I spent my last days of the summer organizing this short holiday for me and my parent. Places like Auronzo di Cadore, the Three Peaks of Lavaredo and Villabassa are names that attract the attention of many cyclists. In these places, the MTB marathon world championship was held (from the 14th to the 16th of September). The Dolomites are also loved by road cyclists. In fact I wanted to do a bike ride that also include the iconic road climb to the Tre Cime of Lavaredo. I planned this two days bike tour following the beautiful cycling routes and mountain paths in order to avoid as much as possible the car traffic that in August is always high.
This bike tour is a loop that starts and finishes at Auronzo di Cadore (BL). Maybe the long distance enthusiasts could complete this trip in only one day but they will lose the pleasure of enjoying the mountain and lake views. I decided to prepare this trip checking the weather forecast during the days before the start date in order to watch the Dolomite mountains at their best and avoiding to many clothes and weight with me.
The equipment and the clothing were minimal, because I planned to sleep in a hotel where they had everything necessary to sleep and shower. On my bike in the compact frame bag I carried the necessary rain jacket , battery pack and charging cables, arm warmers, spare socks, two gels, a casual short. Under the bike saddle a tool pack with two spare tubes and some bike tools. On my shoulders a very light backpack with the compact camera, long-sleeved shirt, swimming pool slippers and the hygiene products that wouldn’t be at the hotel. On my handlebar the smartphone that I used as second camera, video camera and navigation.
In this trip I pedaled alone, the only exeption was for the tarmac session from the Misurina Lake to the “Rifugio Auronzo” on the Three Peaks, where my father came with me with his road bike doing the hard climb and the descent with me. I was never really alone because along the cycling route I found many gentle cyclists and walkers that took pictures along the way.
The trip began at 8:30 am from the cycle path of Auronzo di Cadore in front of the Juventus Hotel. From the shores of the Santa Caterina lake, the highest point of this first day trip was visible on the horizon. The “Rifugio Auronzo” on the “Tre Cime di Lavaredo” mountains at 2.333 meters of elevation.
The weather is on my side, so the choice to mount WTB Byway 650bx47 tires was correct. The first part of the route is on a perfectly maintained gravel cycling path that passes through the calm of the woods following the Ansiei stream.
The stretch from Auronzo to Palùs San Marco (about 15 km) is easy, with no particular slopes. In this stretch I was able to pedal head down with the higher gear appreciating the Exploro efficiency
After passing the forest of Somadida the route begins to rise with more slope, also at 15%, up to the “pearl of the Dolomiti”, Misurina, with is beautiful lake at 1756 meters of height over the sea level.
After catching a breath on the flat asphalt road around the Misurina Lake I then climbed the legendary tarmac road that brings you up to the “Rifugio Auronzo”.
This tarmac climb is the myth of the road cyclists faced by the pro cyclists of the “Giro d’Italia” for the first time in 1967 and last time in 2013 with the triumph of the Italian cyclist Vincenzo Nibali in the middle of a snow storm.
During the climb I was surprised by the bike capabilities on tarmac. Considering the wider tire and the travel equipment that I was carrying with me, I was not slower of the other cyclists that were climbing with road bikes, included my father that pedaled with me on this asphalt road part of my trip.
After taking some pictures and talking with some interested road cyclists about my bike and my gear choice I started the descent to come back to Misurina Lake where I had lunch.
I came back again on the gravel surface reaching the Landro Lake where the rain found me and followed me till the next Dobbiaco Lake. The sun came out again fortunately, drying the next gravel climb closer to the Baraci mount. It was a short but steep climb where I suggest to use a bit more agile gearing configuration than my 44T front chainring paired with an 11-42 cassette.
My first day route ended at Villabassa after a tarmac session that touched the nice village of San Candido-Innichen and Dobbiaco-Toblach.
Day 2 Villabassa (BZ) to Auronzo di Cadore(BL) – Distance: 93km, uphill: +1.230m
The morning of this second day started with a light fog but the weather forecast was for a sunny day. Lefted Villabassa cycling on the nice tarmac cycling path after few kilometres, I was in the forest warmed up by the sun that quickly came out.
The peak of this second day was the mountain retreat Prato Piazza at 2.000 metres of altitude reached after a mix of a short gravel forest path climb and a panoramic tarmac climb were I was passed only by a bus and a couple of cars along the way.
On the top the view was stunning. I found myself surrounded by that large natural lawn framed by the rocks of the mountains.
The descending in the Carbonin direction presented some rocks and large size gravel and in this summer period I found some hikers so I descended with caution and safely thanks to the big volume tires and the efficiency of the hydraulic disc brake.
The next part was on the gravel cycling path that brings you to Cortina d’Ampezzo. It was all downhill on perfect fine gravel surface. The big semi-slick tyres and the frame really gave me the advantage to pedal at sustained speed with little effort.
The only things that slowered my ride were the traffic of other mountain bike riders and the stops for taking pictures. Stopping myself to check the route and watching the small Negro lake I surprisingly saw some bear footprints through the clear water of the bottom of the lake.
The end of the second day trip was on the last 40km of the Dolimiti tarmac cycling path traveling downhill in dry condition exept for a “classic” short light rain at the end of this memorable first Exploro cycle trip.
Location: Italy – Dolomites
Stages : 2
Distance: 178 km
Ascent: 3.230 m+
Best time to go: Late spring or summer in order to travel with light clothes enjoying the climbs with less weight to carry. Consider that in May-June the Giro d’Italia often passes next to this mountain, so it could be also an occasion to see a Giro stage
Terrain: perfect gravel roads, tarmac. Only some rocky descent stretches down by the Rifugio Prato Piazza.
Weather: If you ride in summer, it means arm warmers in the morning and evening, and shorts during the day, perfect temperatures for cycling and to keep the load of your bikepacking packs light. At altitude the climate is alpine, it can change quickly expecially in spring.
Tires: I used WTB BYWAY on 650b rims, perfect solution for the gravel and tarmac surface of this trip expecially in dry condition.
Gearing: double figure climbs (tarmac and gravel surface). Maybe a gear configuration with a 38T or 40T chainring in the front and a 10-42T cassette is the best option.
Don’t forget: light rain jacket for the eventual summer rain event and also for the tarmac descents.
No problem for the water supply. You can find a lot of fountains along the route and also restaurants and bars were you can eat delicious food.
Hotels: You have a lot of choice but book in advance expecially in the summer period or during special events.
Enjoy the rest of the PHOTO gallery here: