Bespoke Cycling Tours – Dolomites and Stelvio

A shared journey -?June 2015 ? Bespoke?Cycling Tours Dolomites and Stelvio

Is there a better way to meet new friends than forming a bond over an incredible shared experience? In this case, our group of Le Domestique Bespoke riders met and formed their bond during our June 2014 King of the Mountains Tour de France, subsequently becoming firm friends, with a plan ? to sample the finest climbing that Italy has to offer in luxurious surroundings. After a consultation with the group?s Le Domestique Bespoke Cycling Tours contact, an itinerary was designed and the booking was made in late summer 2014, for an incredible Bespoke Cycling Tour in the Italian Dolomites and Stelvio.


Day 1 – Passo Pinei

Collecting the group from the hotel, we hit the road for Bolzano, the town that is known in the region as the gateway to the Dolomites. Famed for its busy streets and Fiat 500 sized parking spaces, the fun began straight away, but with the bikes having already been built at the rider?s hotel and ample space available in the vehicles for vans and boxes, it was just a matter of a quick change and we were on the road! A gentle warm up ride into the Dolomites turned into a solid afternoon of riding in the mountains, with some steep gradients, tornantes (switchbacks) and descents to remember. The guys definitely enjoyed their first afternoon on the road, ticking off Passo Pinei on route to Santa Christina Val Gardena where we would be based for the next two nights. With the Dolomites now surrounding us, the group enjoyed a cold refreshment before settling into dinner, knowing that the route of the world?s most famous Gran Fondos awaited tomorrow!


Day 2 – Maratona dles Dolomites

The Maratona dles Dolomites needs no introduction. A route that takes in all the icons of the Dolomites in one incredible day, while covering seven classified climbs over 134km with 4500m. Our group had the bonus of riding the complete Passo Gardena climb from Santa Christina to get the day going, instead of riding it as climb no.4 as per the Maratona route. With support from the Le Domestique team coming from a guide rider and support van, today was going to be a day for these guys to remember. The Gardena climb, is very steady, with the road winding up the mountain and onto a plateau where you realise just how insignificant you are against the landscape. Col number one down and with many of the group still in awe of the surroundings ? we hit the descent down into Corvara ? the actual start location of the sportive!

With no time to spare for coffee and cake (well not yet – it would come) it was straight into the Passo Campolongo ascent #1 (the Maratona dles Dolomites route does this climb twice) made all the more tricky by several sections of unsealed road in the process of being relaid, which the group joked was similar to Paris-Roubaix sectors of cobbles. Off the descent it was time for a well-earned coffee and cake, which then saw a stretch of roads weaving through the valley on route to Passo Giau.


This was the climb that rattled a few of the guys and made some realise that they just didn?t quite have the right gearing! 10km at 9.9% generally will do the trick, throw in 29 tornantes and you are in for a real treat! Quoted by all as the most difficult climb of the day ? the summit was a very welcome sight, and in good time as the sky went black and rain started falling heavily! Hot Chocolates, cake and a few cokes consumed it was time to head towards the Passo Falzalrego on route to Passo Valparola.

All kitted up in wet weather gear as the driving rain continued, the group descended down into the forest and the rain ceased! True mountain weather! The Double pass came and was ridden in less than ideal conditions before descending back into the valley on route to Corvara ? it?s times like these and the ones to follow where the benefits of our supported riding service make themselves very well known.

Once in Corvara for the 2nd time, some of the group stopped for a drink, sandwich and a break while Riley carried on with one of the guys. The support Van took the injured Admiral (a slip on the previous descent brought a bad case of road rash) back to the hotel, before coming back out and meeting the group atop Passo Pordoi the penultimate climb of the day with much needed water bottle refills, snacks and moral support! Passo Sella came and went relatively smoothly ? most enjoying the rugged mountainous landscape of the Dolomites before enjoying a long descent back to Santa Christina for a few well-earned drinks!


Day 3 – Passo Stelvio

Up nice and early and with the breakfast room negotiated, it was into the vans for the drive over to the village of Prato (home of the Passo Stelvio western ascent ? the hairpin road widely dubbed as the world?s greatest) quite a bit of apprehension in the van, which quickly turned into the realisation that they were climbing one the Icon?s of the Giro d?Italia and a cycling monument! The Group were quite split, some choosing to pace the climb, while two felt they needed to test the legs and do a Fabio Aru on the rest of the Peloton and drop them out the back!

The Summit appears at hairpin 24 which comes at just under 8km to go: from here on the summit is in view, the gradient remained constant ? but spirits didn?t drop! The final 5km are all marked on the road, with the final km overlooking the wall of hairpins below to enable some spectacular views back down the valley! Five very happy guys conquered the Stelvio! Hot chocolates and paninis for lunch, before rugging up and descending down the switchbacks and tunnels of the Bormio ascent.

For all of the guys a spa and sauna afternoon took greater appeal over another climb, bar one rider ? the single ascent was enough, but for one of the group it wouldn?t have sat right leaving without doing both the ascents. So with Riley in the support van in tow, he set off up the Pass once more. Now this will sound just un-imaginable: but Ed basically had the entire Pass to himself with only a handful of riders on the entire climb!

You couldn?t wipe the smile off his face, and when the final 3km were covered with shallow walls of snow still that smile seemed to stick even more!

A quick espresso at the top and he was on the way down! We managed to get to the final 5km of the entire day without a drop of rain! All in good spirits though considering that the night before we had seen a strong forecast for rain, thunder and high winds!


Day 4 – Passo Mortirolo

The final day would have the group tackling the infamous Passo Mortirolo from Mazzo di Valtellina, with the monument to Marco Pantani standing watch over hairpin 11. Leaving Bormio behind the valley road flew by with long descents and flowing roads leaving one of the group saying that was one of the best descents he?d ever ridden! The Mazzo side of the Pass needs no introduction.

The infamous Lance Armstrong was quoted as saying ?it?s the hardest climb I?ve ever ridden? and with those words in there heads our group set off! No time to enjoy the scenery as they went straight into the opening 12% incline which sets the tone for the duration! Again we had the climb to ourselves until the local cycling club began conducting their annual hill climb challenge?

Not sure we?d be wanting that as our hill climb! The van parked up at various points on the climb where possible, and had AC/DC blaring on the stereo to help keep the guys going and even managed to crack a few smiles through the tough slog! The rain came, but didn?t damage the spirits ? with all but one of the group being very glad that experience was over: an amazing climb, but absolutely brutal at the same time! For one of the guys who didn?t quite have the gearing for the climb, it did some weird things to his head ? he got to the top and then proceeded to say that he?d loved every minute of it, would do all three sides, with each side being done on a different bike! Bob I think you need to have a rethink of that comment!

Descending down into Grosio for one last pizza and Peroni before packing the bikes up and heading back to Milan to fly home! In 4 days the group covered in excess of 280km, 11 Cols, 250 tornante?s and over 10000m ? not a bad long weekend away!


Riley Kamsler ? Senior Guide

If you would like us to design your own Bespoke Cycling Tour in the Italian Alps and Dolomites or indeed anywhere else in the world, please get in touch by emailing laura@


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We wouldn't hesitate in booking through Le Domestique Tours again as we couldn't fault the service we received from yourselves.

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