I Loved every minute of the Maratona dles Dolomites

Story by Kath Lyon

Oct / 19 / 2016

4,000m of climbing on 138km with 9,000 participants: the Maratona dles Dolomites stats are impressive. Can I do it? That's the question many cyclists ask themselves. Kath was one of them until she took part in the Maratona Getaway. She tells her story... in her very own way.

The Dolomites hold a strange mix of love and fear for me. The love for their incredibly stunning beauty; their shear enormity, their imposing and rugged faces balanced by their majestic peacefulness and grace, especially as the sun starts to rise or set behind this grand massif.

But the fear comes from being struck by lightning on a via ferrata back in 2008. Mother Nature certainly has some frightening ways to remind us of who is boss, as she throws around her angry thunderstorm with little care for who is in her way. We stopped and regrouped for the first time possible, since she raged around us, on a narrow cliff ledge with only a metal cable fixed into the rock face, hundreds of meters above solid ground. To say that I felt exposed and vulnerable would be a drastic understatement as we decided that this is no place to hide. The race was on to beat the storm and the mountain to a safer heaven and although she struck as down, she did not win completely, but the fear will alway remain.

Do you really think I can make it?

So when I was asked if I wanted to join Grand Tours Project on their Maratona Getaway to do the Maratona dles Dolomites, I had very mixed emotions. But in the end, my decision came down to a rather important question: “do you really think I can make it? I mean, the long course? That's 138km with 4000m of climbing...” “Of course you can” was the reply. So that was that really. Some gentle arm twisting and I was all signed up! Now all that I had to do was get out there on the bike and do some training!

I had done several cycling sportives and races over my limited first year of road biking, but nothing so intensive. I do love a challenge and I thought that if there was any race worthy of pushing my limits, it was certainly the Maratona dles Dolomites. It is the most stunning, picturesque and well-organized race I have ever done, and all on the types of roads that any roadie would dream of riding.

So now the big day had arrived, and my first task was to decide on how many layers to take… How hot will it be? How cold? Will it rain? If it rains, will there be lightning? If there is lightning, will I be safe on my bike? I mean, I am on rubber tires, and there must be people who sit higher on their bikes than me, so I should be safe, right? Or will the start of thunder and lightning be just too much for me…and leave me in a huddled, withering, blathering mess on the side of the road? Or perhaps I will soldier on, brave the storm (literally), feeling that there is safety in numbers?

I never felt safer

The race started at 6am with 9,000 other cyclists, so we were definitely out in number! And although it was busy on the road, we were all happy cycling, all pedalling for the same reason, all having great knowledge of road biking etiquette and all very aware of everyone else. I never felt more safer.

Having your name and country flag on your bib number definitely helps to start a conversation with someone riding your pace. It’s also good for meeting fellow countrymen. From the shout-outs its seems that I met them all… Good old Bruce, Vern, and Michael to name a few. Sure, some people were more chatty than others. And some even a little disgruntled that I was able to keep chatting up the climb, while they struggled to suck in enough oxygen to keep their legs spinning and keep them from falling off their bike.

Above: Early morning on Passo Pordoi

Stunning and unique views on the mighty Passo Giau

The Passo Giau, the monster climb of the long course, did not scare me one bit. In fact, I was looking forward to it…to the challenge...to get into my groove and go. Plus, I do have a bit of a motto: “No stopping on a mountain pass.” So it simply wasn't on option to stop and take a break! It was a tough grind to the top. However, like all the passes we had already climbed that day, we had stunning and unique views, as well as the knowledge that a wonderful descent followed.

And there is no better feeling after a long hard climb than flying down the other side in the switchbacks at speeds up to 70km/ hour with no fear of a car coming the other way!

The wind in your hair…ok, the wind in your helmet, and the feeling of pure exhilaration and freedom in such a descent. This was made all the better by my constantly over taking of others. I guess living in the Swiss Alps and climbing and descending mountain passes as a casual weeknight or weekend ride seems to have paid off on this account.

The Cat Wall

My domestique, Alain Rumpf, did a phenomenal job collecting bananas, reminding me to drink, and making sure I ate at the top of the Giau when that was the last thing I felt like doing. He even managed to make a great film of me on the Mür dl giat (Cat Wall), and was great for general chit chat to make the time fly by. He was quick to realize that my heavy breathing was not a sign that I had over cooked it up an ascent and that I was not about to fall off. He could see that if I was chatting to someone, then I was most definitely ok… And if he couldn't see me for whatever reason, he could most definitely hear me!

I have my super steep backyard training climb to thank for my ability to climb the Cat Wall. Although it was certainly not a doddle, I made it without falling off, without running into anyone else who had fallen off, without jamming gears, and all with a massive smile of my face. We’ll just ignore the heavy breathing and head bobbing that went with it. I was not too proud to start the climb standing. I wanted to make the top riding, so if that meant out of the saddle from the very beginning, so be it. Let's be honest, at about 130km in, with 4000m of climbing already done, these legs needed every little bit of help from the upper body it could take.

I Loved every minute of the Maratona dles Dolomites

Celebrating an amazing day of cycling

What a feeling, coming into Corvara to the finish line, music playing, people cheering, and of course the most overwhelming and emotional feeling knowing that I had done it!

I loved every minute of the ride… all 138km and every 4000m of climbing. I loved the people, I loved the atmosphere. Everyone is there for the same reason, enjoying these stunning mountains. The mood amongst the cyclists is one of utter respect… for each other, for these mountains, for the climbs and descents, and of course for the achievement of finishing, no matter which course, the 55km, 106km or 138km. Everyone was smiling, laughing, and celebrating this amazing day of cycling!

Kath Lyon

Ready to participate in the Maratona dles Dolomites? Join our Maratona Getaway and get a guaranteed entry.

Above: You are never alone on the Maratona

Above: Crossing the finish line (photo: Sportograf)

Above: Celebrating the achievement