Riding the HERO Südtirol Dolomites
The scale. The challenge. The passion, performance and pain. The celebration. This is a special event.
It begins at sunrise. The hotel breakfast room is filled with riders, from all over the globe; a nervous silence hangs in the air.
As the light rises over the peaks of Sella group, the streets of Val Gardena fill with the noise of clicking freewheels, and the sound of last minute chatter. 4000 riders, from Elites to amateurs, take up their places on the starting grid. Everyone hoping to be a HERO.
With a roar of music, smoke and cheering, the race starts. The frantic scramble to find position on the first climb. The racing heartbeat. The little voice in the back of your head; which tells you this is only the first of four major climbs today; don't burn all of your matches...
Summit. Descent; first on gravel access roads, then onto technical single-track. A twisting conga line of riders, weaving their way down into the Corvara valley. Screeching brakes, mud, crashes. Take the safest line, not the fastest.
The second climb, Pralongià. Road quickly turns to gravel; the field is strung out now. I'm forced to push hard; harder than I should, perhaps; I'm wishing I had a bigger cassette than my UK-orientated gear set-up. Grinding.
Descent into Arabba. Fast, technical, rocky. Grab a handful of energy bars at the bottom; must keep the fuel levels up; still a long way to go.
The mammoth. The ascent to Sourassas begins... Hauté Categorie: 1000 metres vertical, 10 percent average gradient, 1 hour of solid climbing. I'm glad I'm not the only one that has to walk the 1:4 sections!
Technical single-track descent; first to the Passo Pordoi road; then down, down, down to Canazei. Rock gardens: riders go flying through the air, I skid down sections on my ass.
Into the Val Duron climb. Clinging to wheels. Pushing big (my smallest) gears. Hailstorm... refreshing?
Fast downhill, then into the final climb. Empty the tank...
Descend like a stone towards Val Gardena. Wet rocks, roots and gravel. Puncture... but it *just* seals on the Stan's.
Final 5km. Sprint; fight back the cramp; grit your teeth and hold on.
Finish. Elation. Celebration. Beer. 9th in Elite Sport Category (1st non-Italian), 89th Overall (1st British male).
Collapse onto a bench, and watch some of the remaining 4000 riders come in; they are all grinning, because, they are all HEROES. What an event!
|5:30am - Television helicopter circles Val Gardena. The calm ahead of the storm.|
|Everyone wants to be a HERO today|
|Ready to race! (Photo: Freddy Planinschek)|
|The starting gun is fired. 6 or more hours of pain await...|
|The first climb up to Dantercepies strung out the field|
|Gradients. Gravel. Grinding.|
|Elite men and women from all over the globe came to race in the stunning UNESCO World Heritage site (Photo: Freddy Planinschek)|
|An incredible event, in an incredible setting|
|Every rider in this race, is a HERO|
|Finished. What a race!|
|These legs have done some climbing this week!|
|9th in Elite Sports Category. 89th Overall. 1st Male Brit.|
|An incredible day, I would recommend anyone to put the HERO Südtirol Dolomites on their bucket list!|