Sella Ronde is the most famous ride in the Dolomites. It encircles the Gruppo Sella, the iconic feature of the Dolomites landscape. Gruppo Sella is a massive Dolomite peak with a flat top. It is so big, you can only properly see it from the air. A good alternative is to ride your bike around it and see it from many sides, much like a mouse would view an elephant.
Gruppo Sella sits in the middle of a ring of roads. There are four passes: Campolongo, Gardena, Sella, and Pordoi. Sella is unquestionably the most famous. Gardena and Pordoi are also quite famous. The poor sibling Campolongo is very nice, too, and was the feature photo for an earlier ride.
The total ride around the ring is 36 miles and a little bit under 6000 feet of climbing. The passes are quite high. Sella, Pordoi, and Gardena are all about 2200 meters. Total climbing is reasonable because the valleys are low. So, you’ve got 4 passes, each about 1500 feet, but you get to be high and see some incredible sights.
We started our ride at the top of the Falzarego. Ajax and I drove the group here from our hotel in Cortina d’Ampezzo. Here’s the group at the top of the Falzarego. From left to right, we have Dave, Dennis, Sue, Craig, Ajax, Lisa, Jessica, and Rudy.
From here we descend the southwest side of the Falzarego and ride towards Arabba where we start the climb of the Campolongo. Here’s Dave climbing the Campolongo with the Pordoi in the background.
We made quick work of the Campolongo and I sped ahead in the van to catch the group on Passo Gardena. Passo Gardena is one of my favorite passes to photograph because it has a combination of impressive vertical rock with a pastoral green valley. Although Sella is more famous and the panoramic views are breathtaking, Gardena is easier to capture with a camera.
Here are Craig and Sue climbing the lower slopes of Passo Gardena.
and here are Ernesto, Ajax, and Rudy climbing a switchback with the Gruppo Sella in the background.
Sue, Dennis, and Craig were first to the top of the Gardena. Here they are posing before the view. Behind them is the descent. It starts out steep, but halfway through is a short section that is flat to slightly up before the descent continues. The jutting structure behind Craig’s head is Sassolongo, and very beautiful neighboring Dolomite peak that looks like a tiny version of the Gruppo Sella.
Next up, we see Ajax summiting the climb with a view of Gruppo Sella to the right and Corvara and Passo Gardena behind him.
Here are Jessica, Dave, Ernesto, Ajax, and Rudy posing in front of the view at the top.
Lisa enjoys a sandwich before she heads down the descent.
Passo Sella is a pretty incredible climb. The view from the top is wonderful. Here are Jessica and Rudy posing in front of the Sassolongo.
You can also see Passo Pordoi and the famous Marmolada glacier from the top of Passo Sella. Here are Dave, Jessica, Rudy, Ernesto, and Ajax posing in front of the view. You can see both Passo Pordoi and the Marmolada glacier just above Jessica and Dave’s heads.
Descending Passo Sella, you can see a nice view of Gruppo Sella. The top of Passo Sella has several technical switchbacks so be careful on this descent. This photo shows one of the hairpins with the rock walls of Gruppo Sella in the background. This is one of my favorite views of Gruppo Sella.
Heading up the Pordoi, you can look back towards the Sella… that is if your head is not bobbing above the handlebars trying to turn the pedals over. Here is a view of the top of the Sella with the Rifugio (a.k.a gift shop) and the hotel on the ridge line.
Getting near the top of the Pordoi, we see Jessica and Ajax rounding a switchback, following Ernesto who is ahead of them.
Finally, here is the group at the top — Rudy, Dave, Ernest on the left and Ajax and Jessica on the right of the sign. The sign has an old black-and-white photo commemorating the history of cycling.
We headed down the Pordoi, through Arabba, and met in a parking lot a few km past Brenta. Most of the group hopped in the van and drove home. A few hardy souls climbed the backside of Falzareggo and enjoyed the swooping descent back to Cortina.
Statistics? Hmm… The complete loop is about 36 miles and 5900 feet of climbing but we added the descent of the Falzarego so mileage is probably 45-50 miles.
Last year, we did the same ride. You can see the story and photos here.