It’s nearly race time at Maratona dles Dolomites for our competition winners

Alex Gold and Laura Johnstone look back on preparations for this Italian epic

Who remembers the competition we ran with X-Bionic back in January, offering the chance to win a place on epic Italian granfondo the Maratona dles Dolomites? With the event just round the corner, we spoke to competition winners Alex Gold and Laura Johnstone to see how they were feeling.


“I was amazed to hear that I had won the Maratona trip and the kit prize from X-Bionic,” Gold said. “I’ve never ever won a competition before, but I hit the jackpot! I had heard mention of the Maratona before from friends, and knew it was a tough ride, but only when I looked up the statistics and the reputation of the event did it sink in what I’d got myself into: climbing, and lots of it. Since then I’ve seen the climbs on the Giro d’Italia, and seeing the struggle those guys had getting up them all made me doubly nervous about my chances!”

He said that the parcels of X-Bionic kit helped him get through training in all weathers, from the sweat management and the minimal clothing for the hot weather, to the base layer, leg warmers and jacket for the cold days. “I’ve found it great in every situation I’ve used it, and am really looking forward to seeing how it copes with the heat of Italy during the Maratona,” he said. “Fingers crossed.”

As for Johnstone, she said that as a triathlete, cycling used to be something she endured in order to move onto the running. “I didn’t know what a groupset was. I wasn’t sure why anybody would wear bibshorts and Strava wasn’t in my vocabulary,” she said. “How things have changed.”

Training for Maratona dles Dolomites

"Look fast even if you can't ride fast," says Laura Johnstone

Johnstone said that she’s been averaging 99 miles per week during training, and has been really taken out of her comfort zone. “Training has been a steep learning curve. Gears, fuelling, cadence, climbing… It’s all slowly starting to fall into place,” she said. “My usual mid-week route is 10 minutes quicker, I can let go of the brakes while I descend, I am no longer overtaken by runners going up our local hill, in fact I clocked a QOM on it.”

Gold said that he’s been training hard for the last few months, using a combination of indoor training with TrainerRoad and Zwift and outdoor rides to practise his climbing. The outdoor rides have mainly been in the Surrey and Kent hills, with a few longer rides thrown in from time to time. 

Since winning our competition, Alex Gold has been doing lots and lots of climbing
Since winning our competition, Alex Gold has been doing lots and lots of climbing

“I’ve done 200+km rides a few times to practise for a long day in the saddle, and am pleased to say the X-Bionic shorts have stood up to the test,” he said. “Before the Maratona I headed to Spain for the Girona Gran Fondo, and then did the Chase The Sun ride in the UK the week after. Hopefully this will be sufficient preparation to complete the Maratona!”


Does Johnstone think she’s ready to race? “While I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready to take part in the iconic Maratona, I know I’m a lot closer now than before,” she said. “However there is one thing that nobody warned me about…. Who thought I would ever spend so much time looking at bikes on the Internet!”