Since 1977 the Gran Fondo Dobbiaco – Cortina takes place. The track is the original Tour de Ski track, run in the opposite direction,from Dobbiaco to Cortina. It follows the former railway, the so-called “Dolomites railway”. It once connected Dobbiaco and Calalzo di Cadore in the Province of Belluno, approx. 40km south of Cortina d’Ampezzo. The railway was closed down in 1964.
The “Dolomites railway”, which had known moments of glory during the winter Olympics of Cortina in 1956, was later abandoned and fell into disrepair – quite an inglorious end – but has today come back to life, even though in a different guise: it is now widely used both as a cycle path over the summer and for cross-country skiing in winter.
The 40th edition of the Gran Fondo starts at the Military Airport on the field of Dobbiaco and goes towards Innichen (San Candido), there the track makes a turn and goes back to Dobbiaco crossing the cross-country stadium Nordic Arena, where the FIS Cross Country Skiing World Cup and the Tour de Ski took place in December and January this season. After doing part of the FIS track “Saskia” the course goes out into the Höhlensteintal (Val di Landro), passing by the Lake of Dobbiaco and the viewpoint of the 3 Peaks of Lavaredo, reaching the highest point of thecourse Cimabanche. From there, the track goes downward through two galleries to Cortina d’Ampezzo. The finish line is located in the city centre of Cortina d’Ampezzo on the main shopping promenade. The whole track lies in the Unesco Natural World Heritage.
Dobbiaco, or Toblach in German, is a municipality located in the Valley of Alta Pusteria in South Tyrol with about 3.400 inhabitants. Itlies about 1.217 m above the sea level that makes it ideally suited for both summer and winter activities. Toblach is a very popular cross-country skiing resort and has several FIS homologated skiing tracks. Dobbiaco is a fixed venue in the FIS Worldcup Calender and the Tour de Ski.
It is part of the three municipalities in the Alta Val Pusteria (Hochpustertal in German) – together with neighboring Sesto/Sexten andSan Candido/Innichen – to have become known as one of the “Comuni delle Tre Cime” (Drei Zinnen in German; see picture above): the three communities – on the South Tyrol side – lying at the foot of these celebrated peaks that have become the symbol of the Dolomites.
The town itself is also divided into two parts: Dobbiaco Vecchia/Alt-Toblach is the historical part, and is located at a slightly higheraltitude in a more secluded location at the entrance of the Valle di San Silvestro/Wahlen.
Dobbiaco Nuova/Neu-Toblach, on the contrary, was newly created at the onset of the 20th century, following the arrival of the railway and a general betterment of the transportation system.
In many ways, Dobbiaco lays in a strategic position, being at a crossroads between three main communication arteries that connect it toVenice and the Dolomites’ heartland to the south; Bolzano/Bozen – and from there on to Tyrol and Bayern – to the west, and Osttirol (Austria) to the east. Only to the north is its territory ‘blocked’ by the main watershed ridge.
Dobbiaco and its history – Why Toblach is Dobbiaco?
The first settlements date back to the Hallstatt period, the first settlers are likely to have been Illyrians. Dobbiaco was first mentioned in official records in 827 under the name of "Duplago”. During the Napoleonic wars from 1792 to 1815 Dobbiaco briefly became part of the Kingdom of Italy. In 1814 Tyrol was returned to Austria. In the 2nd half of the 19th century Dobbiaco slowly became established as a tourist resort. The completion of the Southern railway in 1971, the construction of the Südbahnhotel and Dobbiaco’s reputation as a climatic health resort contributed to a considerable rise in tourism. The First World War ended Dobbiaco’s heyday. All local men were ordered to the front. Many villages were destroyed and suffering came to the people of the village. The Dolomites became the theatre of bitter fights (the evidence is still visible on Monte Piano and other surrounding mountains of Dobbiaco). During the peace negotiations of St. Germain, South Tyrol was separated from East and North Tyrol and became Italian in 1919.During the subsequent years the Italian Government under Mussolini, and in particular Ettore Tolomei attempted to “Italianise” the country. He translated every local name from the German to the Italian language. Therefore Toblach has two names: Tobalch in German and Dobbiaco in Italian. The German language was forbidden. From 1939 to 1945 there was a state of “option”. The South Tyrolean population could choose to emigrate to Germany or to remain and become fully Italian. Many of the inhabitants left the country. During the Second World War South Tyrol was not one of the theatres of war. The situation between the South Tyroleans and the Italians became more and more tense. On several occasions the negotiations of the “South Tyrolean problem” also included Austria.
After ceaseless activity by the South Tyrolean public to retain their own traditions and language, an autonomy agreement wassigned between the region Trentino-South Tyrol and the Italian government in 1948. In the following years this required improvements, but the foundations for an autonomous province had been created. Today this form of autonomy, which is unique in the world, still ensures the peaceful coexistence of the two language groups.
IMPORTANT SPOTS ON THE TRACK:
1. Military Airport of Dobbiaco/The Toblacher field (Start):
The Toblacher field is the highest point of Alta Pusteria. At the same time it is a watershedof European significance: The river Drau (Drava in Italian) has its source justto the east of town (unbeknown to many, this long European river begins itslife in Italy), and has the peculiarity of running all the way to the Danubegoing into the Black Sea. The other important river is the Rienza (Rienz inGerman), which has its source at the foothill of the Tre Cime and, after havingformed the Lago di Dobbiaco/Toblachersee, it crosses the Dobbiaco plateau,flows from here heading west, eventually drained via Eisack and Adige into theAdriatic Sea.
In fact, the very name of the place bears probably a reference to its geographicallocation, as Duplagum – so the settlement is first mentioned in 827 – means“two waters”, which seems to be referring to either the two lakes in thevicinity (Landro and Dobbiaco) or – most likely – to the springs of the tworivers Rienza and Drava, mentioned above.
2. Grand Hotel (km 10):
The Grand Hotel was erected in 1877, and besides being the first hotel to be built inDobbiaco, it was also one of the most important in the whole valley.
It was considered one of the foremost luxury hotels of its time, and for that reason –at the height of its fortunes – it hosted many notable figures and characters.
During WW1 the Grand Hotel suffered so much damage that it was never repaired, and at theend of the conflict it was abandoned. The impressive building then passed fromhand to hand and became derelict, and it was only in 1991 – when it was finallypurchased by the Autonomous Province of Bolzano – that, at last, restorationwork took place.
The original structures were maintained but the destination was changed, as theimpressive complex – despite being still called “Grand Hotel” – was turned intoa multi-function culture centre, comprising educational facilities, a youthhostel, social housing, a holiday resort, a school of music and the visitor’scentre for the Dolomiti di Sesto/Sextnerdolomiten Natural Park.
Most importantly, it now contains the “Auditorium Gustav Mahler”: an astonishingconcert hall – opened in 1999 – with optimum acoustics, where most of theinitiatives for the yearly “Mahler Weeks Festival” take place.
Even though this Festival is the peak event of the year, the concert hall is also usedthroughout the rest of the year for concerts, conferences and other activities,making it the most important cultural hub not just for Dobbiaco but for thewhole upper valley of Alta Val Pusteria/Hochpustertal.
3. Nordic Arena and FIS cross-country tracks (km 11):
This modern cross-country skiing stadium offers a lot ofsportive activities. In the summertime the cross-country-ski-slopes areexchanged by the roller skiing track. Another highlight is the climbing centerwith 23m high climbing walls. The cross-country stadium of Dobbiaco is uniquein his style. All stadium tracks cross the roof of the Nordic Arena and all ofthem are named after Dobbiaco’s cross-country and biathlon stars, the SanterSisters: Nathalie, Saskia and Stephanie and Albert Walder, participant of1988’s Olympics in Calgary.
4. Lake of Dobbiaco (km 16)
The Dobbiaco Lake (Italian Lago di Dobbiaco) is a small,alpine lake, which lies in the Val di Landro Toblach. The Rienz is its inflowand outflow. The lake has a circumference of about 4.5 kilometers, its volumeis estimated at 286,000 cubic meters. It is located in the natural parkFanes-Senes-Braies and is protected as a natural monument.
5. Schmelze - Water powered furnaces of Landro (18,5):
Right after the Lake of Dobbiaco the Toblach-Cortina trackpasses beside the furnaces of Landro (km 18.5 on the left side). Here throughthe use of water-powered bellows high temperatures were reached for the initialsmelting of lead ores and zinc ores. The furnace is a unique testimony ofTyrol's industrial past and an example on how many ways Toblach knew to benefitits water resources for centuries.
6. Nasswand Mountain War Cemetery (km 20):
On 23rd May 1915, the Kingdom of Italy declared war on theAustro-Hungarian Empire. The Italian army occupied Cortina, and the troops ofthe Austro-Hungarian monarchy withdrew to the Monte Lagazuoi to defend the ValBadia/Gadertal and Val Pusteria/Pustertal valleys. The mountains were to becomethe scene of an incredible high-altitude war. The war cemetery in the Valle diLandro/Höhlensteintal valley near Dobbiaco contains the graves of soldiers ofthe Austro-Hungarian army whose mother-tongue was not German. Fighting was fierce along the Dolomites frontand usually there was no alternative but to bury those killed in action wherethey had died. Those wounded on the Monte Piana were carried five kilometres tothe Nasswand, where the war cemetery was established. Between 1926 and 1941 theremains of many who had been killed in action were reinterred here. The bodiesof soldiers interred in other cemeteries around about were brought to theNasswand war cemetery. German-speaking Austrians were buried with otherGerman-speakers in the cemetery in Bressanone/Brixen. Soldiers of other nationsbelonging to the fallen monarchy, including Serbs, Yugoslavs, Slovenians andHungarians, were laid to rest in the Nasswand war cemetery. A total of 1259soldiers are now buried in the cemetery.
7. Three Peaks of Lavaredo (km 25):
The 3 Peaks of Lavaredo are one of the best-known peaks inthe Alps. The Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Italian for "three peaks ofLavaredo"), also called the Drei Zinnen (German) are one of the best-knownmountain groups in the Alps. The three peaks, from east to west, are:
Cima Piccola/Kleine Zinne ("little peak")
Cima Grande/Große Zinne ("big peak")
Cima Ovest/Westliche Zinne ("western peak").
The Cima Grande has an elevation of 2,999 metres (9,839 ft).It stands between the Cima Piccola, at 2,857 metres (9,373 ft), and the CimaOvest, at 2,973 metres (9,754 ft). The first ascent of the Cima Grande was onAugust 21, 1869, by the Austrian Paul Grohmann with guides Franz Innerkoflerand Peter Salcher.
8. Lago di Landro/Lake of Landro and Mount Cristallo (km 27):
Only a stone’s throw from Lake Dobbiaco, a little farther in the Valle di Landrovalley, there is the Lago di Landro (race track Toblach-Cortina km 27). In itsturquoise colour, the Lago di Landro stretches on 1,400 m asl, between the twonature parks Sesto Dolomites and Fanes-Sennes-Braies. From the Lago di Landro,located in the homonymous valley, you can enjoy a breathtaking view on theCristallo mountain range. Mount Cristallo (3,221 m) is one of the highestmountains, most majestic and most famous ot the Dolimites of Cortina d’Ampezzo.
9. Cimabanche (km 34,5):
Pass Cimabanche (or Gemärk in German) is the highest pointof the course with an altitude of 1,529m and located between the massif of theCroda Rossa d'Ampezzo in the north and south of Cristallo. It is also theboarder between the regions of Trentino-South Tyrol and Veneto. The wheelbaseis 15 km long with 2.2% slope on the side of Cortina, while measuring 16 km at2% on that of Dobbiaco. The overall height difference is 590 m. A few meterssouth of the pass, there are two small lakes: White Lake to the east, and theBlack Lake to the west.
10. Ospitale (km 38,5):
Once a railway station, now a little restaurant withtraditional kitchen and some rooms.
FINISH: Cortina d’Ampezzo (km 50)
Cortina is best known as host city for the Olympic WinterGames in 1956. Still today it is a very famous winter sports resort. The 1944Winter Olympics were also scheduled to be held in Cortina, but were cancelledbecause of World War II.
Already an elite destination for the first British touristsin the late 18th and early 20th century, after World War I Cortina d'Ampezzobecame a popular resort for upper-class Italians too. Thanks to the winterOlympics in 1956, Cortina grew into a world-famous resort, with a substantialincrease in tourists. With a resident population of 6,150 people in 2008,Cortina has a temporary population of around 50,000 during peak periods such asthe Christmas holidays and mid-August.
Among the surrounding mountains are Tofane to the west,Pomagagnon to the north, Cristallo to the northeast, Faloria and Sorapiss tothe east, and Becco di Mezzodì, Croda da Lago and Cinque Torri to the south.The town centre is located at an elevation of 1,224 metres.
In Cortina many people speak the local dialect from Ampezzothat belongs to Ladin, an old Rhaeto-Romance language that today is spoken inonly a few valleys in the Dolomites.
The town voted in October 2007 to secede from the region ofVeneto and join the neighbouring region, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol. This wasmotivated by improved cultural ties with the small Ladin-speaking community inSouth Tyrol and the attraction of lower taxes. The referendum is not executiveand a final decision on the matter can only be taken by law of the Italianparliament with consent of both regional councils of Veneto and Trentino-AltoAdige.
The James Bond movie “For your eyes only” has been shot inCortina.
Live Center 2017
Live Center 2016
Saturday February 11th, 201750km Classic TechniqueToblach Cortina Italy
Start TimeWomen CET 09.30Men CET 10.00
Visma Ski Classics sprints19km Toblach/Dobbiaco Nordic Arena
Men1. Tord Asle Gjerdalen SAN 02.04:59.32. Petter Eliassen LEA 02.04:59.73. Morten Eide Pedersen BNB 02.06:42.4
Women1. Katerina Smutna SAN 02.30:32.02. Britta Johansson Norgren LAG 02.30:35.73. Astrid Øyre Slind TUB 02.30:39.3