Maratona dles Dolomites celebrates 25th anniversary

A landmark edition of the Maratona dles Dolomites took place on 10 July 2011. It’s 25 years since a small group of enthusiasts founded the bike marathon that was to grow into the biggest event of its kind in Italy.

Of slightly less significance to them, but clearly not to us, was the fact that the 2011 race marked the 10th anniversary of Cycling Weekly’s connection with the greatest gran fondo the country offers. In 2001 Pat O’Hare introduced the magazine to the ride and our relationship has grown stronger each year.

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To mark these two anniversaries Cycling Weekly took 300 riders to tackle the superb roads that wind through some of the most incredible scenery in Europe. Our contingent was a fairly even mix of newcomers and those who’d experienced it before.

It is so well organised and so spectacular that it is no surprise that so many of our readers return to enjoy it again and again – despite the fact, of course, that the concept of enjoyment is temporarily suspended at times during the race and undoubtedly replaced by suffering. The mountain passes are truly stunning, but not easy to ride up again and again – the Giau could reasonably be described as a beautiful monster.

Cycling Weekly group, Maratona dles Dolomites 2011

The ‘Cycling Weekly’ group – click to enlarge photo

One of the Cycling Weekly group managed to tame the monster and get the fastest time of any of the British or Irish riders. Simon Rushton of Phoenix Aintree CC in Liverpool did an amazing 5 hours 28 minutes placing him 23rd in his category and 104th overall. Out of 9,000 riders that is some achievement! We have to doff our cycling caps and say, ‘chapeau’ to Simon.

A few facts and statistics may give you some idea of the scale and popularity of the Maratona:

Just under 29,000 applications were received for 9,000 places; 1,350 volunteers dedicated themselves to the 2011 event; 45 nations were represented; women made up 10% of the riders; the whole thing was live on Italian national television; the ride attracts more celebrities than any other gran fondo – not just from the world of cycling and, to finish with a daft one, 6,500 litres of Coca Cola and 300kgs of cheese were consumed on the day!

To read in more detail about the event just type ‘Maratona dles Dolomites’ into the search box at the top right of this page and you’ll be able to read extensively about the ride, including Mike Cotty’s excellent piece.

I’m an evangelist about the Maratona and people often doubt that it can be as good as I’m always saying. Once experienced, however, I suddenly find the doubters are converts and the demand for places just continues to increase. I receive literally hundreds of emails expressing delight at the experience and, whilst it’s impossible to print them all, I’ve included a few below.

If you’re already a convert or find yourself curious then pop an email to to find out how to get a Cycling Weekly entry into this dream sportive.

Look out for Penny Comins’ article in a September issue of Cycling Weekly magazine.

Busy ascent, Maratona dles Dolomites 2011

Big scenery, big group of riders

Simon Rushton, Maratona dles Dolomites 2011

Simon Rushton enjoying his ride to 104th overall. Not bad out of 9,000!

Rider comments
It was a fantastic event, absolutely faultless in all regards. The Dolomites are my favourite mountains in the World and to cycle in the heart of them in this event was a great experience! “Conquering” The Giau and the descent from Valparola will remain with me for a long time.
Richard Meek

I have just had the most exciting ride of my life. There was passion everywhere but not once was I cut up or moaned at though I undoubtedly held back faster riders. The spectators were supportive and the finish lacked only my interview with Ned Boulting. I returned to the hotel clutching my medal like a five-year old after ski school. Thank you CW!
Patrick Walker

I have done many sportives in the UK as well as taking part in the Etape and the Marmotte but the Maratona put all of these to shame. The organisation of the event, the scenery, the ambiance and the sense of camaraderie were unbeatable.
Jean-Pierre Lincoln

This ride really should be a right of passage for all cyclists seeking the high alpine experience. Great route, tough but fair climbing and lots of it, a warm welcome, local support and first-rate feed stations.
Kieran O’Connor

The Maratona weekend was truly magical, in fact it was epic. It does not take long before you are lost for words in describing the scenic beauty that surrounds you, or perhaps even overwhelms you – which is made all the better simply for being on a bike. In a nutshell, you are a mere onlooker in God’s own personal art gallery. Add to this the Italian culture, great food and an abundance of awe-inspiring roads, there is no better way to pack up your troubles in you old kit bag and ride, ride, ride…
Brad Lamb

This was my first Maratona, indeed my first cyclo-sportive. I’m completely hooked. It was an amazing weekend, not just the event itself, but the whole experience in such a stunning location.
Seb Howell

It’s the standout event in the cycling calendar and I’m already looking forward to revisiting in 2012.
Neil Graham

That is the best event that I have ever had the privilege to have ridden.
David Youlton

A million thanks from all of us at Southdown Velo for one of the most enjoyable cycling weeks we have had to date. Without CW none of this would have happened. The event, hotel, organisation and company were all just perfect.
Malcolm Guy

I am still reeling from what a fabulous event/week it was. The weather certainly helped, but somehow I think it would have been a wonderful week whatever the weather. The Italians just do these things so well.
Rupert Maude

This was the first time I have cycled in the Dolomites and have found the whole experience quite spiritual.The climbs may have broken a few hearts and souls as they snaked towards the summit (I witnessed a couple of men reduced to tears) however the Dolomites have definitely seduced me. I was fortunate to get five days cycling including the Maratona, making the most of my stay and will want to return in the near future. The event in itself was beyond my expectations, the goodie bag was such top quality, the jersey and gilet gave you your entry fee back! Once again “thanks CW”. The Dolomites have initiated a new chapter in my cycling.
Andrew Butler

Related links

Maratona dles Dolomites 2010: Team CW’s experience