12th July – Passo Giau

Passo Giau is probably our favourite Dolomites climb. The scenery is simply spectacular, the climb challenging, but not so difficult that it becomes unenjoyable. Today was a Sunday and from experience we’ve come to realise that much as the Sella Ronda route is fantastic, it’s best avoided on Sundays. This is due to the high volume of motorbikes. This isn’t to say that the motorbikers are inconsiderate, not at all, it just doesn’t make for particularly tranquil riding as they roar past, sometimes in large numbers.

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So the Giau has proven to be a better choice on a Sunday, still popular with the motor biking fraternity, but generally not as busy. The Giau is one of the climbs where each switchback is numbered, starting with 1 at the bottom, going up to 29. I recall the first time we rode it back in 2006, we ground our way up the first few switchbacks, which are probably the steepest, wondering just how many bends we’d have to tackle!

This ascent is from the Selva di Cadore side and the climb is kind of in 3 parts. The first 10 switchbacks are rather steep, the hardest part of this beautiful ascent. Then up to bend number 20 the switchbacks are not quite as brutal as the earlier ones, plus they are quite close together, with 3 open sided tunnels included within this section. When the switchbacks are close together, you do feel like you’re making good progress! Then for the final third, the gradient is noticeably shallower, but depending on how tired you are feeling or how well you’ve managed your ride nutrition, it may not feel like it is! Trust me, the views from the top are worth the effort, as is the fabulous hot chocolate. 

Today’s hot chocolate was superb, perfectly thick in texture. On our previous visit it had been a bit disappointing, more like boring watery hot chocolate! I always attempt to practice my rather limited Italian when ordering food (unfortunately my GCSE Italian has been mainly forgotten now, except for a few words and phrases). I ask in my dubious Italian, always to be answered in accented, but near perfect English. But, I guess if you don’t try, you won’t improve at all.

Today we chatted with a lovely guy from Germany, as is usually the way with most German folks we’ve met on our travels, his English was excellent. He was very interesting and friendly, and we learnt that he was actually living in Brazil, working as a teacher. This reminds me of another German chap we met when in the Southern French Alps in 2011, we got talking on the Col de la Cayolle and he suggested a super tough route for us to try. His name was Martin and he was on holiday alone, just him, his bike and his camper van. It was a fantastic route he gave us (3 x Cols: Allos, Champs, Cayolle), just under 80 miles. We’d found it tough by the end, long descents in cool winds and difficulty stocking up on water, but overall it was a great day! Then, 2 years later, who do we see coming out of the bakery in Flumet in the Northern Alps….yes it was Martin! He didn’t recognise us at this point as we were not in bike gear, but a few hours later that day,we bumped into each other again on the Col de Croix Fry, and this time we stopped for a chat. Small world!

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Profile of Passo Giau, courtesy of climbbybike.com.