With the route for the giro d'italia having been announced a week ago, I've been looking at the interesting stages of the 3 week race in May. A number of famous climbs have been included along the way - passo di Gavia, passo Motirolo, Monte Zoncolan, Monte Grappa, Plan de Corones etc.
I have done a few trips to the Dolomites and have ridden one of the most famous passes - the Passo dello Stelvio, but it's been a while since I was there to do anything really classic.
So, for next year I would like to do one or two of the high profile Gran Fondos. Looking at the calendar there's alot to choose from. Right now registration is open for the Maratona dles Dolomiti and also the Nove Colli - two of the biggest events. But then there's also the Felice Gimondi, the Gran Fondo Pinarello, the Marco Pantani, the Campagnolo, the Colnago etc. So much to choose from. Most of these events include well known mountain passes in the routes. It would be easy to just take off to Italy during the Giro and ride up to the Zoncolan or the Passo di Gavia the day before the pros pass through. But really, riding through the Dolomites in May isn't exactly tropical. Remember that famous stage on the Passo di Gavia in 1988, where many of the riders completed the stage practically in a hyperthermic state? Even in recent years we've seen pictures of riders gingerly attempting descents in the snow!
The pros get paid to risk life and limb doing this sort of thing. I don't!
So realistically, if I wanted to get a taste of some Giro d'Italia action while getting the chance to follow the same route as the pros, it looks like the event of choice would be the Nove Colli, which happens to be celebrating it's 40th anniversary this year, so there'll be additional fanfare.
The route will go in and around Cesenatico in the Emilia Romagna area. Although there are no classic climbs, this is still a very lumpy area to ride - well, there are at least 9 hills!
To get a taste of the classical climbs I could do the Maratona dles Dolomiti, which takes place in early July. There is also the Giro dles Dolomiti, which takes place over a one-week period in early August and is based in Bolzano. By doing those two events you get to ride the Passo Pordoi, Passo di Giau, Falzarego, Plan di Corones and the Stelvio.
If doing the Gran Fondo Marco Pantani you will also get to ride the Mortirolo and the Gavia.
So there's quite a choice of places and events to ride in Italy. I've only mentioned the Dolomites and Emilio Romagna, but there is of course, the Veneto area (Treviso, Verona, Venice). Remember that the Giro will finish in Verona this year, and the stage will take in an interesting hill climb up the Torricelli, a steep road that leads up out of the city. (There is an amateur version of this race in the late summer.) That could be a good excuse to head to Verona in late May. There's also Tuscany, Liguria, the Appenines and of course the islands of Sardinia and Sicily - all of them with significantly (in)famous climbs, Gran Fondo events, and beautiful scenery to be sampled. I haven't registered for anything yet - I will need to get my skates on for the Maratona, and also get organised for the Nove Colli. Not sure exactly which events I will do but I have a feeling that 2010 will be about Italy.