A Velo Club La Grange member for 4 years now, Brian Crommie embarked on his second European cycling venture in June 2012. Encouraged by fellow La Granger, Tom Hill, Brian left for Italy to prepare for the Maratona dles Dolomites (Dolomites Marathon). This annual mile (299 km / 186 mile) 1-day road bicycle race encompasses 3 courses and 7 mountain passes through the Dolomite Mountains. Over 9,000 riders and 40 nations take part. At altitudes from 5,840 to 13,750, and with gradients from 6.1 – 9.3%, this race is known as “one of the biggest, most passionate, and most chaotic bike races on Earth,” according to National Geographic.
Brian began his trip in Bormio, a town in Northern Italy, at the top of the Valtellina Valley. Bormio is well-known for its thermal baths and as a “home base” for cyclists from around the world. Arriving in Bormio, Brian checked into Hotel Funivia (www.hotelfunivia.com) – a “hotel for cyclists” – owned and operated by 3 generations of the same family. Hotel Funivia welcomes cyclists at all levels – from beginners to professionals – and offers cycling vacation packages and itineraries throughout the year. The hotel also provides safe storage, support for cyclists’ daily travels and bike rentals.
The hotel rented Pinarello bikes to guests (Pinarello, based in Treviso, Italy, is the award-winning historic producer of competition cycles), so Brian took advantage of this opportunity to ride a Pinarello. He brought his cycling measurements with him to ensure a perfect bike fit while he was away. With a complete cycling workshop on the hotel site, Brian didn’t miss riding his own bike.
From Hotel Funivia, Brian participated in several climbs, including the Stelvio and Passo del Mortirolo. The Stelvio Pass is the highest paved mountain pass in the Eastern Alps at 9045 feet (or 2757m) and is the highest climb of any Grand Tour, according to Felix Lowe at Eurosport. Brian also challenged himself riding the Alps’ Mortirolo pass. (At 12.4 km and gradients from 10.5 – 18%, Lance Armstrong once said it was the hardest climb he’d ever ridden.)
A highlight of Brian’s trip was running into Fred Schrag, Castelli’s Los Angeles representative for Velo Club La Grange, at Hotel Funivia – among the many enjoyable encounters and friendly people Brian met during his trip. Although Brian fueled up with his own bars and supplements during daily rides, he’d end the days joining cyclists from around the world for dinner at Hotel Funivia. He couldn’t believe how much beer the Belgium riders put down – still getting up early to ride for several hours in the morning. Brian found everyone, from the Coloradoans to the Belgiums to the Australians, extremely friendly.
Brian mentioned it was pretty cold in June. Intense rain and snow presented a challenge for his base-training – “shaking from the cold, it’s hard to keep your bike steady,”said Brian. “The rain and cold causes your fingers to slip off the brakes.” But as July approached, the weather improved. Brian was then able to enjoy the Italian landscape, comfortably riding 80 – 90 miles per day through some of the most renowned cycling areas in Italy – the same passes ridden by renowned cycling champions, including Mark Cavendish.
Meeting Tom and Jeff at the Dolomites for the race, Brian rented a Scott bike. He was as pleased with the Scott bike’s capabilities, as he was with the Pinarello. Brian beat his goal by an hour, and he’s ready to do it all over again.
Maybe next time we’ll hear more about those thermal baths.