Photo © P a t i t u c c i P h o t o /

La Maratona takes place in the Dolomites region in Northern Italy. The scenery is seriously breathtaking. The area “Alta Badia” is well geared for cyclists, off-road especially. In winter it is all about the skiing.

Getting here requires effort. I flew to Venice and hired a car, you can also fly to Innsbruck or Verona, all of which are a 3-4 hr drive.

Faultless organisation, closed roads, marshals and ambulances all along the route, great feed stops, not just bananas…this is Italy, you could have a whole meal! Post-race as you get pork chops, pasta, beers and Apfelstrudel. I did wonder though about the pre-race prayers and whether the rendition of eric clapton’s cocaine was an ode to the Pantani lookalikes

This is a tough ride. There are 3 distances, you can decide mid-route. It is really one for the mountain goats, not us sprinters. The short is 55k, medium 106k and long 138k. It was my first time so I went medium. The difference between the medium and the long is one climb, not any climb but a lovely 10k at 10% from 1520m to 2236m, for the Giro fans it is the Passo Giau. The medium is basically up and down 5 times with a killer 10k climb to 2200m at the end, the Passo Valparola. Then it is a nice 10k decent to the finish, well almost, the last 2k is uphill – nice! No rain, but it did threaten throughout. For the loved ones it’s live on tv: RAI3, my mother, bless her, was up at 5am to watch it.

As my darling Squadra is still in intensive care I rode a Boardman with a 34×25 it was enough, I was in the 34×25 for most of the climbs. Georg, being a local boy rode an old triple that he keeps at his folks.

One thing I noticed when I got here was how serious the riders are….No fun riders here, I almost bought shares in Gillette. Local King of the Mountains Georg stormed home in his 5th Maratona at 5hrs 16min, I trundled in at 5hr 29min, now before you lot go 106km in 5 hrs?! To give you an idea that time put me 101st in my age category (30-36) and 807 out of a total field of about 9800 (about 10% of riders are female) of which about 5000ish do the medium route. The winners do it in shade under 4 hours, amazing!

Finally, a BIG thank you to Georg for helping me plan the trip, I also thought I would get my explanations in before Georg makes his comments. In relation to making the girl blush at the official clothing counter, I was not flirting I was merely trying for a discount. Secondly when I said to a rider: “what a clean and beautiful bike you have” (it was a blinking white Pinarello) her reply was “I’m the beautiful one not the bike”; unfortunately I got well excited as I thought she said to me: “I’m the dirty one, not the bike”. Georg realising my idiocy pointed this linguistic tongue-twister out before I made a complete tit of myself.

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