Sellaronda. At least once in a lifetime
The description of Sellaronda, the tour of the Sella peak, by bike, from Canazei. A spectacular route that any cyclist should enjoy at least once. The effort of the ascent to the four passes, the funny descents, the heat of the sun and the cold of the wind, the blue sky and the green meadows, the majesty of the Dolomites, the tranquility of the mountain pastures. The happiness for having completed the tour. This whole thing is Sellaronda.
|Estimated elevation gain what’s that?||2000 m|
|Min elevation||1448 m|
|Max elevation||2243 m|
|Passo Sella from Canazei||altimetry|
|Passo Gardena from fork for Passo Sella||altimetry|
|Passo Campolongo from Corvara||altimetry|
|Passo Pordoi from Arabba||altimetry|
Sellaronda is a word that evokes in all cyclists emotions and images that bring to the myth and the legend. Many dream it, someone did it (perhaps by participating in the beautiful Maratona dles Dolomites), everyone knows it. Sellaronda means a tour around the Sella Peak, one of the most panoramic and spectacular places in the Italian Dolomites. Sellaronda means an elevation gain of 2000 meters in just over 60 kilometers. Sellaronda also means tackling legendary climbs and full of history like the Pordoi Pass. Sellaronda means being able to keep in the soul the pride of having completed a tour that most of the cyclists of the whole world dream of riding at least once in their lifetime.
I was lucky enough to ride the Sellaronda several times, both clockwise and counterclockwise, starting from different locations. In this article I will describe the best combination in my opinion. Departure from Canazei and turn clockwise. This allows you to face the whole climb to Passo Sella from the most beautiful side and to find the legendary Passo Pordoi as the final ascent. One of the characteristics of the Sellaronda is the complexity of its altimetry. I refuse to present it as an anonymous series of four climbs and four alternating descents. Each climb, every pass, has its own identity and different features, so I renamed the four passes with the nicknames that came to my mind while I faced them the last time, on a beautiful September day.
Passo Sella. The Magnificent
The Sella pass is the most spectacular and the most challenging, the one that offers us the best view on the mountain range, also because it is beaten by the morning sun, even if the first six kilometers are on a shady and not very scenic road. Then, after turning left at the Sella / Pordoi junction, we begin to see the illuminated mountain. We face the hardest climb of Sellaronda and reach the highest point of the route.
Almost 800 meters of elevation gain in about 11 kilometers of ascent. Average slope around 7%, maximum 11%. At the end we will not remember these data, but the breathtaking views, the blue sky that stands out above the giant rock towers and the sense of conquest that we have felt to reach the pass with our own strength, admired by the multitude of tourists arrived by motorcycles or car. Even the descent to the fork for Selva di Val Gardena is spectacular and forces us to stop a couple of times to take some pictures.
Passo Gardena. The Icy
Probably it is my least favorite segment of Sellaronda. The side of Val Gardena (Gardena Valley) is practically always in the shade. Also there is a small but cold descent before tackling the final and more challenging stretch to reach the pass. There is no sun and the mountain looms over us on our right, with the debris that seems to be always on the verge of collapsing and drag us into the abyss.
Our legs get cold and the ascent to the Gardena Pass becomes harder, otherwise it would not present great difficulties. The cold, however, is amply repaid by the sight on the stretch we just rode, which appears great and terrible. Beyond the pass, Val Badia (Badia Valley) welcomes us with a long and fun descent that leads us first to Colfosco and finally to Corvara.
Passo Campolongo. The Crabby
Just over 300 meters of elevation gain, less than 6 kilometers, maximum height 1876 m. It would seem the easiest of the four passes of Sellaronda. However I learned not to underestimate Campolongo, which I called the Crabby because of its nervous nature, mainly in the first segment.
The first half of the climb is characterized by challenging bends, with frequent slope points of 11%. Then, after passing this stretch, the slopes soften and even the landscape seems to become more welcoming, with green meadows and grazing cows. It almost seems that the mountains reward us for having endured and tamed those initial steep and narrow curves. So we arrive at the pass relaxed and ready to face the spectacular and fast descent on Arabba. In the last part of the descent we observe the beautiful town and in front of us the mythical road of the Pordoi pass that awaits us.
Passo Pordoi. The Peaceful
Sellaronda is coming to an end. The last effort remains, the Pordoi Pass. Usually before facing it I stop to have a snack in one of the many bars of Arabba, then I refill my water bottle at the fountain and I dwell a bit, almost to make myself wait to grow the pleasure of climbing the most legendary pass. This is undoubtedly the climb of Fausto Coppi, who here made some of his legendary solitary escapes. The ascent is extremely regular and pleasant. The road is a gray ribbon on the grassy sides of the mountain.
I called this pass the Peaceful because of its regularity and the sense of peace that its many hairpin bends in the middle of the grasslands give to me. Like all the quiet ones, however, he can get angry and reserve surprises. Sometimes the icy wind, the heat of the sun or the accumulated fatigue can play tricks and make the ascent anything but easy. At the top we turn back and look at all (just all!) the road we have made and a sense of conquest overwhelms us, but it’s just a moment … The monument to Fausto Coppi, the Campionissimo, brings us down to earth, reminding us that in these parts he will forever be the King.
The beautiful descent, panoramic and spectacular, takes us back to Canazei and towards the end of the dream called Sellaronda.
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