The #5MaratonasChallenge Sommario

The idea of riding the five historic Maratona dles Dolomites routes, over five consecutive days, evolved from a desire to discover and celebrate what this unique mountain range has to offer.

Printed on a set of route cards, provided by, the five routes of this classic Grand Fondo would take me on new roads, and to new heights. It would also provide a challenge that would push bike, body and mind beyond previous limits.

This is my #5MaratonasChallenge Sommario - a résumé of the challenge. The greatest memories; the hardest moments; my favourite kit; and the lessons learned.

The Final Statistics

  • 5 rides
  • 42 hours riding time
  • 873 kilometres ridden
  • 28,300 metres elevation climbed

7 Days in the Dolomites (including the warm-up and #WildCardDolomitiRide)

  • 7 rides
  • 55 hours riding time
  • 1,073 kilometres ridden
  • 36,500 metres elevation climbed

The Lasting Memory

It is hard to think of one defining moment or memory, from the five long days in the saddle.

If I could narrow it down to one particular feeling though, it would be the moment when you sight the 2km to go sign, near the top of a mountain pass.

The final moments of every climb are a show reel of emotions. Your mind looks back on the preceding kilometre markers: the challenging gradients and changing landscape; coupled with a feeling of euphoria and relief.

Those final few moments of heavy breathing; before you stop, take a photo, and throw on a jacket. Then, descend to the valley below, ready for the next climb.

The Hardest Day - 1988-89 (Day 2)

The second day of the challenge was undoubtedly the hardest for me. The weather forecasters had long warned conditions would be difficult on this day; but the route, and my mind-set, made it even more of a challenge.

The darkest moment was climbing the Passo Fedaia. With over 100 kilometres and 3,500 metres of climbing already in the legs that day, the ascent up Mount Marmolada was almost a pass too far.

Water rushed down the road for the last 8 kilometres of 10-15 percent gradients. My legs felt like they were barely turning, and my GPS speed confirmed it.

The final exposed ramps left my hands and mind frozen; so much so that a photo at the top of this particular climb was out of the question.

A treacherous descent to Canazei. From there though, revived by cappuccino and cake, I managed the final two passes of the day.

Read the full #5MaratonasChallenge Day 2 blog post here

Lessons Learned

  1. Sugar and caffeine - 9 hours is a long time to spend in the saddle. Trying to regulate blood sugar levels and energy throughout that time, is a tough ask. If you are feeling low, it is amazing what a proper Italian coffee and a slice of cake (or some gelato) will do to lift spirits and speed.
  2. Ride within limits - The #5MaratonasChallenge was most definitely not a race. Yet at times I had to remind myself of the fact; and swallow my pride, as a fit Italian pedalled away from me on the climbs. There were always many hours left to ride…
  3. The best jacket money can buy - I talk more about the kit used for this challenge below, but one piece that is definitely worth shouting out is the GORE ONE 1985 ShakeDry Jacket. This product is exceptional. The protection it provides, given its pack-size smaller than most gilets, is astonishing. For ascending and descending mountains, I can think of no better companion.

Favourite Kit of the #5MaratonasChallenge

I used the unique opportunity of riding in a similar setting, on equally challenging endurance rides, to provide some in-depth testing of the best riding kit from five well-known clothing brands: Sportful, Endura, Assos, Isadore and Castelli.

I had never worn any of these particular kits before the day riding in them; some would say that was a risk, but I was assured that they would all be up to the challenge.

I knew it would be near impossible to pick a winner from the line-up, because they all performed near faultlessly. Instead, here are the highlights from each brand...

Sportful RandD Cima kit

The Sportful RandD Cima range was perfect for the hot conditions on Day 1 of the challenge. The super lightweight jersey and mesh panels on the shorts allowed my body to breathe, and wicked away any hint of perspiration build-up.

Endura Pro-SL kit

The Endura Pro-SL range provided better protection and comfort than I could possibly have asked for in the challenging (suitably Scottish-like) conditions of Day 2. The bib shorts, with their tailored pad size and comfortable grippers, and the Pro-SL FS260 Shell Jacket were particular highlights; keeping my legs turning and my core temperature stable over 9 hours of riding.

Assos Campionissimo S7 kit

The Assos Campionissimo range pushes the boundaries in terms of product development. The 'floating' pad design in the shorts took a while to become accustomed to, but proved very comfortable. The jersey, with its integral base layer, was exceptionally breathable and supremely well fitted.

Isadore Apparel Climber's kit

The Isadore Climber's range looks and feels like no other set of kit in this line up. The merino wool blended into the fabric, as well as the unique graphic detailing, make it stand out as something truly different. A memorable introduction to this brand.

Castelli Free Aero Kit

The Castelli Free Aero 4.2 jersey and Free Aero bib shorts have rightly established themselves as a favourite with many riders. Combined with the new sailcloth Vela gilet, they provided fantastic comfort, performance, protection, and a classy look for the final day of the challenge.

Neil Pryde Bura SL Road Bike

I couldn't talk about kit without mentioning my ride: the Neil Pryde Bura SL road bike.

This bike has completely won me over. It is without doubt the best road bike that I have ever ridden.

Stiff, strong and nimble on the ascents; stable, planted and controlled on the technical down hills. I have never felt so comfortable on the challenging mountain roads.

Mavic Cosmic Shoes

Finally, footwear. The Mavic Cosmic Ultimate II Road Shoes and Limited Edition Mavic Cosmic Pro Izoard shoes got plenty of attention throughout the week.

Both pairs are superlight, comfortable and breathable. The Izoard shoes in particular just look plain RAD!

Photo Portfolio

To finish up, here are my favourite photos from the week of riding in the Dolomites.

The #5MaratonasChallenge Warm-Up Ride

Warm conditions of Day 1 of the #5MaratonasChallenge

The route that almost defeated me: Day 2 of the #5MaratonasChallenge

Early morning conditions on Day 3 of the #5MaratonasChallenge

The Passo Giau - ridden for the first of three times on Day 3 of the #5MaratonasChallenge

The Isadore collection was one of my favourite kits of the week - Day 4 of the #5MaratonasChallenge

Sellaronda at the start of the final day - Day 5 of the #5MaratonasChallenge

The final climb - The Mür dl Giat

Finish with Gelato in Corvara - Day 5 of the #5MaratonasChallenge

Breathtaking views and climbs on the #WildCardDolomitiRide

A beautiful place to ride a bicycle

The #WildCardDolomitiRide finishing (GRAVEL!) straight

Back to base in Badia

An incredible week at the Ustaria Posta Hotel

View the complete #5MaratonasChallenge Blog Series here


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