Alpine evocation — cycling the Dolomites
Hatched innocently by Will and meticulously scripted by means of several thousand WhatsApp messages between his collaborators, the plan was to get to ‘il Dolomiti’ in the most fiscally sensitive way possible.
Six drove, their bikes clinging perilously to the rear of the vehicle bequeathed to them by the hand of Hawksworth, as if to tempt poor reaction times from the motorists behind. Three took to the skies, refusing to entertain the suggestion that a 24 hour road trip in each direction would be at all fun.
Our intrepid patrons of EasyJet were at least partially vindicated. While they sat peacefully at an altitude of 41,000ft, the assumed leader of our faux-pro band of psychologically addicted cyclists was continually fetching up the previous meal of his, at the time, sorry existence. Nothing imbibed went un-spewed. No calories brought aboard were not sent forth with twice the velocity and only half the constitution.
All made it to their destination. Badia, Italy — the heart of the Dolomites.
Alta Badia is a ski resort. Waking to heavily snow capped peaks and widespread power cuts, it was clear that the area wanted us to become acquainted with its true personality. Despite our ideas to the contrary, the mountains beckoned us forth and an uneasy friendship was struck.
Pordoi with its innumerable switchbacks. Sella, its lofty crest exposed to the elements on all sides. The steep and unrelenting Giau. Falzarego and Valparola, twin summits with nothing shorter than an hour of climbing on every side. Campolongo, the stumpy gatekeeper of its unruly band of jagged brothers.
This was not social riding. Up, down, up, down ad infinitum. Regrouping at the summit and base of each pass, the days were tough — the famous Maratona dles Dolomites route especially. 140km of incessant climbing under a hot sun that had long since melted the white caps of our arrival.
There were no rest days to be enjoyed. No “coffee rides” to be savoured. Even the easiest day included an almost vertical jaunt up to the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, perhaps the best known rock formation in all of Italy and certainly one of the highlights of the Alps at large.
The Most Beautiful Buildings in the World
Cycling in the Dolomites is about spectacle. In many ways it’s cycling in its purest form. The mountain and its rider — glimpses of the most dramatic landscapes in Europe stolen only for a moment as you grit your teeth on the ascent, and you fight to keep it rubber side down on the descent.
It’s a visceral experience forged by geography. The morning mist of the mountainside rising visibly upwards in a dense cloud, carrying with it a jagged Pale Mountain.
The French-Swiss architect, Le Corbusier, described them as the most beautiful buildings in the world. And in a sense his assertion was correct — like the art at the forefront of world architecture, the mountains of the Dolomites evoke their own individual emotions, dominating everything around them and defining how we feel about the space between them.