THE MARATONA, STEP BY STEP
1987 - 1993
The Pioneers of Pedraces
The first Maratona dles Dolomites was run on 12th July 1987. This was a celebration of the first 10 years of the cycling club Societá Ciclistica Alta Badia-Raiffeisen. The route was unique and snaked through seven Dolomite passes: Gardena, Sella, Fedaia, Duran, Forcella Staulanza, Falzarego and Valparola over 175 kilometres. It started and ended in Pedraces. There are 166 participants. The first to pass the finish line was the Austrian Wolfgang Steinmayr who rode for over ten hours. There was also a single woman: Trui Beemsterboern from Holland, who arrived one hour after the winner. The organising committee of the time never imagined that it was the start of an event that would become part of non-professional cycling contest history worldwide.
In 1988 there were two routes. The first was 184 km long and mainly followed the roads of the first edition. The second was shorter. The cold, rainy day created quite a few problems for the 440 competitors. 417 people started the race. At the Duran Pass they stopped to decide what to do. The competition times were cancelled, but the race continued. The last competitor arrived at 9 pm virtually frozen to death. A tub of boiling water awaited him in the hotel.
It was also icy cold in 1989, which featured the Maratona pennant for the first time. The number of competitors continued to increase to 541. The starter was an exceptional professional, Flavio Giupponi, who had come second in the Giro d’Italia the year before. The day was so cold that the organisers decided to end the race at the Giau Pass.
The route changed, but not the substance: the 1990 Maratona was 184 km long and included the Valparola Pass, descended to Cortina, the Tre Croci Pass, Misurina Lake, the Cimabanche watershed, Cortina, the Giau Pass, Colle Santa Lucia, Caprile, the Fedaia Pass, Canazei, the Pordoi Pass, Arabba and the Campolongo Pass. There were 5000 metres of difference in altitude. There was also a shorter, more manageable route. There were 951 participants, including the first American. It was also the year of the first Maratona jersey that was given to all competitors.
1991: there were over 1000 participants – 1292 to be precise – of whom 32 were women and the Maratona finish line became electronic. The passages and times of competitors were recorded by a sign on the rear numbers and registered by IT systems. The weather was bad once again: it poured down from Lake Misurina to Cortina. The hail was painful. Then the sun returned to shine on the winner, Rainer Emerich of Dobbiaco on the short route and Pasquale Fiscato, from Veneto, on the long route.
1992 was the saddest year in the history of the Maratona. 2583 signed up but only 1897 took part. The cold was biting and it rained heavily. A serious road accident cost Luigi Nagler his life and injured Giovanni Fedrizzi.
The Maratona’s success continued to grow exponentially. In 1993 there were over 3000 participants (3095 of whom 138 were women). For logistical reasons this was the last Maratona that left from Pedraces. It was the end of the pioneering era and a new modern era began for the most fascinating race in the world. This edition’s route was 160 km long, without the Giau Pass.
1994 - 1999
The Modern Age
1994 saw a new phase of the Maratona: there was such an increase in participants that the organisers decided to move the start of the race to Corvara. 5031 people took part – almost 2000 more than the previous year. There was a start time difference of over 16 minutes between the front of the group and the rear. It was a lovely day and the competitors felt the heat. 111 riders were caught without a helmet and were disqualified.
The Maratona continued to grow: 1995 saw 6674 people sign up - 1500 more than the year before. There weren’t enough numbers (6500 had been ordered) or jerseys: the former were printed hurriedly on a computer, while the latter were posted to competitors’ homes. There were starting grids, with three groups of riders starting at different times.
1996 was an important year for the Maratona. The Maratona dles Dolomites Committee was formed and substituted the Rodes Alta Badia, with the arduous task of organising and foreseeing the ‘future’ of what was becoming a special event as part of a gran fondo cycle race. 6463 people signed up. There was bad weather, it rained and was cold on the Sella, but “the show must go on”.
1997: The first decision of the Maratona dles Dolomites Committee was to combine the race, on the 28th September the same year, with the first edition of The Terrific Alta Badia Race, named after local champion Maria Canins. A brochure was printed for the first time and the week before the competition was filled with lots of events – not only linked to cycling.
The growing success of the Maratona led the new committee to think of limiting numbers, although the competition retained the same format in 1998. It was a splendid day and the help of volunteers made it a perfect race.
1999 saw the introduction of the Datasport precision timing system, with Datachips that took readings in real time from start to finish. The formula of a cyclists’ week gained even more ground, thanks to sports and entertainment events, as well as collateral events to the Maratona, including the Tenerific Maria Canins, a cycle race for kids aged 4 to 12.
2000 - 2005
The Maratona begins to speak
2000 saw some great new features. Firstly, from now on, each edition would have a motto, a key word, theme or special dedication. It began with ‘Living is an Art’ and it was a great journey. The start was moved to La Villa and the Fedaia Pass was no longer part of the route. The committee established a fixed number of 6000 participants. Over 30 nationalities took part. However, the edition was marked by a terrible accident: a competitor died while coming down the Giau Pass.
The theme for 2001 was ‘Magic Lives in Us‘. The fixed number of participants was raised to 7000.
The 2002 edition was dedicated to women and was broadcast live for the first time on RAI3. It was an unexpected success: millions of people discovered the wonders of the route wedged between the Dolomites. All future editions of the Maratona dles Dolomites would be broadcast live on T.V.
In 2003 the Maratona was dedicated to the differently-abled and was twinned with the New York Marathon. Organisers decided to introduce anti-doping tests.
The family was the focus of the 2004 edition. All three routes were closed to traffic for the first time. The Maratona without cars was amazing. The maximum number of participants was increased to 8000 and registration ended in one week.
The 2005 edition of the Maratona was dedicated to ‘angels’. There was also another new feature: given the growing number of participants and requests to take part, the committee introduced a draw system, so you could only take part if your name was drawn. The decision was a little controversial, but was eventually accepted by everyone.
2006 - 2010
The Modern Age
The 2006 edition took place over three routes that would now become the usual ones. The Maratona was dedicated to ‘colours’ and had a very special guest: Jetsum Pema, the sister of the Dalai Lama, representing the Tibetan Children's Village Association. The maximum number of participants was increased to 8500 competitors, but requests to take part were almost double that.
‘Gotes’- ‘drops’, was the key word for 2007. Fortunately for the riders they were drops of sweat not of rain, given the wonderful day. There were 8500 participants from 39 countries. As in previous years there were famous names from the sports and business world at the starting line. The kids’ cycle race changed its name and became the “Maratona for Kids”, still organised by Maria Canins.
The success of the Maratona continued in 2008, known as ‘Fostüs’, ‘traces’. As always the race was broadcast live from the start and for the first time there was a Youtube film contest dedicated to the Maratona.
Energy was the theme of 2009. A shuttle service was set up to avoid polluting roads in Alta Badia. The number of requests to take part increased continually, but the maximum number remained fixed. People began to complain in sector publications. There was a surprise at the finish line: one of the first competitors to arrive was disqualified because he was caught throwing waste away during the race.
The ecological focus of the Maratona is increasingly central and evident, to the point where the 2010 edition was entitled ‘Eco?Logical!’. The event boasted 70% carbon neutral certification. The idea was to gain international recognition for the event that managed to reduce all kinds of pollution. Closing the race routes to cars made an important contribution to this.
2011 - 2015
An Aware Maratona
‘Giulan’ – ‘thanks’ was the title of the 2011 Maratona, now in its 25th year. 9131 days had passed since 1987 when the first Maratona was staged with 166 cyclists over 177 km. Some of these, like Giorgio Apolloni with bib no. 1 and Roberto Della Noce, no. 2, still race today with the same enthusiasm as in the past. The race is also ridden by Olympic champions, Italian and international managers and famous people, who have long enjoyed the exciting challenge that allows them to admire the Dolomites: a UNESCO World Heritage Site. ENEL became a title sponsor of the event.
2012: was the year of the ‘Smile’. 8703 cyclists competed, 746 of whom were women. As always, there were many well-known figures and it was a marvellous day. The Maratona dles Dolomites is not only a great sports festival, but a celebration of the environment. There are lots of initiatives as incentives for an eco-sustainable event. New features in 2012 included: official jerseys no longer wrapped individually in plastic packages (eliminating a ton of useless waste – around 2000 m of plastic), the eco-pocket on the side of the jersey, the use of completely recyclable propylene cups and plates at the finish line refreshment point and a 60% reduction in paper inside the race packs, thanks to the help of partners and sponsors. Numbered slips were also given out to all riders at the finish line who, once they had received a drink, gave the plastic bottle back for collection in a recycling bin. Among the slips given out, some were chosen for free registration in the next Maratona dles Dolomites. There was once again a free shuttle bus to take cyclists to the expo and bib distribution area. Finally, the cleaning staff saw a 50% reduction in waste on the Maratona roads. The event’s “Carbon Neutrality” index in 2012 was 80%. A great result.
Cold, snow, sun and dedication followed in perfect ‘Harmony’ - the theme of the 2013 edition. There were 9143 cyclists of the 9339 selected by lottery, from 52 countries. The temperature at 6.30 am, the time the race started, was 5°. Despite the cold, the competitors raced to conquer the Dolomite passes with the usual courage. Michil Costa, the event organiser, described the day after 6 hours of live TV broadcasting as “…an important page in a book of wonders, the ideal combination of nature, culture and plenty of heart”.
‘Time’ was the main theme of 2014. 8969 riders left La Villa in a 36-minute long train, the time it took the cyclists to enter the competition to the rhythm of live music and encouragement. There were large numbers and a huge demand for participation (32,600 people), with the usual formula: a fixed number of participants, car-free Dolomite passes, charity initiatives and eco-sustainability, with the use of electric cars and motorbikes to transport the jury and the race organisers. The “mür dl giat” was the great new feature. All cyclists on the medium and long route, during the second passage through La Villa, were asked to face a final tough challenge: 200 m after the turn for Corvara, then had to climb the “mür dl giat” (the cat’s wall), as the inhabitants of La Villa are known as ‘cats’. This was a deviation with a 19% grade that crossed La Villa. At the top it re-joined the main route to the finish line in Corvara.
A marvellous day greeted the 9.302 athletes from 64 countries. The Maratona 2015 was confirmed once again as even more of an international event. The theme of the race ‘Forgiveness’, demonstrated that it was a far-ranging event that touched all our sensibilities. There is no beauty without awareness. And the Maratona is a constant invitation to ride with strong legs and an open mind.