CCC Dolomites in five words explained
The Giro will never be as mediatised as the Tour, but of all the mountains steeped in race history, the Dolomites can surely lay claim to offering the best of them all : for sheer beauty and road design drama, they are untouchable. Like the best Italian clothing or shoe brands, they just ooze class and perfection. Despite being over-visited, Passo Gardena still brings a smile to my face each time I am lucky enough to cross it. And there are so many more that do the same. The scenery through which the roads curve their way timidly create an atmosphere that I often imagine would be that of a royal court, such is the power and grandeur of the landscape.
This is the factor that causes the most problems for CCC riders. The regular double-digit gradients ( 10% signs actually become quite welcome after a few stages of this event !). When the roads hit more than 12%, there is nowhere to hide. You need your knees, your core and your determination to be as solid as the rock around you ! But at the same time, this is what makes this event so demanding and so rewarding. You get out what you put in, and you have to give a lot on these roads !
On Stage 3 the first sighting of those legendary rocky skylines sets the scene for three days of rolling through rock like nowhere else. Majestic columns reach towards the sky, as if untouched by gravity. No surprise that so many tourists visit this area. These mountains attract dozens of coaches every day. Descents can sometimes be more a test patience than bike-handling skills ! But this is all part of the experience of this living exhibition of natural art. Stage 4 ends with possibly the most dramatic rock arena of them all : Tre Cime di Lavaredo. Thanks both to a toll gate to discourage vehicles, and the length of our stage, CCC riders are usually alone by the time they get to climb their way up this wonderfully tough piece of road. Very special.
Some pass on the CCC Dolomites, saying that it’s too noisy, the weather can be too harsh, or that the roads are too steep. I have never had an easy time running this event and always draw a deep breathe of relief when I arrive back safely with ‘my’ riders at our hotel I love so much in San Pellegrino Terme. Yes, the Dolomites can be « too » all sorts of things ! They don’t leave you alone. It’s like opera : full of extreme highs & lows, loud at times then so poignant at others. The people too are so generous, kind and expressive. If you are not ready it can be all too much. If you are, then it’s a party every day!
The first year I ran this event, one of our cars almost slid off the road on sheet ice as the driver went ahead to see if we could get over….We couldn’t. That was the only time since then that we had to change our route, but each time I have been nervous about this one because, for me, it towers above all other climbs here, even above the Stelvio, in terms of wilderness : you feel lucky to be accepted there – you can see that at times it is somewhere you would NOT want to be. The road itself is so well designed. Yes it’s a tough one, whichever side you choose, but the progression of the landscape, from remote rural to intimidating isolation is an experience I revel in every time !