There is a place, often found somewhere between the sweet ache of fatigue and the honest contentment of the road, that every cyclist knows well. It's a feeling you can see in the faces of the participants of the 30th Maratona Dles Dolomites (to give the legendary Granfondo it’s local Ladin dialect title), Italy's most important Granfondo.
The Maratona is staged in Alta Badia, in the middle of the Italian Dolomites, and organised by Mr. Michil Costa, owner of the ancient and historic Hotel La Perla of Corvara. Mr. Costa is quite the eccentric, but as well as being both humble and generous, he is also full of love for his home region, which for 30 years (in Italian we would say “it has got its 30th candle”) has been the starting point and finish line for the Maratona.
Every year there is a theme. This year it was “The Journey”. Indeed, the Maratona is a wonderful pedal journey, fully immersed as it is in the breathtaking Dolomites. Three choices of journey are available. The cyclist can choose between 55, 105 or 138 kms based on their levels of fitness and of their training. The allure of the event is huge, and receives each year, more than 30,000 participation requests - but only 10,000 impassioned cyclists, drawn from all over the world, are ever able to receive a golden ticket and take to the startline.
This year the lucky 10,000 took to the grids on the sunrise of the 4th of July 2016. The first starting grid is always composed of the winners of the previous years and some important hosts, with the others starting, by necessity, a little later.
At the end of that day, of the 8900 that clipped in and rolled out with the sun, more than 7900 were crossing the line in Corvara. All the others, the ones I’d like to define as the ‘Latest’, reached the line hours later. They arrived with calm, in the typical spirit of this race against time and the mountains, with more than 7 hours of toil and joy in the saddle.
The allure of the event is huge, and receives each year, more than 30,000 participation requests - but only 10,000 impassioned cyclists, drawn from all over the world, are ever able to receive a golden ticket and take to the startline.
Of the photos taken throughout the day, it's the glory of the ride in their faces and smiles that stand out, their changing of wheels and of tires, and in their sweat streaked caps and jerseys during the terrible “Mur del Giat” ; the 17% kick in the teeth climb 2kms before the finish line in La Villa.
That for me is the real spirit of the Maratona Dles Dolomites. The victory over the struggle of both young and old and the honour of crossing the line.