Destined for Dolomites
SRAM ambassador Anja Kallenbach is lured again and again to the mountains. Her rides and storytelling blend inspiring scenery and exhilarating descents with the freezing rain and hunger that comes with cycling over massively rugged terrain. Here is her latest dispatch, from the Italian Dolomites:
Let me take you to my little paradise, the most beautiful cycling place in the world—the Dolomites of northeastern Italy. Of course, you need to like the high mountains. There are not many places where you can find so many mountains so close to one another in such stunning landscape. I go there at least once a year and on the route I’m riding this time I’ve journeyed over 10 times. But every time is still special and I am absolutely amazed with all this beauty. (Download the GPS file of my route here.)
You can climb seven mountains over 131km and 4,150m of elevation gain: Sella, Passo Fedaia, Colle St. Lucia, Passo Giau, Passo Falzarego, Passo Valparola, and Grödnerjoch. I started my day with the Sella. If you start the first kilometers with your car, you can find free parking at Plan de Gralba. The Sella is gorgeous with beautiful scenery and easy first kilometers. The descent is enjoyable with smooth switchbacks. I just can´t get enough of those curves riding my Focus Cayo with SRAM HRD brakes. Here you can take every advantage of this combination, braking late and keeping your speed, control… and, of course, your smile!
The Fedaia is on this side also with a stunning lake on top. But you can see on the downhill, from the other side, this is a real monster. If you don´t have disc brakes, be extremely careful on the descent on those steep ramps. I used my disc-brakes to set my top speed personal record: 110km/h!
After the Fedaia there is a section of ups and downs. As always, I get a little “sad” thinking that today I am not strong enough. This is due to the respect I have for the king of the Dolomites: the Giau! But before getting there you have a little climb up to Santa Lucia, a nice little village. At the church you’ll find a fountain and, like in all Italian villages, you can drink the water.
After a short downhill to recover, you turn left and suddenly you get to the first ramp of the Giau. It starts without mercy. You might think, this can’t go on like this, but it does! The Giau is just 11km long but never under 10 percent gradients. Forget about L’Alpe d´Huez, the real mountains are in Italy. On every corner, there is a sign counting down the remaining corners. But when you exit the tunnel you will forget about the signs because there you can see the mountain peaks surrounding you in every direction. It is so beautiful you forget about pain and everything.
The last kilometers here come even too fast. Then, at the top, you should not forget to stop because the sandwiches here have no comparison. Special ham from South Tirol with melted mountain cheese in a very special piece of bread with lots of herbs inside! Enjoy the downhill, but be careful, there are a lot of turns and there are often a lot of little stones on the road.
Then you ride toward the Falzarego. Not really my best friend, as they are long very flat roads in the forest. But the last two kilometers are very nice. Then you turn right at the top to climb the Valparola, a last steep part (just 2km). On its flat top part you feel like you are on the moon! You have a gray stone desert on both sides of the road. That day gray clouds appeared to hide the sun and a strong fall wind picked up. This was a huge battlefield between Austria and Italy in World War II.
I wore all my jackets and started a race against the rainy clouds, thinking they would not catch me... Unfortunately on the Grödnerjoch, they did. I was frozen. That seems to be “normal” this summer. At this point you also start to have heavy legs and this time my “morale was really in the socks” (I “feel down in the dumps”, like they say in France.) You can see the top from far away but feel you’ll never get there...
I had to stop again to eat something because I was a bit dizzy. Then I got back on my bike and just would not stop keeping my legs turning. I was so happy to reach the houses on the top. I left the sunset behind and hurried to get to the car as the darkness started to cover me.
If you ever are nearby don´t miss the Dolomites, you will love them and remember them forever.
You can watch the video of this great day here. If you want to know more about me and my journeys on my bike or you need some gearing or touring advises, you can contact me on my homepage, www.anja-kallenbach.com, or follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.