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Maratona 2016

Sunday 2 July, 2017

My love of the Maratona started when my husband Dermot did it in 2015, and I was jealous of the 'free' Castelli kit and the huge medal he got. I had to do it. It's the most beautiful closed-road sportive in the Dolomites. 9000 people riding up or down mountains (there is NO flat) with stunning scenery and Italian crazy hospitality. You start at 6am, set off by cannons fired from helicopters in the sky.

There are three routes
- Sellaronda: 55km, 1780m climbing
- Middle: 106km, 3130m climbing
- Maratona: 1138km, 4230m climbing

There are time cut-offs you have to reach to be able to do the middle and long routes whilst the roads are still closed. When you finish, as well as the medal, you get offered a hat or 10 euros! Some of the stops have espresso, and there are people with huge cowbells and old alpine horns cheering you on at the top of the mountains. Bonkers!

First time round

In 2016, Dermot dragged me round the short course, just three months after finishing radiotherapy. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done, as you can't really train for mountain climbs in Suffolk, and I had done very little training for the lsat 6 months, as I was banned from riding for 3 months after my mastectomy and reconstruction, and was exhausted after radiotherapy. It took us a long time, but I loved it - especially descending without worrying about cars coming the other way. I wanted to go back for more, and see if I could make the cut-off for the middle course.

How to sell it to my coach…

I am very very good at getting excited about future challenges and signing up for lots of things and then realising that I am never going to be fit enough to train for them all. Add in the fact that I was starting to go back work just three months before, and I was planning to do a half-ironman two weeks before, there were a few concerns. But by resting really well, and having no plan for the Maratona - just get round and enjoy myself, I was ready

All you need is love

Each year the Maratona has a theme, and this year it was love. The kit was gorgeous - you get a Castelli jersey and a thick gilet when you sign up, and of course I had to get the matching bib shorts and socks and mug…. This meant Dermot had to buy them as well so we can do the matchy-matchy thing on the tandem.

Pre-ride secret cycling route

Dermot had seen a route advertised in a cycling mag about a gorgeous path upon through woodland near where we were staying that no-one knew about, so we had to try it. And it was beautiful - hilly, rolling, deserted through woodland and farmland - the perfect warm-up for the big day.


Maratona Day!

4am start to try to choke down some breakfast (I am a horrible person to know on the morning of any race - grumpy, not hungry and generally a delight to be around) before setting off to the start. Dermot was going to do the middle course, and my aim was to make the time cut-off for the middle course. Bradley Wiggins had been flown in to do the race, but sadly he gave a terrible interview before we started - he sounded as grumpy as I was! And then the helicopters came and the cannons fired and we were off….


I really enjoyed this ride, as I knew the climbs, and was much more confident descending. However it was much colder than last year, and my hands had frozen coming down the mountains. Please can someone invent some summer short-fingered cycling gloves that have a flip-top mitten bit to keep your fingers warm when flying down the hills!



Lots of selfies (to give me a breather every now and then), and I had made it well within the cut-off time (in 4:14) . Here's my Strava file .I did briefly think about carrying on, but sensibly decided to stay and get warm. I then had 2 hours to wait for Dermot to finish his ride - and with only 20% battery left on my phone, it was the worst part of the day! I busied myself eating the hot food at the finish, and the men with cowbells had come down from the mountains to deafen us whilst we ate.


The it was back to the apartment for some R and R in the sunshine. If you want a truly stunning mountain ride, with free kit and prosecco too, you really must try the Maratona.

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