Well, that was tough! I’ve just arrived home from completing the 39th edition of the Giro Delle Dolomiti. A 6 stage race in the Dolomites, in the South Tirol region of Italy. The total stats after 7 days away were: 877km ridden, 38 hours in the saddle, and over 13,000m climbing. A real challenge for myself.
Not so good preparation
With 2 weeks to go before the event I rode a team time trial, and pushed so hard I ended up with a medium level tear in my left hamstring. Really not ideal before starting an event like this. However with some Kinesology tape, painkillers, and some great kit, I managed to finish the event with fairly respectable times, even beating some of my Wiggle teammates on some stages, so I’m really pleased.
Before the event I stocked up on some Beetroot bars, SiS Rapid Recovery, and Wiggle gels, to make sure I could last the distance. As well as some new Oakley Radar glasses, and Mavic Ksyrium S Wheels to help save some weight on the long climbs. You can read more about my preparation on my Giro delle Dolimiti blog article.
My training before the event went fairly well, and in the end was enough to carry me through. I didn’t manage to complete my back to back 100 mile planned rides before the event, so I think this would have helped me even further. Not tearing my hamstring would have also helped a huge amount.
This is something I would work on for next time. Your training is really so important before a large event like this. Training your body to cope with the pain, and long days in the saddle.
Another thing I would recommend if your thinking of taking on a challenge like this, is to get a compact chainset, or large range cassette. You will appreciate the extra gears when your on the 20% + gradients. Recommend at least a 39/28 for the hardest gradients.
Riding in South Tirol, what a pleasure
What an incredible experience I had, and such a well planned event. Climbing multiple mountains over 2,000m in elevation, including the historic Stelvio Pass(2758m), and others like the Passo Sella(2240m). Rolling road closures for every Kilometre of the event. Food stops on each day to refuel.
The event is organised around timed climbing sections on each day. Ranging from 1.4km sharp steep climbs over 11.8% average gradient, to long drags around 10-24km in length, with average gradients between 6.6%-10.2%. The other riding time is as a group(500+ riders), with mobile support and rolling road closures.
Each day you are able to organise a clothing/food bag, which can be picked up at around half the stage distance, for extra supplies or warm/waterproof clothing, which was really helpful. When you are in the mountains, the weather can change so often. My Sportful Hot Pack 5 Jacket was ideal here, in such a changeable climate.
The event is really relaxed, and you are able to stop off at your leisure for coffee or ice cream in the passing towns. Some chose to eat out at lunchtime instead of eating the food provided. Nice to have the choice, and to experience more of the culture. Then simply rejoin the group for the journey home, and enjoy breathtaking closed road descents for miles.
We stayed at the Gantkofel Hotel, Andriano, 12km from the event start in Süd Bolzano. I quickly got used to four course meals in the evening, and some time in the pool was most welcome.
The hotel was very accommodating of bikes, and the staff really went out of their way to help us enjoy our stay. They were even able to lay some breakfast for us each morning, despite our 4:45am starts some days.
South Tirol itself is very bike friendly, with huge wide bike paths between most of the villages in the area, all with amazing views of the mountainous surrounding area, and fast flowing rivers.
Bolzano itself is a busy and vibrant city, with great buildings, architecture and shopping.
The riding was really hard going. Hills and heat we are not used to in the UK, temperatures exceeding 38 degrees on some days. Drinking 4-6 bottles each day with lots of electrolyte replacement.
The road surface offers a nice change from what we encounter on a day to day basis at home. Most of the roads were well paved, with some abrasion on the mountain roads, which you would expect with the occasional extreme weather.
One thing I found useful was to keep a small cut out copy of the stage with me in my phone wallet case, to see when the feed stops were coming, and to help me judge my effort on the long climbs. There were signs for 3, 2 and 1 km left on the very hard slopes to mark the end of the timed sections, which was helpful.
Reflecting on the event, whats next?
I was lucky to not have any mechanical problems throughout the event, not even a puncture. Just an aching and painful body, which is now fully recovered after 3-4 days rest. It really was worth all the pain and sacrifice.
We met some great people, and made friends across the cycling community. A really great experience, and one I would highly recommend for anyone who wants to take their cycling to the next level. Be competitive with yourself or others, and enjoy the scenery. It’s a chance to experience a riding climate like no other, and climbs that really are beautifully painful.
To mark your achievement you are given a printout of your times on a Giro Delle Dolomiti event branded piece of paper, with all the route profile maps. I think this will be up on my wall soon. There is also the chance to purchase your event photographs, which are taken throughout the event. Capturing your high and low moments from each stage.
Whats next? Maybe a final few races to round out the season, and then its planning what to do next year. More UK criterium racing? More single day events? More multi stage events abroad?
I’m planning to structure my season more intelligently next year, with 1 small goal or target each month to keep me on track. On track to improving and enjoying my riding. That will be hard to beat after such a great initial year racing. The cherry on top is really this great week in South Tirol racing with friends.