The Giro d'Italia has often let its riders play their games in the mountains of Northern Italy. The Dolomites mountain range, found just north of Venice has seen some of the greatest battles and for 2012, the race organisers are planning more of the same. Stage 17 of the 2012 route sees the circus move over the Passo Valprola and the Passo Giau, the same climbs as those found on the fabled Maratona Dles Dolomites.
The Maratona is held in such high regard in Italy that it could be classed as Italy's national sportive. The event's route doesn't change year on year as per the Etape, as the three routes around the Dolomites have proven to be a winning formula, attracting riders from all over Europe. In fact, we've ridden the event a few times, consistently going back to the region because of its infectious enthusiasm for cycling culture and the tasty mix of Austrian-Italian cuisine. We can certainly recommend an early morning leg spin followed by a coffee and slice of apple strudel!
Even Rapha used the back drop of the Dolomites to shoot their Autumn / Winter range back 2010.
The summer sun in Italy is strong but up in the mountains the temperatures are a few degrees lower and much friendlier to the riders that converge on Covara, the starting point of the race. The event itself is superbly organised. The organisers include small details which add up to a great experience. For instance, at the top of each of the climb you'll receive a text letting you know you overall place, how you're faring in your category, and your climbing times. Within hours of the event finishing the organisers invite you to tap in your rider number on their site and watch yourself cross various check points along the mountains. It's not quite like being a pro but there's something very satisfying in being able to watch yourself climbing the very mountains climbed by the legends of cycling. Some of those legends actually participate in the Maratona as last year's celebrity riders included Mario Cipollini and former pro British rider Jamie Burrows.
It is the time of the year when we all begin to plot our next challenge so we can dine off the stories from the ride at café stops and pub lunches for a year or so after. We can certainly recommend the Maratona as the perfect Italian sportive for those stories.
Entry is limited for the event and the lottery has already taken place for 2012's race. However, Love Velo provide an excellent experience and one of the recommended tour operators for the event, have just a few spaces left on their Maratona experience. They can guarantee entry so if you like the sound of the ride, check out Love Velo.