Passo Lavaze: On Thursday 25th January the crowds flocked to Passo Lavaze for the annual 22km Silver Worldloppet classic ski race. The sun was shining, it was still and the temperature was just below zero, making for extremely pleasant conditions with dry powdery snow. The tracks were impeccably groomed. Some 340 skiers lined up at the start line, with the start being low key and relaxed.
The course did a loop on the open hilltop before descending through thick forest to break out in the sunshine at Malga Costa. The tracks for a steep climb back up to Passo Lavaze testing grip wax effectiveness. A quick drink station, then descending through a steep hairpin, with some undulating up and down, followed by a steady climb to Malga Ora for a well earned drink station. The undulations continued through the small downhill run at Malga Varena then predominantly downhill to the finish area at Passo Lavaze. There were 2 drink stations and no food available on the course, although at the finish, skiers enjoyed meat rolls and warm drinks in the sunshine whilst chatting about the race.
It was great to be at the after race presentations especially to cheer the young Aussie duo who came 4th lady and 5th man. Congratulations Mark and Ella!
One suggestion for race organisers is to time the start of the race so that skiers travelling via public transport are able to participate in the race. Currently the race is programmed to start just 5 minutes after the first bus from Cavalese arrives making it extremely difficult for international skiers travelling via public transport. Fortunately the race start was deferred for 10 minutes to allow for those bus travellers but it would be more relaxing if this was known in advance.
Now the big Marcialonga race….
Bib pick-up was in the Congress Centre in Cavalese beginning the Thursday afternoon before the Marcialonga. The process was extremely well-organised with lots of friendly volunteers eager to assist. There was also a huge array of sponsor products which provided interesting displays.
On Saturday night at 5.30pm there was a Worldloppet Masters reception. Angelo Corradini made some wonderful announcements which are extremely pleasing for all Worldloppet Masters. Angelo said that Marcialonga really value Worldloppet Master skiers and really want their participation in future races. Marcialonga understand the difficulties with the current entry system especially for Worldloppet Masters in faraway countries and so from now on all Worldloppet Masters will be given entry to the Marcialonga by contacting the Marcialonga office before the release of entries to the general public. Contact the Marcialonga Office as early as possible before the online entries open. If you have any difficulties contact Angelo direct. Wow, what brilliant news, especially for us non-European Worldloppet Masters who have to travel half way across the world to reach Italy. Gaining entry to the Marcialonga has always been an adhoc, costly venture for us, so now we will be relaxed knowing we can source the most appropriate accommodation (like apartments) rather than having to stay at expensive hotels which offer race entry packages. Thank you to the Marcialonga organisers for valuing the participation of Worldloppet Masters in this fantastic event.
Race day dawned clear and still. The bus transport system from Cavalese to the race start was extremely efficient with a line of 20+ buses greeting skiers in the main street of Cavalese. Waiting in the toilet queue at the race start of Moena, it was beautiful to watch the first rays of sun hit the tops of the Dolomites. The red rocky peaks really shone over the valley. This was my sixth Marcialonga and the warmest start I can recall but still a cool -1 degrees for us Australians.
The clearly labelled trucks with different bag colours were easily to find, to deposit clothing bags for pickup at the finish. Before the sun rose the first race group, the Elite Women were off and racing as the rest of us fiddled with last minute clothing adjustments. Lining up in an orderly manner to get into the fenced off areas according to bib numbers, one felt a little like a caged animal, but the system worked. Once your group’s barrier lifts, you have 5 minutes to leisurely walk out to the start area, put your skis on and to ski across the start line truly makes the Ideal Start a relaxed, calm way to get 7,500 skiers off and racing. It is noted the shorter 45km skiers start with the 70km skiers.
Climbing the first hill to Moena, I remembered the queues of my previous Marcialonga skis and wondered how the crowds would be today. Right from the first houses, spectators lined the course yelling “ Bravo, up-up-up” and cheering us along, as the route wound between double storey houses barely 2 metres apart. The trucked in snow was quite soft, and dry, falling apart, feeling more like deep dry sand rather than snow. It would have been extremely difficult to make a snowman out of this snow. Looking up, the sun was glistening off the red rocks making for an amazing spectacle.
Climbing above Moena there were a few short hills where the pace slowed to a crawl as skiers herringboned up the steeper pitches.
Multiple tracks with 3 or 4 classic tracks where the width allowed was welcome. This gave an opportunity for faster skiers to zip through and overtake those skiing slower. Most skiers were calm and encouraging to others.
For some 17km the trail climbed up the Val di Fassa valley, meandering alongside a small creek, Torrente Avisio, with snow still hanging in the frosted trees. It was great to finally break out of the shaded valley into the sunshine at Canazei. There were many cheering spectators as skiers pushed through the heavy deep snow to the turn around point right in the middle of Canazei.
It was great to cross Torrente Avisio and begin to head back down the Val di Fassa valley on the shaded side, with lots of double poling opportunities. The kilometres seemed to zip past with Pozza di Fassa uniquely covered drink station being reached in good time. Climbing the Soraga hill the church bells were ringing to indicate noon.
But the predicted 9 degrees began to make its way into the sunny segments and the tracks became wide and glazed in some areas.
Skiers seemed to thin as tiredness was creeping in for all. The managed descent to Moena was exciting with lots of crowds lining the course in Moena and cheering you over the small bridge. Meandering between the buildings and within centimetres of Torrente Avisio was very different to most ski races which are held in forested areas away from villages and wild spectators. It certainly adds to the memorable uniqueness of the Marcialonga.
Continuing down, down to the Val de Fiemme valley, it was good know most of the tricky bits of the course were behind me now. Passing Predazzo and waving goodbye to the 500 participants in the 45km Marcialonga Light, skiers seemed more spaced, just surviving staying upright with tired legs and tired bodies. The snow had changed to Australian powder (wet slop) so I felt right at home and my crown skis were gliding well.
The cheering spectators continued to give you an extra boost to push on a bit harder. It was hard not to enjoy the beautiful weather, sunny and clear though variable temperatures depending whether you were in the shaded areas or out in the open paddocks or river flats. All the way the red rocks of the Dolomites towered above us.
It was great to see the church spires of Cavalese and know that there wasn’t too far to go now. Under the Alpe Cermis cablecar and finally I got a glimpse of skiers heading up the final hill, knowing it was close but not that close as I still had to ski 3kms down the valley to the turnaround at Molina then another 3kms back up to the base of that famous climb.
There was a party atomsphere at the Molina drinks station as skiers knew it wasn’t far now and that they could do it.
Klister stations at Molina and the base of the climb were welcomed by skiers running out of grip wax. However my crown skis gave me enough grip to keep progressing.
Finally, I made it to the final climb, a 3km uphill slog from the river to reach the finish line at Cavalese. Skiers just kept on going, onward and upward knowing the end was near. Finishing in Cavalese is amazing, skiing through the narrow streets, with cheering crowds helping me to push that little bit harder to make it to the finish line. What a feeling it was to cross the line and know that I had been successful in another Marcialonga.
Time to collect the bag, change the shoes, drink some hot soup, find my friends, then to the Cavalese Congress Centre for the pasta party. Marcialong Light skiers reported the pasta party at Predazzo in a warm tent was wonderful too.
A highlight of the Marcialonga was the plentiful food/drink stations at each small village you skied through; music and friendly helpful volunteers cheered you along. In several of the towns (Canazei, Predazzo and Cavalese) skiers’ names were announced as you skied through which encouraged you a little more. The enthusiasm of spectators hanging out the balconies or just cheering you on as you skied past was a real highlight too. Some spectators even supplied water to slower competitors just at the right location.
Even though many of the small descents became icy bobsled runs with piles of corn flour snow pushed up on the sides courtesy was shown to fallen skiers to be safe and encourage them.
All in all, the Marcialonga is one of the iconic Worldloppet races with lots of appeal to skiers and well worth including on every Worldloppet Master skiers’ program.