The previous post and this one were meant to come all under one header: Arabba! But an unexpected Internet connection and a half finished post meant that Part Two of our Dolomites adventure had to wait. Mind you, I’m about two to three weeks behind with my posts anyway but I have best intentions to catch up this week. It’s rest week for L’Etape du Tour on the 8th July. But more about my preparation for L’Etape in the next few days.
Here it is our ride over four passes in the Dolomites: The Sella Ronda!
After a breakfast with marvellous views of the World Heritage Dolomites, we prepared the bikes and got ready to explore some more climbs. Right at that moment it started drizzling. No worries! Let’s make another coffee and sit out the few drops. We had all day to ride and surely it would clear. The drizzle increased to a light rain around lunch time, the light rain turned into proper rain when we had afternoon tea, and the rain settled into the valley like we had settled into our motorhome. Lulled into lazy sleepiness by the sound of rain on the Hymer roof, by late afternoon we accepted the fact that there was always another day to ride. And a forced rest day might have been a blessing in disguise. 24 hours in confined space and we still liked each other; in fact, we had the most relaxing day lounging, reading, writing, editing photos, napping, eating, drinking wine and starting all over again. It was Sunday after all… a perfect Sunday!
It kept raining all night and when it still looked grey and wet the next morning, we sadly decided to move on. It was Monday morning and the weather forecast promised improvement as of Thursday, too long to hang around and wait. A few errands and the morning was gone. Lunch somewhere on the side of a mountain road, it was Passo Gardena, just after Corvara, a little siesta and all of the sudden I spotted a patch of blue in the sky.
Excited I talked Alberto into a ride, a short one, maybe 45-50km, the Sella loop around the Sella group of mountains, the Tour of the Four Passes! I had read about this famous loop, being a popular cyclosportif, which goes over Passo Campolongo, where we had spent two nights, Passo Podoi, which we had ascended from the other side when we returned from the Marmolada, Passo Sella and Passo Gardena, or better known by it’s German name Grödnerjoch, the pass we were parked half way up right at that moment. All four passes are over 2000m.
I didn’t need to beg too much. By the time we were dressed and the bikes were ready, the roads were almost dry. Once we rolled, I couldn’t believe our luck to get to ride one more time in the Dolomites before saying Good Bye to these amazingly beautiful mountains.
My legs felt fresh after being put up all Sunday, I was so keen to ride. Passo Campolongo was our first of the four passes as we decided to do the loop clockwise. The cyclosportif goes around the opposite way but we wanted to climb Passo Pordoi from the Arabba side rather then the same side we had done already.
We passed our camp spot from two nights earlier, down into Arabba – the descend we knew so well from driving down in the mornings – and straight up the Pordoi, which starts pretty much at the roundabout in Arabba.
There were a few Marmottes looking at us, and a herd of cows laying in the grass near the first switchback, regurgitating, but otherwise the roads were quite. For once we didn’t have to share the road with motorbikes.
Four or five kilometers from the Podoi summit, it started drizzling. I didn’t care. I was so happy to be on my bike, feeling so strong and fit and in love with these mountains. It was cold on the Podoi. We hid behind a house wall, out of the wind, and piled on the clothes. It wasn’t just a drizzle now. It was pouring rain. And it was 6C. My rain jacket and over shoes came in handy but still, half way down the descend I started shivering and it was hard to hold onto the handlebars. Fortunately, the Mavic rims are awesome and braking in the wet was not a worry.
My hope was that the Pordoi held the rain and that it would be clear again on the other side of the pass but as we descended it looked like the rain had settled in again. I couldn’t wait to start climbing the Sella Pass because at least the body warmed up when pedalling. At the lowest point, which was also the furthest point from the motorhome, I worried that I had gotten ourselves into a bit of a mess. We were so cold and wet that I feared we would get sick.
Two down, two to go… it didn’t matter which way, it was two passes to overcome each way so we kept going. “No complaints and no whining!” was my mantra, because I wanted this ride.
And then the Sella Pass, my legs carried me up the passes without hesitation. I enjoyed the climbing in the rain and then I spotted some blue amongst the grey sky.
Three passes down, one to go and between the Sella and the Gardena Pass the skies cleared and the Dolomites said Good Bye to us with most spectacular and beautiful views of the mountains. The light and clouds made it all look more dramatic.
The climb up Grödnerjoch was regrettably short and the descend back to our Motorhome was one of the best ever, being able to take the bends and switchbacks wide because there was no other traffic, like racing on closed roads.
Once back “home”, we quickly got dry and warm and took an extra dose of Vitamins and never ever even sneezed. But the memories of this ride will stay with me forever. It wasn’t a very long ride and it may not have been the hardest – four passes sounds more impressive than it is because the entire loop stays above 1500m and each climb is only between 5-10km long with maybe 500-600m of climbing – but the challenging weather and the rugged beauty of the Dolomites made this ride stand out as one to remember forever.