Passo Pordoi

There are many harder climbs in the Dolomites than the Passo Pordoi, but none as essential or, for that matter, quintessential. There are more beautiful passes, but perhaps none more beguiling. There are older and more strategic roads in northeast Italy, and greater feats of engineering, but none, for the cyclist, whose name captures the essence of mountain riding in the Dolomites like the Pordoi.

The Pordoi is unmistakable. Moseying steadily upwards out of the Val di Fassa and Canazei in the west and the Val Cordevole and Arabba in the east, its trajectories unite in the shadow of the immense Gruppo del Sella and the Sasso Pordoi, commonly known as the terrazza delle Dolomiti or the terrace of the Dolomites. The Gruppo del Sella sprawls the length of the Pordoi while peering over another rocky massif at the northern face of the Marmolada, the Queen of the Dolomites and the highest mountain in the entire range at 3,343 metres.

The Climb in Detail

“The most splendid view of from the summit itself, just before turning the last corner...." - Mountain High


The Ascents

Wriggling first through cool and fragrant pine forest, then Alpine meadow dappled with edelweiss, the road from Canazei arrives at the pass via 28 hairpins and is the lovelier of the two ascents. From Arabba on the eastern side, the Sasso Pordoi’s neighbour, the Piz Boè, to the right and its mirror image to the left form a majestic natural arcade, although the Marmolada remains stubbornly hidden from view as the road funnels through a grassy swathe and towards the pass. To see the Queen of the Dolomites, the cyclist will have to abandon his bike and walk five or ten minutes towards the Piz Boè. 

The Marmolada

The Marmolada is the highest mountain in the Dolomites at 3,343 metres. It looms over the summit of the Fedaia and Pordoi climbs. It was first scaled in 1864 by the Austrian Paul Grohmann, a prolific collector of Dolomite peaks. The Englishman and president of the Alpine Club, John Ball, had unsuccessfully attempted the same ascent four years earlier. Today, just about anyone can reach the glacier that cloaks the north side via a cable car departing from the pass.

It’s place at the Giro d’Italia

The Giro d’Italia quickly discovered that there were few better ways to showcase the Dolomites than via the Pordoi. The mountain will forever be linked to Italian great Fausto Coppi. Coppi crested the Pordoi leading the peloton five times in his career, three straight times from 1947. There are a number of tributes to Coppi along the climb. Since then it has been one of the Giros most familiar climbs.

"I was first over the summit there five times, maybe because whenever I was in that area I could breathe beautifully...." - Coppi 

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