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Today we head out of that part of the Alps that is considered to be the Dolomites and east into the Carnic Alps. From the pretty town of Cortina we go straight into the climb up to the Passo Tre Croci (1805m), which is a steady, gentle 8km climb. The road from there to Lake Misurina is rather undulating, but there are cafés and restaurants there so we can stop for a break. Then it's a question of preparing yourself for our most difficult climb today, the magnificent Tre Cime di Lavaredo (2362m), which is about 9km with the last 4km ranging between 10 and nearly 14%. At the risk of gushing, the view from the top is absolutely stunning. Because of the altitude it will probably be too cold to have lunch, but we can descend again to Lake Misurina and eat there, before we continue east on a 30km descent, as we head away from the Dolomites. Our next climb is the 30km long, but much more gentle Sella di Razzo (1790m), otherwise known as the Sella Ciampigotto. From here we descend into Ovaro, where we stay for the night.
Our Dolomites cycling tours are very challenging and this one is actually the most demanding of them all. If you're very fit, it's definitely worth considering this holiday. It's difficult to describe the route in great detail without using the words beautiful, amazing and spectacular again and again - there are only so many superlatives you can use, and only so many ways to say that the scenery is absolutely stunning. Even so, each pass has its own unique character, and they're all very diverse. There are very few long valleys here to offer you a break between climbs; you're basically either going up or down.
This serene and breathtakingly beautiful area has been the scene of immense violence over its history and through two world wars. It's been owned by both Austria, and more recently Italy, and the many war memorials remind us that it was the scene of several bloody disputes, with significant loss of life. Today it's so peaceful, it's hard to imagine. Even so, it has a split personality, and you'll see signs in both German and Italian everywhere, although it still retains the Austrian flavour with chalet-style buildings and endless window boxes of colourful geraniums.
We spend three and a half days cycling as many passes as we can in the Dolomites, before heading east towards the Carnic Alps, finishing with the mighty Monte Zoncolan and the Monte Crostis.
We pick up from Venice (Marco Polo or Treviso) and take you to Feltre, where we'll be staying the night. We'll have tools and equipment available so you can assemble your bikes before we enjoy a good dinner and get ready for our start the following morning.
After a hearty breakfast we mount up and ride out of Feltre, taking in some very beautiful scenery as we climb up to the Passo Croce d'Aune (1013m) on what used to be a main road until they built a tunnel that bypassed the col and it's now very quiet. We descend into the green Cismon Valley and ride along a great plain for some time before we start to climb again, up to the nasty little Passo di Cereda (1369m), which is short but steep. We continue on the undulating road, taking in the Forcella Aurine (1297m), before descending to the town of Agordo. Finally we make the 18km climb up to the Passo San Pellegrino (1915m), which gets steeper as it goes, with a couple of kilometres of 11% near the top, and a short section that touches 15%. Luckily there are also a couple of short flat sections along the way to give you a bit of recovery. We stay in a hotel on the pass.
We start with the 10km and quite steep descent of the San Pellegrino into Vigo di Fassa, and then climb gently along the valley until we arrive in Canazei at the foot of the Passo di Sella (2244m), which is rather more demanding. At the top there's a stunning view, as well as a gift shop and a café, so a chance for a coffee break if you want one. We descend a short way and then climb again through an exceptionally beautiful landscape to the Passo di Gardena (2121m) a climb which is a little more friendly, with a nice flat bit in the middle to give you a rest. Down into Colfosco and on to La Villa Stern before we start our third climb to the amazing Passo Valparola (2198m). This is the most barren of all the passes we've seen to date, almost like the surface of the moon. We descend to the Passo Falzarego (2105m) and then continue into Pieve di Llivinallongo, riding along the flat valley for about 8km, asending gently into the small town of Arabba. One final climb to the Passo Pordoi (2239m), which is a nice climb, steady and manageable.
Again, we start with a steep and winding descent off the Passo Pordoi, until we reach Canazei again, where we turn off into the 14km climb up to the Passo di Fedaia (2057m). It starts fairly gently, but becomes steeper as you climb. As we near the top you pass through a tunnel and there's a beautiful lake. We ride along the banks of the lake for a while and then start the 37km descent down to Agordo, riding around another lake at Alleghe on the way. Our second climb of the day is the Passo Duran (1601m), one of the most demanding in the Dolomites, and dubbed "Duran Duran" by some former clients, who said it was so bad it should be named twice. They also said they never wanted to climb it again! We head down into Dont and then start our third climb up to the Forcella Staulanza (1773m), which is a little steeper at the bottom than the top. Down again into Selva di Cadore and then our last climb of the day, the Passo di Giau (2233m), which is ten challenging kilometres, but the view from the top is amazing. One side is green and undulating, the other side is stark and rocky. Finally we descend towards Cortina d'Ampezzo, one of the largest towns in the Dolomites.
We leave the hotel and we only have a short warm-up before turn off to the mighty Monte Zoncolan (1735m). There's no getting away from it, this is almost 10km of hard riding, with an average of 12.1% and a maximum of 19%! When (or perhaps if) you get to the summit, you'll have a choice. If you've had enough, you can retrace your steps to the hotel and chill with a beer while you bask in a well-deserved sense of achievement. If you want even more of a challenge (or you're just crazy), you can carry on and take in the Monte Crostis (2251m). It's 17km from the bottom of the climb to the summit, but that consists of a 10km climb averaging about 9% and then a 6km flat section before you come to the final kilometre of 7.3%. That's the end of the climbing, so now it's a question of continuing down back to the main road and the hotel. We'll pack up the bikes and relive our epic adventure over a well-earned celebration dinner.
After breakfast we drop you back off at any one of the airports around Venice.
560KM, AROUND 16,000 METRES OF CLIMBING
DAY 1 - FELTRE TO PASSO SAN PELLEGRINO - 98KM, CLIMBING 3,400 METRES
DAY 2 - PASSO SAN PELLEGRINO TO PASSO PORDOI - 111KM, CLIMBING 3,000 METRES
DAY 3 - CANAZEI TO CORTINA D'AMPEZZO - 124KM, CLIMBING 3,500 METRES
DAY 4 - CORTINA D'AMPEZZO TO OVARO - 116KM, CLIMBING 2,600 METRES
DAY 5 - OVARO (OUT AND BACK) - 67KM, CLIMBING 2,800 METRES
Ensuite accommodation in mainly 3* hotels, in shared rooms. Single rooms are available and a supplement of £250 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 & Monte Zoncolan 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.