26 Feb Dolomites Skyrace. The myth.
On December 26th 2009, under a cold and cloudy sky that covered the highest peaks of the Dolomites in Val di Fassa, a tragic event took Diego and three other men from the Alpine Rescue Team away forever. In the desperation of those first moments, there were many who thought that those major sporting events he had created would also perish with him. Without its charismatic guide, the Dolomites Skyrace was in danger of disappearing from the international sports scene. In the end this did not happen. Almost six years have gone by since Diego left us and the Dolomites Skyrace is still going strong, still a bright light among mountain sports events held during the summer.
Thanks to the inner strength and breathtaking environment where it takes place, the Dolomites Skyrace plays a key role in Skyrunning´s international circuit, attracting runners from all over the world who come to Canazei each year to take part in this incredible race. The International Federation of Skyrunning considers it one of the most prestigious on the Skyrunning World Series calendar thanks to its popularity and natural attraction. In fact, its setting, recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, makes it even more fascinating and unique. Diego´s brainchild is still alive and strong, growing every day in reputation and prestige in his honor and memory.
After that tragic 26th December, the promise made by his friends, from the bottom of their hearts and with their faces awash with tears, has been fulfilled”.
Extracted from www.dolomiteskyrace.com
Dolomites Skyrace. A living legend. A sporting event that has become mythical to match other huge events in different sports such as the climb up Alpe d’Huez in the Tour de France, the Ironman Hawaii, the Five Nations Rugby tournament, Le Mans 24 Hours or the Wimbledon final.
Kilian Jornet, Ionut Zinca, Marco di Gasperi, Luis Alberto Hernando, Fabio Meraldi, Rob Jebb, Miguel Caballero, Mitja Kosovelj, Tadei Pivk, Michele Tavernaro, Tòfol Castanyer, Agusti Roc, Faustino Bordiga, Bruno Brunnod and many other names from yesteryear and today, have all stepped onto the podium at least once in the 18 editions held to date.
Elisa Desco, Emily Forsberg, Mireia Miró, Maite Maiora, Megan Zimmel, Laura Orgué, Silvia Serafini, Morena Paieri, Corinne Favre, Antonela Confortola, Silvana Iori, Nuria Dominguez, Oihana Kortazar, Kassie Ennan… all know what it means to leave the starting line in the small town of Canazei at 1,465 meters above sea level, and begin climbing relentlessly to gain a height difference of 1,750m before reaching the summit of the race located at Piz Boè 3,152 meters above sea level. Nothing more, nothing less.
The difficulty of this 22 kilometer race is only comparable to its beauty. From Piazza Marconi in the center of Canazei, both runners taking their first starting line in this race and the experienced elite can´t take their eyes away from the intimidating walls filled with rock crevices and stone needles they must go up only to then launch themselves into a frenzied descent back to the place from where they skeptically observed their shoes and little material they´ll have for such a challenge. Earth, stones, snow … mix together in a high altitude landscape full of risks and threats to take on and as fast as our legs will carry us if we want to reach the extremely demanding cut off time.
INSIDE THE RACE
Text: Gontxal K.N.
Every enthusiast of mountain races must have seen, either through photo or video, the daunting and unique “Zig zags” leading to Forcella Pordoi, that incredible milestone nestled in the Transalpine Dolomites that in recent years has brought us fierce duels between Kilian Jornet and Marco di Gasperi in 2013, resulting in a sprint in favor of the former; or the not so well known but no less epic battle between Luis Alberto Hernando and current Team Manager of La Sportiva Spain, Miguel Caballero, under heavy snowfall in the month of July in 2011.
Yes, this is the Dolomites Skyrace, deservedly marked in the Skyrunner World Series and with the sponsorship of legendary Italian brand La Sportiva, capable of converting a high mountain race into a magnificent spectacle as demonstrated from the previous days, with the presentation of the elite athletes on a catwalk with a light and sound show, which caused a furor both among visitors and more earthy runners. Or the gift of Helios running shoes given to each participant, very suitable for the race, and of which the writer can vouch for good feelings of comfort and safety after using them.
As for the race itself, it must be stressed that a commitment to optimal fitness is required, officially accredited by a medical certificate, and indirectly through demanding cut off times in the race: 1 hour and 50 minutes at Forcella di Pordoi and 4 hours and 15 minutes at the finishing line if you want to appear in the final classifications.
At 8:30, from Marconi Square in Canazei, the race starts slightly uphill through the town´s streets for about half a kilometer, before continuing on to a rocky path that takes you onto the grassy ski slopes at km/2. From here, to the previously mentioned Passo di Pordoi (2,240 meters above sea level) at km/6, we find long straights with a 20% gradient connected by steep curves that push it up to 30%.
In this strategic point the most sculptured, well known and toughest part of the race begins, where you gain 600 vertical meters in just two kilometers, made up of steps and earthy sections at first, steep colossal rocks in the middle, and finally the highly photographed “zig zags”, the hallmark of the race, perfectly carved out of the vast prairie that leads up to Forcella. Interestingly, the latter part of the climb is perhaps the kindest thanks to its firmer and flatter ground, and above all for the cheering crowd gathered there. In such a remarkable place like this it´s worth slowing down to take on liquids and take in the majestic view of Val di Fassa and the peaks of the Marmolada.
But the hard work is not over here. After a welcome flat that looks like the moon, we see the rocky pyramid of Piz Boe (3,152 meters). Its conquest is not without emotion. Although well equipped with metal cords, the ascent is a complicated technical climb (grade III at its most dangerous part). Another warm reception from the tifosi, and a wide variety of provisions at the top (km/10) to help you undertake the entertaining final descent of loose rocks and ingenious solutions in the form of stairs to overcome impossible paths that lead down to the Boè refuge. After a slightly brief upward respite, an almost vertical drop begins up to km/16 where there is hardly any path. The red and white poles and the orange flags placed by the organization guide us to Pian de Schiavaneis. Now only a wooded area and a large, comfortable stony track, compared to the dizzying descent we just traversed, separate us from the long awaited goal at Canazei.
The finishing line leads onto a stage at the end of a ramp as if they were holding a rally, with a lively speaker and a devoted crowd that give you goose bumps. An entertaining post-race time to refuel liquids and solids before moving on more leisurely to a warm meal in the green grassland of Canazei adding the finishing touches to a pioneering race that every lover of this type of alpine romp should enjoy at least once in their lifetime.