The Dolomites are a cyclist’s playground – rugged peaks, legendary climbs and blessedly car-free roads. All you need is for the weather to be kind…
The bitter, verging on burnt, taste of a proper Italian espresso tingles on my tongue and I decide that I could quite happily stay here all day. As the dark liquid descends to my stomach and begins to thaw me from the inside out, I turn my attention to the hot chocolate that I’ve also ordered. This is even better, because the cup is big enough to cradle in my palms and warm fingers so stiff with cold that five minutes ago they were struggling to pull my brake levers as we hurtled headlong towards hairpins.
To be fair, a lack of braking ability wasn’t my only problem. I was shivering so badly on the descent that my arms were shaking almost uncontrollably and this in turn was being transmitted through the drops of the handlebars and threatening to wobble the front wheel out from under me.
I take a sip of the sweet, thick hot chocolate and once more luxuriate in the warming shudder that spreads through my upper body. There’s not a bit of me or my clothing that isn’t soaked from the sleet we’ve just cycled through, but with the help of this haven of wooden benches and radiators I’m gradually starting to feel more human.
Looking across the table, my ride mates, Phil and Jason, also seem to be emerging, slowly, from their hypothermic trances and we all crack smiles as plates of something toasted with melted cheese arrive.
Comfort food. It’s at this point that photographer Paul puts down his camera and, looking quite earnestly for some sympathy, complains that as he got out of the car earlier (extricating himself momentarily from the Skoda’s heated seat and snugly climate-controlled interior) he stepped in a shallow puddle and has a slightly soggy sock.
How we got there
British Airways can get you from Sydney to Innsbruck across the border in Austria. From there it’s less than a two-hour drive to Alta Badia, where we stayed.
We stayed in the excellent three-star Melodia del Bosco, which caters specifically for cyclists. As well as the bike store and workshop they can give you map and GPS data of specific routes. They also offer a laundry service for cycling gear (just in case you are unlucky enough to get weather like we had). This year there will be two Sella Ronda Bike days on 23 June and 15 September, when the four passes around the Sella Massif are closed to traffic.
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