If the first half of the Maratona is about going up into the high peaks and staying there, the second is about revisiting similar heights but each time descending the whole way back into the much greener valleys. The climbs are long and you drop all the way back down before the next one.
|On the way to Passo Giau|
Yesterday I covered the first 4 passes and today I’ll finish with the last two biggies. If you are doing the Medio course you split off and head up the Falzarego which is twisty and through woods. Eventually you’ll come out on the now familiar Dolomite moonscape and turn left at the pass to climb just a bit more before dropping down into Carvara. This descent is not for the faint hearted.
|You'll go to the right of that big lump of mountain|
The full Maratonna people keep going towards the Passo Giau, another famous Giro climb. This one is long (10km)and unhelpfully features plenty of 13% gradients. It starts off a right hand turn and immediately heads upwards though pretty woods.
After a while you start to see where you are heading and come out of the woods into high pastures, and eventually snow. It’s pretty tough all the way – no flat bits that I can remember.
|Click on picture to get the full view|
At the top are truly spectacular views, and the descent is on wonderfully smooth roads with lots of straight sections for the first part before it becomes very twisty and hairpinny. Strong hands will be needed for all the braking into these tight corners.
At the bottom you immediately turn left and start on the final climb – Falzarego. Must say I was disappointed with this one. A long drag though a forest on 8% gradients which just go on and on forever - easily 10km with a bit of 5% in there too.
|Near the top on Falzarego|
Once up and past Falzarego you have another 80m of climbing to get over the Valparola before dropping off down to Corvara. This is a spectacular descent and will require all your concentration.
And that's it – the Maratona dles Dolomites. The most extraordinary setting for a cycling event where the fantastic views compete for your attention with the pain it takes to reach them.
More pictures from around the course tomorrow in Part 3.
Good luck everyone!