The Maratona dles Dolomites is one of the classic cycle events on the amateur gran fondo/sportive calendar. It takes place against the spectacular backdrop of the Italian Dolomites and provides participants the chance to pit themselves against a gruelling 138 kilometre route, incorporating eight dramatic passes.
We’ve ridden the Maratona route and written this guide to help anyone that’s thinking of entering, or has entered and is looking for more information on what the Maratona dles Dolomites event entails.
The information here is based on the official information for the event and other sources – but please note we aren’t connected with the organisers and you should refer to them for definitive information.
We will try to keep our guide updated as new information is published about the 2021 event but, if you're in any doubt, please check the official Maratona website and rely on information from the final official 2021 riders pack/event information and rules.
This guide does not cover everything contained in those sources - you should read them!
Part 1: Overview
What is the Maratona dles Dolomites?
The Maratona dles Dolomites is an annually staged one day road race which negotiates seven famous mountain passes in the Dolomites mountain range. The event is open to amateurs and is regarded as one of the best, if not the best, granfondo in Italy. It’s been running since 1987.
Maratona dles Dolomites when translated from the local Ladin language means “Dolomites Marathon’. Whichever of the three routes you choose you will find them packed with elevation and, probably pretty difficult when compared with the average sportive.
The National Geographic magazine once described the Maratona dles Dolomites sportive as ‘one of the biggest, most passionate and most chaotic races on Earth’.
Since its inception the race/granfondo has become one of the most important and sought-after amateur cycling events in Europe.
The 9,000 entry places sell out very quickly and in 2019 participants from 70 different nations competed in this event in the Alta Badia region (the event was cancelled in 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic).
The course is lined with thousands of spectators and it is so popular that it is actually broadcast live by the Italian national broadcaster RAI.
Despite that National Geographic quote, it has earned a stellar reputation as being very well organised and there are no less than seven refreshment stations on the course, all manned by volunteers.
The race starts in the small town of La Villa near Corvara and offers three courses –
The long course (or put simply the Maratona course) with over 4,000 metres of elevation includes some very famous climbs that are also used each year in the Giro d’Italia. In order of how they are negotiated the passes are; Passo Campolongo, Passo Pordoi, Passo Sella, Passo Gardena, Passo Campolongo (again), Passo Giau and the Passo Falzarego and Valparola.
One of the advantages of the Maratona is that irrespective of the course you have chosen everyone starts and finishes in Corvara so you can change your route at certain parts of the course depending upon how you feel.
Tell me about the Maratona dles Dolomites routes
There are three routes from which to choose when you enter the Maratona dles Dolomites:
Sella Ronda Course
The Sella Ronda Course starts in the village of La Villa and finishes in nearby Corvara. The circular course travels clockwise around the Sella mountain chain and includes four mountain passes.
Straight after the start the ascent to the Campolongo pass begins. After crossing the summit of the Campolongo the road descends to the village of Arabba and then climbs the Passo Pordoi.
Riders then descend from the Pordoi into the Fassa valley and then start to climb the Passo Sella. After scaling the Sella participants descend into the Gardena valley before taking on the final pass of the day – the Passo Gardena.
Everyone then enjoys the downhill section into Corvara.
Riders wanting to ride the middle course effectively complete the Sella Ronda course but instead continue at the Corvara finishing line.
For the second time in the day, they then take on the Passo Campolongo. This is followed by the same descent into Arabba.
However here participants take the road to the village of Cernadoi where the road splits and middle course entrants begin the ascent of the Passo Falzarego.
At the top of this pass, riders continue for another 80 metres to reach the top of the Passo Valparola. The road then goes back downhill into Corvara for the finish.
Riders taking on the epic long course split from the middle course in Cernadoi and, after taking on a small uncategorised climb of the Colle Santa Lucia, take on the fearsome Passo Giau.
The descent from the Giau takes these riders to the Falzarego and Valparola where they reunite with the middle course riders. Having crossed the Valparola they descend back to Corvara for the finish.
Which mountain passes are on which of the Maratona dles Dolomites courses?
The Maratona dles Dolomites route is arranged around the seven mountain passes in the table below (in the order listed).
On the middle and long course, the Passo Campolongo is climbed twice. This means that there are four passes on the short course, six passes to climb on the medium course and seven passes to climb on the long course.
Tell me more about the mountain passes on the Maratona cycling route?
- Maratona dles Dolomites climb number 1 & 5 (Corvara to Arabba)
‘The unusual aspect of the Campolongo is the actual terrain. Most passes in the Dolomites have flat or virtually flat hairpin bends with the elevation kicking up on the straights. However, the Campolongo is completely the opposite with severe hairpins and straights that aren’t that steep! So, take note there are 13 hairpins on this pass!’
For more details, check out our Passo Campolongo ride guide
Maratona dles Dolomites climb number 2 (Arabba to Canazei)
‘The Pordoi doesn’t need too much of an introduction. It’s one of the most famous climbs in world cycling and has made an incredible 39 appearances in the Giro d’Italia since its introduction in 1940. It’s a 20th century engineering masterpiece with no less than 33 hairpin bends and rises from the ski village of Arabba in a straight line at an almost constant 7%’.
For more details, check out our Passo Pordoi ride guide
Maratona dles Dolomites climb number 3
‘Passo Sella is one of those climbs that offers fabulous scenery as you are surrounded by the spectacular Sella Massif walls. The higher you climb you get an amazing view of the Marmolada Glacier and on the final hairpins you get your first glimpse of the magnificent Sassolungo group’.
For more details, check out our Passo Sella ride guide
Maratona dles Dolomites climb number 4
‘The first thing to know about this climb is that it’s drop-dead stunning, particularly as you reach the switchbacks towards the top. You’ve got the craggy, vertical peaks of the Sella and Cier ranges either side of you, and when you come over the top of the pass from Corvara, and the totally new view of the Sassolungo/Sasslong mountains opens up, it’s just a classic “wow” moment’.
For more details, check out our Passo Gardena ride guide
Maratona dles Dolomites climb number 6 (Arabba/Selva di Cadore to Pocol)
‘Sometimes referred to as the beauty and the beast, the Passo Giau is an extremely harsh and difficult test but is considered by many to be the most picturesque mountain pass in the Dolomites range. Standing at 2,236 metres above sea level the Giau boasts no fewer than 29 hairpin bends and is a relentless challenge of around 9% gradient over 10 kilometres’.
For more details, check out our Passo Giau ride guide
Passo Falzarego / Passo Valparola
Maratona dles Dolomites climb number 7 (and last)
‘The Passo Valparola is the seventh and final climb of the Maratona dles Dolomites granfondo and is accessed via the Passo Falzarego. It is a strikingly beautiful pass rising up to 2,192 metres from dense woodland into a rocky landscape framed by giant mountains. It is also steeped in cycling history and people still speak of the incredible battle on this pass between Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali in the Giro d’Italia way back in 1946’.
For more details, check out our Passo Falzarego ride guide
Strava segment (Falzarego)
Strava segment (Valparola)
How many people take part in the Maratona?
In the last edition in 2019 there were 9,000 riders from 70 different nations.
Is there a Maratona cycling map and GPX routes?
Yes all the details and maps of the routes can be found on the official website.
How does the Maratona course differ to the Sella Ronda course?
It’s probably fair to say that the Maratona dles Dolomites 2020/21 route is for experienced cyclists used to endurance riding and climbing at altitude.
The Sella Ronda route is more suited to someone who wants to take part in a challenging and prestigious event, but doesn't fancy/hasn't got the fitness for climbing eight mountain passes in one day.
For those in between the two categories then there is the middle course!
Is the Maratona a race?
The vast majority of participants enter the Maratona merely to test themselves both mentally and physically against the rigours course. However, it’s worth knowing that a small percentage of the field will actually be racing for the kudos of being that years’ champion.
Part 2: Entry and registration
How do you enter the Maratona dles Dolomites?
Entry is by the official website, but there are differences in the application process this year.
In 2020 the event was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the organisers decided to give anyone with a Maratona dles Dolomites 2020 entry the right to carry their entry forward to next year’s event on 4 July 2021.
Outstanding places were then made available by a ballot in October/November 2020 for new registrations in respect of 2021.
Charity places are sold on the official website on 24 March 2021.
Updated conditions of entry for 2021 are on the official site.
In addition to entry via the official website, it's also possible to buy a holiday package that includes entry, via the official tour operator, Holimites.
If you've completed at least 14 editions of the Maratona (15 from 2022), you can bypass the ballot process!
What’s included in the Maratona dles Dolomites entry fee?
Payment of the entry fee (150 euros for new 2021 entries) entitles participants to use the mechanical assistance and refreshments along the route, entry to the post-race pasta party, the official Maratona dles Dolomites jersey, a race number and free participation at all activities during the biker’s week.
What is the cancellation policy for the Maratona dles Dolomites?
Read the official race conditions of entry carefully before you book.
Note the 2021 conditions of entry include a provision that "if the event has to be cancelled due to exceptional circumstances there is no refund of the entry fee but the organisation reserve the right to start in 2022 after completing the registration procedure as requested for coming edition".
The terms go on to give examples of circumstances that would cause the cancellation of the event. It's best you read the official conditions of entry document if you need the detail.
Are there Maratona cycling packages?
The Maratona works with an official tour operator, Holimites, and they can be a good option, especially if you miss out on the draw.
Do you need a medical certificate for Maratona dles Dolomites?
The organisers of the Maratona dles Dolomites require a medical certificate signed by your GP as part of the requirements for entry. There is a required format that is published on the official website.
How do you get to the Maratona course?
If you are arriving by train, the closest major railway station is in Bolzano, which is around 100 km from Alta Badia. From here you can take a regional train to Brunico which is 40 km away, and from Brunico, there is a daily bus connecting to Alta Badia.
If you are flying then the closest airports are Bolzano (100km away), Innsbruck (130km away), Treviso (180km away), and Venice (200km away). All of these airports provide a rail connection to Bolzano.
You can also hire a car in Bolzano and drive along the SS12 & SS242 to Alta Badia.
There's more travel information here.
Where’s the best place to stay to do the Maratona?
We think the Alta Badia area around Corvara is the best place to stay as it’s near the start and finish of the event. Additionally, if you wish to ride the popular Sella Ronda route on another day you can do so easily from Corvara (in either direction).
See our detailed guide to the Dolomites area.
We’d suggest you focus your accommodation search on villages like La Villa, Badia, Corvara and Colfosco.
What else do I need to think about before booking?
That's kind of an open-ended question that will depend on your circumstances!
Part 3: The event
What time does the Maratona start?
The starting order is specified in the Conditions of Entry.
The first group, Group A, sets off at 6:30am.
How long does it take to complete the Maratona?
It will depend on your ability, but a time limit is imposed for finishers which is 1pm for the short route and 4.15pm for the middle and long course routes.
There are also intermediate cut-offs which are specified in the Conditions of Entry as follows:
"Corvara direction Campolongo (55km) 11.30 a.m. (after 11.30 a.m. the participant will be obliged to pass the finish line)
Cernadoi direction Passo Giau (76km) 11.45 a.m. (after 11.45 a.m. the participant will be obliged to continue along the middle course towards Falzarego)"
These times apply regardless of your starting time.
What are the service points during the Maratona?
Refreshments are guaranteed until the following time:
Passo Sella 11.15 a.m.
Passo Campolongo Midday
Passo Gardena/Colle S. Lucia 12.15 p.m.
Passo Giau 2 p.m.
Passo Falzarego 3.45 p.m.
Is there any mechanical assistance during the Maratona?
Mechanical assistance is guaranteed until the following time:
Passo Sella 11.15 a.m.
Passo Campolongo 11.45 a.m.
Passo Gardena/Colle S. Lucia 12.15 p.m.
Passo Giau 2 p.m.
Passo Falzarego 3.45 p.m.
Is the Maratona a closed road sportive?
The FAQs on the official website states: "The roads will be closed to traffic (including cyclists) during most of the race. The closure timetable of the roads will be published as soon as the responsible authorities will confirm the times."
The Conditions of Entry state "The Road closures are established by the various local prefectures and are guaranteed until the final race car marked as “fine corsa” has passed."
Where can I find the Maratona dles Dolomites results?
All the results and placings for each year’s event can be found under the History tab on the official Maratona website.
Is it possible to get Maratona dles Dolomites photos?
The event photography is outsourced and in 2019 Sportograf provided this service.
A link on the official Maratona website links you to their site.
What are the rules of the event?
Here is the latest information regarding the 2021 event.
Here are the conditions of entry.
Is there much to do before/after the Maratona?
There is a ‘riders week’ ahead of the big event that we've heard good things about. Starting on the Saturday there is the popular Sella Ronda bike day which is a closed road ride that incorporates the passes of Gardena, Sella, Pordoi and Campolongo.
There are other planned ‘leisure’ rides in the area throughout the week including exhibitions and cycle related shows.
On the day before the Maratona there is a mini sportive for children and a musical festival at the Maratona village.
For 2021, the important dates are
- 19th June 2021: Dolomites Bike Day
- 27th June 2021: Sellaronda Bike Day
- 28th June 2021 – 4th July 2021: Rider’s week
- 3rd July 2021: Maratona for kids by Sportful
If you visit, don’t miss our detailed guide to the Dolomites area which includes ride guides, information on where to stay, tips for cycling the area and more.
Can I buy any Maratona memorabilia?
Here are some of our favourite buys:
Michael Blann's beautiful coffee table book contains a whole 30+ page section of stunning photos and essays about the Dolomites. It's our favourite cycling coffee table book and a must for any cyclist that loves the mountains.
The English Cyclist's map designer tool allows you to upload your GPX and create a beautiful print of your ride, complete with the date, distance, elevation and time stats.
Our collaboration with graphic designer, Pip Claffey, allows you to create your own personalised illustration of you, in your kit, with the mountain backdrop you want. Switch out Ventoux (shown here) and switch in one or more of the epic Dolomite climbs you've just ridden on the Maratona.
Keep in touch and let us know how it goes!
And, if you haven't already, don't forget to check out our ultimate guide to cycling in the Dolomites which includes guides to some of the best rides, plus info on where to stay and tips for riding this amazing part of Italy.
If you're interested in other top European sportives, you might also like to check out our pick of the best here.
About John Vicars
John divides his time between England and Spain and, together with his wife, clocks in around 10,000 miles each year searching out Europe's finest roads. John loves to share his experiences (good and bad) from the saddle and has a particular loathing for double digit gradients, sub-zero temperatures and red traffic lights!