Andrew, Italy is a wonderful place to ride as it offers so much variety in terrain and rich cycling history for endless inspiration.
October marks a seasonal change and riders head down from the mountains into the rolling lower regions like Tuscany and Prosecco. Events like the eclectic L’Eroica, Granfondo Prosecco or Cinque Terre are perfect rides for this time of the year.
In the summer, I would definitely recommend you head to the towns of Arabba, Merano, and Bormio; to climb the Stelvio, Gavia, Mortirolo, and climbs of the Maratona dles Dolomites. However, the change in seasons means the weather becomes much colder and unpredictable in the mountains, with rain and snow common on most peaks. We were on the Stelvio last September and the temperatures were -4C at the top with plenty of snow. Additionally, the most mountain towns will have closed for business by October, so even in Arabba, you may find your choices of hotels, restaurants and bike shops limited.
Instead of heading into the mountains and Dolomites, Venice puts you in the perfect position to explore the foothills and vineyard regions. Base yourself in Terviso or Conegliano as these are both vibrant towns, with good transport links but surrounded by brilliant riding through rolling hills with the mountains as a backdrop. The town of Valdobbiadene is worth a stay too and is the start town for the Granfondo Prosecco (4th October), a unique granfondo which serves prosecco at every feed station!
Being in the foothills there are options to venture into the edge of the Dolomites, the San Boldo climb is the gateway to the mountains and just short ride down the valley from Valdobibiadene.
Alternatively, a couple of hours transfer south from Venice, and you have access to the regions of Tuscany and Emilia Romagna. Temperatures can still reach 20C and the smell of the local wood fires is wonderful. In Tuscany, head to the towns of Lucca or Florence. both have so much character and huge cycling cultures. You won’t have trouble finding stunning routes here, as well as challenging climbs such as the San Baronto. Many pros use this area as their preferred training ground. The World Champs was held in Florence in 2013. Right on the coast, Cesenatico, in Emilia Romagna, was home to Marco Pantani and also the start of the Granfondo Nove Colli - the course should still be rideable and it’s ‘nine hills’ make for a really testing day in the saddle. Great if you are looking for more vertical challenges.
Finally, if you are heading to the Lakes, go in time of the Giro di Lombardia on the 4th October. Known as the ride of the falling leaves, this traditionally one of the last races of the professional racing calendar. It’s a fantastic race to watch and the climbs of the area are a pilgrimage for many a serious cyclist; quite literally as the Giro always goes past the iconic Madonna di Ghisallo - the chapel of the patron saint to cycling. Base yourself in Bellagio for the best access to the famous climbs of the Lakes: Muro di Sormano and Ghisallo. There are many, many for fantastic miles to be ridden around the Lakes so you can’t go wrong where ever you base yourself in the area. We take a trip to the Giro di Lombardia every year, so keep an eye on our website for details.
Get in touch with us if you want to discuss potential routes more.
Wei-Ho - Operations Manager, La Fuga Travel
If you have a good number of long rides under your belt, including an Alps trip, you will be perfectly prepared to tackle the Dolomites. The Maratona dles Dolomites is one of the most majestic granfondos, and anyone partaking for the first time will, no doubt, be blown-away by the incredible mountain panoramas. Although the physical requirements for taking on the Maratona will not differ too much from an Alpine sportive, the mountains can feel a little bit more intimidating in the Dolomites. The mountains are packed closer together and have characteristically steep sides. You ride closer to the mountains faces here, closer to their peaks, you feel you are tip-toeing around a sleeping giant. On the day of the race, soak in the grandeur, enjoy the views but keep one eye on your speed or heart rate. Too often you can just be sucked along by a peloton, distracted by the views and end up going too fast, too soon. Consistency is king in endurance racing.
The Alps, by comparison, are a vast mountain range, with a more open feel. The climbs themselves are longer and more consistent in gradient. The Dolomites, force the roads to be less lengthy and have a few sharper kicks. Be prepared for some short bursts of powerful climbing to get over the steeper sections. Try some steeper hill repeats to acclimatise the legs in training and get used to being able to change your efforts and cadence to suit a changing gradient climb. Thankfully the roads of the Maratona are impeccable smooth, whereas the Alps generally suffer a rougher surface. So you can look forward to some really rewarding descending for your uphill efforts.
Otherwise, standard mountain sportive preparation applies. A compact chainset and a larger ratio cassette are advised. Make sure your fit position on the bike is correct, bike is in top condition mechanically, set your goal for the race and you have a corresponding training plan to stick to.
A final preparation point may be to find out as much as you can about the Maratona course before you ride it. Knowledge is power. Knowing where and how to apply your efforts or save your energy could be make all the difference.
Good luck and most of all enjoy!