Sella Ronda mountain biking in the Dolomites.
The Dolomites are best known for their Maratona delle Dolomiti; a huge cyclosportive which covers the best mountain passes in the Dolomites. More than 9000 road cyclist participate at this event in a great scenery. But this region has also a lot to offer off-road! That's why we got there beginning September 2017, with our mountain bikes, to see how the Dolomites looked from the unbeaten path...
Day 1: Around the Tofane mountain group.
Summer left the Alpes soon in 2017; by the end of August temperature dropped and the first snow arrived mid September. We were lucky to be there for 3 days during the first week of September, when the temperature was around 15°C, with almost no rain.
Based in the a nice bike-friendly hotel in San Cassiano, the first ride was a warm-up lap around the Tofane mountain group. From the hotel is was straight up the Passo Valparolo followed by an off-road climb to the center of the mountain group. Since we rode on a hiking trail we had to push/carry the bike sometimes, but it was worth is because the scenery was really amazing. As time was running out, the planned route had to be shortened and we followed an easy gravel path along a river, before arriving in Cortina d'Ampezzo. After a short coffee & strudel break, we rejoined the road to the hotel... but first needed to get over the Passo Falzarego and a part of the Passo Valparolo.
Day 2: Passo Gardena - Pordoi - Sella - Campolongo by MTB.
Under a nice blue sky we left the hotel for the first climb over the Passo Gardena. This is a famous ski-resort in the winter and in the summer there are tracks for downhill bikes. We descended off-road, but not on these spectacular downhill trails. Back on the road again to climb the Passo Sella. On top we left the asphalt road to the Rifugio Friedrich August to eat spaghetti outside! Then is was another hiking trail, slightly downhill but not always 'cyclable'. The last climbs of the day were on-road; first Passo Pordoi followed by Passo Campolongo.
Day 3: Seceda, the absolute apotheosis.
Last day of the stay in the Dolomites, and it woud become a memorable day! Starting with a 18km long descent along the river. Then came the incredible steep climb to the Passo delle Erbe (Würzjoch); double figures gradients but with some nice views and good asphalt. Certainly un underrated climb! On top we left the road and started a long off-road hiking trail around a steep mountain called Peitlerkofel. Along the way was a chalet (Munt de Fornella) with some tasteful hot pasta. The views in this part of the Dolomites are breathtaking. Some parts of the trails are too steep to ride the bike and so you have to push of carry your machine, but after every difficult passage there's a reward in form of fast descents or panoramic lookout points. And then there's the Seceda; a spectacular mountain of 2500m. A lift can bring you and your bike to a plateau which offers a good view on the top. That lift will make you gain 700m of elevation which is useful especially by the end of the day when time is running out. The weather on top was not ideal; heavy wind, a bit cold, not much sunlight... But this all made the Seceda mountain look even more spectacular as there were clouds hanging on the top. As the sun was going down, it was time to get back to the hotel. From the Seceda-plateau was a 15km descent to the beginning of the Passo Gardena. By the time we arrived at the top, the sun was gone and the last descent to the hotel was in the dark.