Stage Two of the 2019 Haute Route Dolomites got underway from Cortina d’Ampezzo this morning under bright blue skies, with Original course riders heading out to take on a 95km route featuring 3370M of climbing and a challenging summit finish at Tre Cime Lavaredo. Meanwhile the Compact course riders had a 47.5km course ahead of them, with 2060M of climbing and a breathtaking finish at the top of the much-talked-about Passo Giau.
On the start line this morning, Filip Korman from Slovakia shared his race tactics for the day: “I feel pretty good today after a good massage yesterday and a good night’s sleep. My plan is to go easy on the Passo Falzarego climb to save energy for the Passo Giau and then I will rest at that aid station before pushing on.”
“I also have a good cassette on the back and a compact on the front so hopefully I am well prepared for that steep finish at Tre Cime di Lavaredo. I just need to keep spinning the legs and I am sure I will survive it” he added.
With Stage Two starting with the same climb up Passo Falzarego, riders knew exactly what to expect and soon found out if they had gone out too hard on the previous day.
“Today was better than yesterday for me. I am a slow starter and the first day is always tough. For me it gets better as it goes on, although I have ridden all these climbs before and I know Passo Giau and Tre Cime di Lavaredo will be difficult in their own way,” said Garry Wyatt from the United Kingdom as riders stopped to catch their breath at the top.
Gary seemed to be one of the exceptions though, with riders like Alper Akcan from Turkey noting they felt slower: “I tried to push up the climb but couldn’t quite catch the same timings as yesterday. Saying that, I also know I need to preserve my legs for Passo Giau and the final summit finish,” said Alper who is taking part in his first Haute Route event this year, with Haute Route Alpes, Haute Route Norway and Haute Route Ventoux also in the line-up.
Spinning the legs on the descent, riders then turned left towards the first aid station of the day at Colle Santa Lucia, with beautiful views, good snacks and an upcoming climb making it hard to leave.
The iconic Passo Giau climb was up next, with riders grinding it out as they rode past streams and forests before the route opened out to show-off the snowy fields and the famous summit. Whilst most riders took the 10% gradient at a steady pace, the Compact course riders had the chance to dig deep and cross the finish line of Stage Two with a final big effort. It was an unforgettable end to this stage for the Compact riders thanks to the breathtaking panoramic views.
Atop Passo Giau, the well-deserved feed station also gave the Original Course riders opportunity to recover before the descent back down the other side.
“That was terrific although my legs are ruined now. The views are incredible which definitely helps to get you through the climb but it was a grind, a real grind! I am quite nervous about what is to come but I am going to stick behind someone’s wheel where I can to help me” said Victoria Grimmer from the UK.
Indeed, after the descent down to Cortina d’Ampezzo, most riders tried to find a group to work with across the flatter sections, preserving energy as they passed Passo Cimabanche and approached the big finale at Tre Cime di Lavaredo.
With the ascent starting to kick in from Misurina Lake and then again after the toll at the National Park, riders knew they were about to face one of the toughest climbs of their life. Little can prepare you for gradients of up to 18%, irrespective of whether you are at the back of the field or the front, with the Women’s Original course leader, Hannah Rhodes-Patterson commenting that she was relieved to cross the finish line at the end of Stage Two: “That was very hard, especially at the end of a long day. You really have to fight to get across the finish line but it is beautiful up here.”
With the road rising dramatically in the final 4km’s, the Tre Cime di Lavaredo definitely earns its place as one of the most iconic and toughest climbs in the Dolomites. But, with equally iconic and stunning views, it is worth the effort. Thanks to the perfect weather conditions, riders really got the chance to take it all in at the top.
“That was extremely tough and I didn’t expect it to be as bad as that but there is nothing like completing a challenging climb like that and crossing the finish line. You forget about the pain you were just in and it quickly becomes the highlight at the day.” concluded Brent Holmes from the United Kingdom.
With two stages now in the books, only the uphill time trial stands in the way of the riders hard-earned medals. Riders will get to take on Passo Giau climb from the other side, with the 17km challenge climbing to 2336m. As ever, riders will give it their all before crossing the finish line to conclude an unforgettable 3-days.