Giro delle Dolomiti 2010

A cycling post.

I’m just back from the Giro delle Dolomiti 2010.  This is a six stage, 7 day event,  covering close to 800 kms, with  about 11,000 metres of climbing.  The giro is based out of Bozen, the largest town in the Dolomite region. This part of Italy is bilingual, with most locals speaking a wicked form of German as well as Italian.

Basically the format of the event is that you ride as a peloton to the start of the time trial, say 80 kms away and then charge up some famous steep hill, regroup at the top,  don some warmer clothes, then ride down, have some lunch, to be followed by a spin back into Bozen or another South-Tirolian spot.

You have to ride all the stages, not just the TT to count for the general classification. The field is a mix of very serious racing cyclists, and then the rest of us.

The roads are semi-closed. There is a police escort, tour director car with flags,  mechanics, broom wagon, doctor etc. When you are at the near back of the field, they do let some cars through, but not so that it is an issue.  99% of the drivers stop and enjoy the spectacle of the big peloton going by.

I did the event in 2006, so I knew what I was getting myself in for.

What with work, a long cold at the wrong time and a myriad of other excuses, my training this time around was not really up to much.  I had done a few rides, and some cyclo-core work, but nothing like what I should have done.

I adjusted my goal to completing the event, rather than worrying about position. Switching to Saint Campagnolo and his miraculous  29” cassette was the most significant part of my event preparation. Forget the Mona Lisa, those 29 teeth are Italy’s most beautiful creation.

My super fit friend, Martin and I drove down the day before, and the family also came along to hang out in Überbozen. Charlotte will no doubt blog on that here, so I’ll focus on the cycling bits. I didn’t remember to take a camera, so I need to await the official photos. I’ll post some later.

Stage one.

The announcers stated that the field was over 900 strong, with participants from all the place.  It certainly seemed bigger than the last time.

(apologies on the image quality. see the giro site for a crisper image)

The Jaufenpass is rather long, and so I left out the charge up said hill bit, and applied more of a trundle strategy.  I made full use of my sensible gearing.

The descent was a tad hairy, as 900 odd folks were also looking to jump the lunch queue at St Leonhard.  Some of the downhills at the Giro less fun than if you are in a smaller group. The fast guys find the pace car a pain, and we slower sorts find descending a bunch rather nervy.

I burned 4875 calories according to my bike computer. Took  1.55 for time trial, putting me in 627 place out of about 900 starters.  Several folks didn’t complete the stage, so all things considered, I was pleased to make it through the first day.

It was rather hot, at the finish in Bozen it was over 36 degrees.

Stage two.

This involved a rather early start, as we had to drive to Arabba.

I was a bit worried about the first bit, as it involved a rather long downhill. I was even more worried about the rest, as it involved a rather long uphill.  Passo Duran was rather step, at points it is is 15%. I was in trundling form again.

I did a quick search of flickr, and there a couple of photos up, and at the risk of copyright infringement, I’ll borrow this fabulous one from  HendrikJ. Thanks!

I did the time trial climb in 1.17, finishing in 583 place. I sensed the leaders were worried. I burned 5420 calories. Again, it was hot.  My cycling tan was coming on. Vast hordes of Swedes, Norwegians and Danes were going red.

Stage three.

This began in the rain, not fun.  A peleton in the rain is not a joyous thing.

The sun came out after about a hour, as we laboured up the first hill.  We then regrouped for the battle for the sandwich. Watching Germans and Italians battle over who can push in and grab the last ham sandwich is all part of the festivities.

The GARDECCIA is evil. Lots of it are at 20%.  The first bit is steep, through a quaint village, then it gets less steep for about a km, but then the last 3 kms are very very steep.  A Snail with a limp could have overtaken me.

After hurtling down the hill, we gathered for lunch. I slept in the sun while my socks dried, then it was another nasty climb and then a fabulous if slightly hairy descent into town.

I burned 5190 calories, and finished in 535 place. Only 579 finished the stage, so depending on how you look at it, I was moving up the field, or slipping back.

We had a rest day after stage three, so we did family stuff, like hang at the pool and walk in the forest. And eat. And eat.

Stage 4

This was supposed to be king stage, 160 odd kms, and masses of climbing,including Gardena, Pordoi and Sella, much of which would have been at over 2000 metres. Skiers familiar with the area will know this route as the Sella Ronda.

But the weather intervened. It poured with rain, and with temperatures at the top of the mountains at around freezing, the evil organizers arranged a plan b. They had a spare hill about 10 kms from Bozen, and they made us ride up that instead. It was 9kms long, with an average gradient of over 10%. I should remember what the hill is called, but I didn’t. (update Henk commented below, ride was from Meltina to Terlano. profile here)

I finished in 528 place.  588 people finished the stage.  I executed on my lurk at the back strategy perfectly.  I burnt about 2000 calories.  The downhill was grim. I was glad I didn’t buy those fancy carbon wheels, as braking in the rain on carbon rims is a bit of a lottery.

Stage 5

I was really looking forward to the Stelvio climb, or Stilfserjoch as it is also known.  It is an epic climb,  at 2757 metres, it is Italy’s highest pass.  It has 48 hairpin bends. It 24,6 kms long and you climb 1844 vertical metres from Prad.  Martin has climbed it about 5 times. I did it in 2006 and it was memorable.

profile Passo dello Stelvio

see for more details.

Alas, there was 30 cms of snow on the pass (yep in August), so we weren’t allowed to climb right to the top, so we just did the first 19 kms. I had forgotten how steep and long the forest section is, and I really found it hard going. If I had ridden any slower I would have got a parking ticket.  I took 1.45 to do the climb. I burned 3100 calories, most of them shivering on the way down.  I finished in 621 place.  In my defence, there were a bunch of new folks only registered for the last 3 days.  I felt pretty drained from the start, not much juice in my legs, my lack of training was showing.   Not a good day.

Stage 6.

For the final stage, the sun came out.  Instead of driving down from überbozen, we took the super fast cable car, and then pedaled through Bozen to the start. The stage is relatively easy, only 80kms or so, through the vineyards towards Trento.  Really lovely. The time trial was short, only 4,2 kms with less than 300 metres of climbing.

I left the heart rate monitor belt behind, so I don’t know how many calories I burnt, but I’d guess it was in the 2000 range.

I  meandered up the time trial hill, finishing in 640th place, with a pedestrian time of 18 minutes. The descent was super, glorious fresh tarmac, and vineyards. And nice policemen on motorbikes to keep the caravans at bay.  The peloton on the last day is bigger, with several people coming along just for the day.  We stopped at a really modern winery for a drinks break. Check it out  Mezzacorona.

Two kms from the finish, there was a crash. I’m not sure how the crash happened, but one minute all was fine, the next it was mayhem. I flew a few metres,  scraped my knee a bit, but no serious damage to me or the bike.  Some folks came of worse than I did, and I hope they recover quickly. Riding in a big peloton isn’t plain sailing.

I finished in 394th place in the overall classification, close to the back in terms of overall finishers, but given the number that were registered for event, I’m not complaining. I’d like to do the event again some day, but next time I’d hope to train more, and be more competitive.

My thanks to the family for coming along,  and to Martin. I’d also like to thank the organizers, the local police and community for their support.  An excellent event.

My tips for the surviving and enjoying  ride.

1. Correct gearing. Compact chain ring and the biggest cassette money can buy.

2. Eat a good breakfast at least two hours before the start.  Even if it means getting up earlier.

3. Know your lactate threshold, and ride on or below that for as much as you can. Don’t race when it isn’t a race. Alpine climbs can be very long, you can catch people later if you are feeling stronger later.

4. Get comfortable with descending in a crowd.  Make sure your brakes are in good shape. Watch out for the odd car or motorbike, the roads aren’t totally closed.

5. Have plenty of clothes for the descent. You can pack a bag, and they take it to the top of the hill. Pack some long gloves if it is a cold day, and a fresh pair of socks if it rains.

5. Eat and drink when ever you can while riding.  Only eat stuff you know you like. Don’t experiment.

6. Have a good recovery meal and drink.

7. Be vigilant in the peloton. Stay away from the cowboys and those that look nervous.

8. Be patient in the pauses and lunch breaks, you aren’t at work, so relax.

8. Stretch in the evening.

9. Oh, and try and train a bit.


7 thoughts on “Giro delle Dolomiti 2010”

  1. Thomas,

    I’ve always loved being a small part of your adventures over the years. Thank you for your great attitude and dedication to having an adventure on the bike. Killer event!!! Keep me in your loop and as always, ride strong.

    –Graeme Street

  2. Hi TheotherThomasOtter:

    Enjoyed your post – especially since I had more or less the same experience. Guess, I must have seen you plenty of times as I almost always logged in similar time trial times (at least for those stages I actually rode, I took a literal rain or snow check for some of them).

    Also, on a less cheery note, I was riding only yards behind that group that crashed some 2 or 3K from the finish line. How it happened? Someone was using his/her hands too much while chatting and touched the sidewalk. The tire apparently blew and sent that bike and rider flying. And back into the rest of the little pack which I understand you have been part of, too.

    Glad to hear that you only suffered a bit of street rash. One of the Norwegian women was seriously injured, probably a skull/base of skull fraction. But the medics were there within no time at all and one of her team mates talked to the hospital later and was told that the injured woman would be alright. I was very much relieved as it did not feel like she would be when I felt the blood trickle from her ear onto my hand while stabilizing her head as good as possible until the arrival of the medics.

    Check out my blog at if you are interested in reading what the Giro felt like for other riders, e.g. yours truly.

    Cheers, bxa

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