The best cycle event you’ve never heard of

The best cycle event you’ve never heard of

Cycling isn’t just a sport to me, it’s my passion. It was an essential therapy that helped get me through a low period in my life. Some years ago, during this period, I was very lucky to be in the right place at the right time when an opportunity presented itself that both helped me and, ultimately, thousands of cyclists to experience one of the greatest events in the world of our wonderful sport.

Despite the Maratona dles Dolomites being the biggest and most oversubscribed sportive in Italy, it was virtually unheard of in the UK and Ireland. I’d been taken there by my great friend, Pat O’Hare, who lived in Rome and, just by chance, found myself having coffee with some of the organisers of the event and officials from the regional tourist office. I was quizzed as to why there were virtually no riders from the British Isles amongst the 9000 field. Of course, I had no idea but I started to think how I could help them as they were keen to get us over there.

© freddy planinschek

I thought of contacting cycling magazines and my new Italian friends said they would give me guaranteed places, worth their weight in gold, to help encourage riders over to their two wheeled paradise. I decided to contact Cycling Weekly as it had always been my ‘comic’ of choice and they were happy to help me get the event known, as long as I did all of the work. This, I was happy to do.

© freddy planinschek

Things took off and, what started as a favour to my new friends at Maratona and the magazine, became something that began to occupy a lot of my time. My reward was a free ride and the satisfaction of helping fellow cyclists experience it. After some years my situation began to change, as did the demand for places. Increasing numbers year on year, more and more publicity and, unsurprisingly, more time spent on administration made me re-evaluate things and begin operating as a business. From just a handful at the start to a sizeable peloton today it is now most definitely a job. That said, I get just as much from it and love the event as much as I did that first year. At times it feels like herding cats but my inbox immediately following each Maratona makes it all worthwhile as people realise my evangelistic enthusiasm is justified.

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Personally, I feel very proud to have been largely responsible for the amount of interest and demand there currently is for Maratona dles Dolomites amongst riders from the UK and Ireland. There are around 1000 entrants from the British Isles who now enjoy the biggest and best granfondo Italy has to offer. The entrants grab places either through me, one of the various agencies offering packages or through the lottery for entries. Each year over 30,000 riders enter the online lottery for a starting position.

My role is to provide entry only but I give advice and recommendations on travel and accommodation. Over the years I’ve got to know the area really well and often holiday there outside Maratona time.

If you’d like to know more or apply for a place on Maratona dles Dolomites then get in touch with Ian Parr at

Whatever sportive or event you choose to take part in, make sure that you are fully covered for any accidents that may occur before, during or after the event by taking out a cycle insurance policy with Yellow Jersey.  If you need some help, please give our support staff a call on 0333 003 0046

Article written by Ian Parr