ItalyCycling Destinations

Sella Ronda is one of this regions classics single day rides. Today you will cover four mountain passes that have all played a major part in Giro stages in this region. This ride has everything we love about riding in the Dolomites. Great climbs, incredible views and a day to immerse yourself in riding a Giro stage.

Sella Ronda Loop

The Sella Ronda loop is the quintessential loop to navigate in the Italian Dolomites. Four alpine mountain passes are shoehorned into one 60km ride. Remember this one is not a race for you and I. Its a ride to truly savour, so take your time and take your photos. You want your biggest bang for buck ride. Well here it is.

The Sella Ronda loop underlines why we love Italy and the Dolomites. I get chills thinking about it!

From our base in La Villa we get a short warm up before our climbing day truly begins. Once we reach the town of Corvara, we check ourselves, one last check of water bottles and we are on our way.

Passo Gardena

We turn and head to the base of our first ascent of the day; Passo Gardena. Passo Gardena is the perfect intoduction to our day. Some long and winding roads, sometimes momentarily pitching to uncomfortable gradients, before releasing its grip again as we meander up the road. Another of the Italian classic roads that from above look as though the road designer draped a looping ribbon down the side of the mountain. It contains both a series of long ramps, plus numerous looping switchbacks. As we reach the summit at 2136m, you can be excused for being a little out of breath. However we have three more beauties to come.

We now need to descend through a series of switchbacks that can make you dizzy as it feels like you are watching a tennis match as you go from left to right, and back again repeatedly in quick succession. In the snow the view as you descend can be quite distracting as it is beautiful, so keep your mind on the job at hand.


Passo Sella

Once we complete the descent we have a ‘relatively’ short climb up to Passo Sella. Relatively short in comparison to some of the monsters in Italy. The gradients are fairly consistent between 6-8% as we climb in the shadows of the mighty Sella Towers rock formation. You get a real sense of the enormity of the four peaks that make up this rock formation if you stop and check them out. The landscape opens up again and is a little exposed to the elements – principally a chilly breeze. However as we crest the summit at 2218m, it is all worth it as the most amazing view of the mountain peaks opens up to you in the West.

Let’s not spend too long up here as even on a sunny day the wind can be chilly. We take off and head for an area down within the tree line, that definitely provides us a little more warmth and shelter from the wind. Be wary and don’t get too excited as this descent can be very fast. This is not the place to have an off. We reach our little stop in the car park just beyond Rifugio Monti Pallidi. Time for a quick snack and a nature break.

Passo Pordoi

Its now time to head to our highest point of the day at the summit of Passo Pordoi. The Pordoi climb starts at the intersection with the SS48. Don’t go right here as you will end up in Canazei (which we visit on another ride). We turn left and immediately you understand the winter terrain. As we climb a series of ski chutes and nets are visible and an obvious indication to winters preferred recreation in this region. Our climb continues to snake its way up the Strada Dolomites. As we reach the final stages of the climb again we are open and out of the tree line. Keep an eye out for some marmots frolicking in the field or snow.

What can only be described as a descenders dream awaits

Our summit is at 2239m as we reach the ski station at Passo Pordoi. We stop for some photos but again we don’t want to spend too long up here. We have coffee awaiting us in town below. Additionally we have what can only be described as a descenders dream awaits. Some 30 switchbacks await on a ride that would not look out of place at a theme park.  Take your time and respect the roads, this one is challenging but thrilling at the same time. Once we reach the bottom, its time for a coffee and a local Tiramisu or Strudel (our favourite).

Passo Pordoi

Passo Campolongo

Our final climb of the day is not the highest. It’s not even the steepest. However being the last climb of the day, the legs are starting to feel a little wobbly. After coffee, we roll up the hill out the back of Arabba. Hopefully there is enough caffeine in the body to get over the initial pinchy bits. We get some great views of the town if we look back over our right shoulder. As we climb, just think about what you have achieved. Four Giro worthy climbs (maybe not at Giro pace) in a day. A couple of switchbacks and we can see the summit at 1875m.

The true beauty of the Campolongo Pass is the descent on the other side to Corvara. While it starts out fairly benign, with long sweeping straights, as we approach halfway our road changes dramatically. Gone are long fast sectors and we reach a series of switchbacks that loop around on each other like spaghetti on a plate. We pass the Alta Badia Golf Club and then dive into a series of left and right turns. Keep an eye on the road and not the amazing mountains that draw the eye. Stop for a photo if you can because it is a memory of a point in time you can look back on forever.

We roll down into the town of Corvara, and make the easy spin back to base, fully satisfied. Four Mountain passes; about 2000m of climbing; 60kms in the bank; Time for a shower and relax. Tomorrow is another day.

Estimated Time:
5 out of 5
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