4,000 Cyclists Tackle Sportful Dolomiti Gran Fondo
An Italian Gran Fondo is an altogether different event to a U.S. Gran Fondo or U.K. Sportive – the ratio of shaved legs on show is testament to that.
The event started life as the Gran Fondo Campagnolo (before Italian clothing brand Sportful, based closed to the start in Feltre, took over sponsorship) , prompting the organisers to return to the original routes devised in 1995 and which helped it earn its reputation as one of the toughest sportives in the world.
An Italian gran fondo is an altogether different event to a U.S. Gran Fondo or U.K. Sportive – the ratio of shaved legs on show is testament to that. It is, in effect, an amateur race, at least at the front of the field. Gran fondo teams have a dedicated leader, with domestiques ready to sacrifice themselves in support of a united cause, and team cars and helpers at the roadside ready to hand-up food and bottles. The ‘race’ is effectively ridden at a pace which wouldn’t be out of place in the professional peloton. These guys are good!
Legend has it that while racing in 1927, Tullio Campagnolo came up with the idea of the quick-release lever, one of cycling most celebrated inventions. The moment of inspiration came about while Tullio was leading the amateur race Gran Premio della Vittoria. He was riding over the now famous Croce D’Aune Pass when he needed to change his rear wheel but was unable to do so and this cost him the race but cycling gained a revolutionary invention.
The Granfondo Sportful Dolomiti pays tribute to Tullio Campagnolo by taking amateur riders on a course that test their strength and determination. With four Dolomiti passes, over 200km of riding and 4,569m of climbing the event has been labelled as the hardest ride in Europe. Regardless of the choice of either the , all routes feature the last climb to Croce D’Aune as way of paying homage to Tullio Campagnolo.
Enter the Sportful Dolomiti next year and stack up your climbing CV with some of the hardest passes in Europe of which two have featured in the Giro d’Italia: Croce d’Aune (in 2009) and Passo Manghen (in 2008 and 2012).
Fastest Gran Fondo Rider: Italian Stefano Cecchini, ASD La Bagarre-Cliclista Lucchese, 6h 31m 54s
Fastest Medio Fondo Rider: Italian Luigi Salimbeni, Ciclo Team, San Ginese, 4h 4m 59s
2016 Gran Fondo Sportful Dolomiti Results - https://www.mysdam.net/events/event/results-v6_31582.do
So after seeing what the Italian events are like, how do they compare?
For sheer difficulty it is hard to surpass the Gran Fondo Marmotte, mostly because Alpe d’Huez after 160km in 35 degree heat (as it often is!) is seriously tough, but the Passo Manghen is tougher than any single climb at the Gran Fondo Marmotte and the level of riding is similar, if not higher. The level that teams and individuals go to in the Gran Fondo Dolomiti Race is certainly higher than the Gran Fondo Marmotte for example.
For those looking for the ultimate European Gran Fondo/Sportive personal challenge, head to the Gran Fondo Marmotte, but for those who want something more intense, more of a race and something intangible that makes racing a Gran Fondo in Italy special, then the Gran Fondo Sportful Dolomiti race is one to do.