you to assemble your bike and then you can relax until dinner, where we'll discuss the trip and get to know each other. Then you may want to get a reasonably early night - it will be quite a long day tomorrow.
For once we leave the hotel on a descent, albeit only for a couple of kilometres, before we start the short and fairly gentle climb up to the Passo di Campolongo (1875m), which is probably the easiest climb we have on the entire trip. Over the top and we cycle down into the bustling little town of Arabba. Now we reach our main climb of the day, the Passo Pordoi (2239m), nine fairly steep kilometres averaging almost 7%. There are several cafés at the top, so the perfect spot for lunch. We descend again to Canazei, and then continue to Moena, where we turn east and our last climb in the Dolomites, the 12km Passo San Pellegrino (1915m), which averages 6.3%. We load the bikes up, climb into the vans and we have a 2.5 hour transfer to our hotel at the foot of Stelvio - we bet none of you can stay awake once we start moving!
For many cyclists Stelvio has a certain dreadful fascination. Its famous 48 hairpins have been included regularly in the Giro, and the view back down the valley from the top is incredible. At 2757 metres, it's one of the highest passes we've ever included in an event. We've picked a wonderful, historic hotel in the medieval, cobbled market town of Glurns (Glorenza). There's a 7km downhill ride to the bottom of the climb, to give you a warm-up before you start. Although Stelvio is steep, you get a welcome rest on every right-hand hairpin, and everyone tells us that it's the best climb they've ever done. The strudel at the café at the top is the best you've ever tasted, but that could be something to do with the effort involved in getting to it! When we've finished our coffee break we descend through several tunnels and finally arrive in Bormio, where we'll stop for lunch. Then onwards to the Passo di Gavia (2621m), another iconic climb. At the bottom it's green and lush, but as you ascend it becomes more rocky and barren. Just before the top you pass an amazing war memorial (a stone pyramid with an eagle on top) before you arrive at a lake that has ice on the surface until late in the summer. The refuge at the top is a mini-museum, packed full of old photos and cycling memorabilia, and they make fantastic cappuccino. The descent is a bit hair-raising, there's quite a poor road surface at the top, followed by a dark tunnel, and then lots of hairpins on a narrow road, but it gets better as you go down, and finally we come into Ponte di Legno, where we stay the night.
The transfer from Lecco is two hours and there are three airports in Milan - Linate, Malpensa and Bergamo. We'll drop you back to whichever is most convenient.
From our hotel we ride through an urban area for about 8km, until we cross the river at Ponte Mas, and leave the town behind us. Before long we're cycling along quiet, almost flat, tree-lined roads with the mountains in the distance. We follow the banks of Lake Mis for almost 6km, riding through a series of fairly short tunnels until we get to the end of the lake. That's the 20km warm-up over, and this is the foot of our first climb, the Forcella Franche (992m), which starts very gently, but ramps up rapidly for the last 5km, reaching a maximum gradient of 10%. We continue down the other side, descending into Agordo, where we stop for lunch.
Our next climb is the Passo Duran (1601m), dubbed "Duran Duran" by some previous clients who said it was so bad, it deserved to be named twice, and that they never wanted to forget it - or ever ride it again! We descend into Dont and then head for the Passo Staulanza (1773m). The countryside here is green and lush, punctuated by enormous peaks that rise above us, and which characterise the Dolomites. From the top it's thankfully downhill all the way to the hotel.
You don't get the luxury of a warm-up today - it's literally out of the hotel and within a kilometre we start the first climb, the Passo di Giau (2233m). This is 10km with an average of 9%, so definitely not easy, but from the top you have stunning views of both sides of the summit, which are totally different, but both incredibly beautiful. We make the 16km descent into Cortina, where we'll probably regroup and have coffee, before starting the steady ascent to the Passo Tre Croci (1809m).
Straight over the top and we continue to beautiful Lake Misurina, where there are several cafés for our lunch stop, before we head off on a climb that most clients agree is the most difficult of the tour, the Tre Cime di Lavaredo (2320m). This is the scene of many stage finishes in the Giro d'Italia, and every one of the last 8km averages over 10%!. The view from the top is absolutely astonishing, it's really like being on top of the world. This isn't a long climb, and it's very rewarding, but it's certainly not for the faint hearted. We then head back to the other side of Cortina, where we stay the night. For those who don't want to ride up to the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, you can either stay at Lake Misurina and wait for the others to return, or just go straight to the hotel and relax there.
From our hotel on the outskirts of Cortina, we head west through green but rocky terrain towards the Passo Falzarego (2117m). It seemed a shame to miss seeing the Passo Valparola (2168m) too, which is a 2km detour off our route, so we've included it in the day. It's basically the top two kilometres of the climb on the profile, so you almost get two for the price of one. The terrain here is much less green than anything we've seen so far, in fact quite barren and rocky. When we reach the top, we turn and descend back to the Falzarego again before turning right and descending to Caprile. Right turn again and now we're starting the climb to the Passo di Fedaia (2057m) with its lovely lake on top, and then back down to Canazei. Our last major climb of the day is the Passo di Sella (2244m), and then we round off the day with the much more gentle Passo di Gardena (2136m), finally descending into Colfosco, where we spend the night.
450KM, AROUND 13,500 METRES OF CLIMBING
DAY 1 - BELLUNO TO SELVA DI CADORE - 81KM, CLIMBING 2,600 METRES
DAY 2 - SELVA DI CADORE TO CORTINA D'AMPEZZO - 78KM, CLIMBING 2,500 METRES
DAY 3 - CORTINA D'AMPEZZO TO CORVARA - 90KM, CLIMBING 2,700 METRES
DAY 4 - CORVARA TO PASSO SAN PELLEGRINO - 61KM, CLIMBING 1,700 METRES
DAY 5 - GLURNS TO PONTE DI LEGNO - 97KM, CLIMBING 3,100 METRES
DAY 6 - PONTE DI LEGNO TO MAZZO DI VALTELLINA - 40KM, CLIMBING 950 METRES
Ensuite accommodation in 2- 4* hotels, in shared rooms. Single rooms are available and a supplement of £275 applies.
Continental or buffet-style breakfasts every morning, supplemented with muesli if needed.
3-course evening meals every night with wine, a beer or a soft drink.
Snacks to keep you going during the day, such as bananas, chocolate, and quality energy gels and bars.
Bottled water and carbohydrate powder for your bottles, as well as High5 Zero electrolyte tablets.
Maps of the route for you to refer to as you ride and GPS files for you to upload to your device.
Souvenir full-zip Owayo Dolomites & Stelvio jersey.
As many photos of you as we can take during your trip - usually a few hundred pictures - so you can relive your journey from start to finish when you get home.
We'll never be more than a few kilometres from you at all times, so you don't need to carry loads of kit with you "just in case". We'll try to be at the bottom of every climb so you can shed unwanted clothing, top up your water bottles and grab a snack or energy bar, and at the top of every col so you can add a windproof layer before you start your descent.
We don't make our prices look cheaper by leaving out evening meals, alcohol, or even airport transfers, so if you're looking at prices, it pays to make sure you're comparing like for like.
It's the last day, and we aim to round off the trip in style, with the infamous Passo di Mortirolo - or Foppa in Italian - (1852m), a climb that Lance Armstrong once claimed was the most difficult he had ever done. You cycle from the hotel in Ponte di Legno along the valley for about 10km before you head up the south east climb, dropping down into Mazzo di Valtellina via the more difficult south west side.
At that point you have a choice. You can call it a day, or head back up the harder size, usually associated with Marco Pantani (in fact, he still holds the record), while the rest of us enjoy some refreshments and everyone else packs up their bikes. If you look at the profile below, the line is where you would turn around and ride back up. If you choose to make the reverse climb, you add 24km distance and 1200 metres of climbing to the day.
When everyone is back and the bikes are packed away, we load up and head to Lecco, on the banks of Lake Como for a memorable evening on the lake.