…with a mountain range. Is that strange? Maybe. But if, no, make that “when” you go to the Dolomites in Northern Italy, the same may just happen to you.
It was my last full day in Italy yesterday and what a last day it was. It started pretty darn well with a lovely cafe owner in Cortina saying there was no charge for the breakfast I had had. And I’d eaten quite a lot to fuel me up the mountains. Hard work on a super light road bike weighing in it around 7kg. Brutal on a fully loaded touring bike coming in at around 54kg that just wants to drag you one way…back down the mountain.
My mission today was to get up close and personal to the Trei Cimi (The Three Summits) which are three gigantic rocky peaks that stick up 3000m in the air like three giant fingers (see the billboard picture in the photos below for an idea of what they look like…or Google!). The Dolomites are an absolutely stunning area to go to – they have even been given UNESCO World Heritage status – it’s great on a bike, but you can walk, ride your motorbike or even drive there if you have to, but just go there if you haven’t already!
It took a few hours and I was soaked through with sweat but I got to the top of the first part, The Passo Trei Croci, took a photo with the sign then noticed there was a car from one of the Tour de France teams Tinkoff-Saxo also at the summit. I smelt a photo opp! They were there to support people on a bike tour in the area. Pretty cool that people could use the bikes that last year’s Tour de France riders had used. The Tinkoff-Saxo staff were super friendly and packed me off with one of their team water bottles before I left.
A bit more climbing and I got to Lake Misurina with my first real glimpse of the Trei Cimi or rather One Cimi as the cloud was blocking the other two. I had a bit of a food and decided to get even closer to the rock face by cycling up to a refuge which was as close you can get by road to the Trei Cimi. If the first bit of the day was tough, this section was insane.
Parts of this 7km to the Refugio de Auronzo had a gradient of 17% and I’ve got to say it was some of the toughest climbing I’ve done. But throughout, the pain was tempered by the fact that everywhere I looked there was 360 degree epic scenery of the Dolomites.
Half way up the climb I met three Italy mountain bikers from MTB Zero Asfalto called Marco, Marco and Marco, not quite, the third guy was called Mauro (or as I called them, the “M” team!) and we stayed together, chatting in short breaths, taking photos for each other all the way to the top. We celebrated with a beer on the top. Definitely in the top ten drinks I’ve ever had.
If I’d had more time I’d have loved to have stuck around to complete a 3 hour walk around the Trei Cimi which gives you some amazing views of these three peaks, but I’d arranged to meet up in a town down the mountain with a guy called Lorenzo who I’d bumped into on a ferry in Venice. By complete coincidence he was also on holiday with his family in the area. Crazy how a chance meeting on a ferry can lead to making arrangements and sharing drinks a couple of days later! It was a perfect end to my time in Italy.
Italy, I have loved every bit of my wiggly route from Turin to Dobbiaco.
And I SERIOUSLY loved the Dolomites, if you can’t tell. Maybe you will too if, no, make that WHEN you go there!