Cycling Grossglockner: Austria’s Highest Alpine Road

So, you’ve done France, conquered Italy, and cycled your way around Spain – what next? Well, it might be time to head to the land of Alpine Adventures and book your 2019 cycling holiday to Austria!

While most people think of Austria as a skiing destination, it is one of the best cycling destinations in Europe. The roads are immaculate, the drivers are courteous, and there are more mountain passes that you can count. The weather in this part of the world is surprisingly good from May through to October with summer temperatures exceeding the 30°C mark, the air is pure, the landscapes are breath-taking, and the food is, well, it’s like it was made for cyclists with decadent cakes, delicious Käsespätzle (cheesy pasta type dish), and coffee… lots of coffee.

In the mountainous state of Vorarlberg in western Austria, there are endless cycling possibilities for those who love a challenge, and once a year, you can compete with other climbing aficionados in the Arlberg Giro in St. Anton, a fabulous one-day sportive that tackles 2,500m elevation over just 150km.

Austria is also home to the Ötztaler Radmarathon, which is often described as the most challenging one-day sportive in Europe. Taking place in Sölden each year, this gruelling race includes 3 knee-trembling passes and covers 5,500m elevation over 238km, so it’s not for everyone, but such is the demand that you can only enter by ballot, and just 4,000 out of some 15,000 entrants get a place each year.

Finally, we come to Grossglockner – Austria’s highest mountain. The most magnificent adventure for keen cyclists, it features a pristine alpine road that winds its way up and up to the snow-capped peak. You really need to do this between July and September if you are to at least try and avoid snow on the way up, but if you are blessed with sunshine, you may just think you have died and gone to cycling heaven.

The ascent it tough, but the descent was made for daredevils, and with a clear view of the road below, you can really unleash your inner speed devil and break your own Strava speed records.  The Bicycle Beyond Team will be Cycling Grossglockner again in 2019 and you are invited to join us – click here to find out more!

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Bormio 3 Mountain Pass Cycle Challenge: Gavia, Stelvio & Mortirolo

There are some mountain passes in the world that every cyclist dreams about conquering, and in the picturesque alpine town of Bormio, you will find three of them, all lined up and ready to welcome you with open arms! The mighty Gavia Pass, the Stelvio Pass and the Mortirolo Pass are all right here in the Lombardy region of Italy, and if you are looking for a short and sporty cycling break in one of the most beautiful areas in Europe, Bormio could be the perfect destination for your next cycling trip.

While predominantly a ski resort, Bormio attracts thousands of international cyclists each year who come here to follow in the footsteps (or should that be cycle tracks) of their Giro D’Italia heroes. The mountain passes in this part of the world are known to make the strongest professional climbers weak at the knees… quite literally, and so they are more than a challenge for us mere mortals, but with determination, training, and a will to succeed, any keen cyclist can reach the top, as we found out last week…

Cycling the Gavia Pass from Bormio

The Passo di Gavia is a beautiful ride and a great warm up for the more demanding passes ahead. Starting right in the heart of Bormio, it’s impossible to miss, and with an average gradient of just 5.5%, it is one of just a few alpine passes that even newbie climbers can attempt. While figures vary ever-so-slightly depending on the device you use, the statistics for the Gavia Pass are as follows:

  • Length of climb: 25.6km
  • Average gradient: 5.5%
  • Maximum gradient: 11% (which starts at 21km)
  • Elevation gain: 1404m

It starts with a gentle ride along the river before ramping up slightly to Santa Catarina. There are a few cobbled sections along the way, just enough to get you out of your comfort zone, but in general, the going is good, and the gradients are doable.  There are a few switchbacks to keep you on your toes, but once you have scaled those, the Gavia pass winds its way slowly but surely upwards towards a spectacular glacier. At km 21, things go pear-shaped. The road ramps up to 11% without warning and stays that way for a good couple of kilometres. However, once you’ve done that, you are home and dry. The final stretch along the banks of the beautiful lake is as flat as an Italian pancake – and the café at the top is the cherry on the cake!

Cycling the Stelvio Pass from Bormio

As one of the most iconic climbs in Italia, cycling the Passo di Stelvio is a bucket list dream for many. Both sides of the pass are open to cyclists, and the both offer different challenges, but the road from Bormio is much less crowded, and so it is a great choice for cyclists who are looking for a more peaceful ascent. During the summer months when temperatures are high, it’s a good idea to get cracking early, leaving Bormio no later than 07:30am. Here’s the stats:

  • Length of climb: 21.5km
  • Average gradient: 7.1%
  • Maximum gradient: 14% (at 10.5km)
  • Elevation gain: 1533m

As with Gavia, the Stelvio Pass starts directly in Bormio, and so there’s little opportunity to warm up, so you may want to go for a short spin before you start. The road is well maintained here (unusual for Italy), and there’s hardly any traffic if you leave early. The gradient is a steady 7 percent with a few jumps here and there to remind you that you are climbing one of the toughest passes in the Alps, but it’s only really the 14% ramp that comes just after the 10km mark that really tests the legs.  After completing the switchbacks, you come to a relatively flat section, but don’t let that draw you into a false sense of security! The last 3 kilometres are the toughest part of the entire climb, with 10% – 15% average. However, glory is waiting for you in the form of an ice-cold shandy and a sausage sandwich!

Cycling the Mortirolo Pass from Bormio – via Mazzo

They say all roads lead to Rome, and it seems like many lead to the top of Mortirolo with 5 different routes to keep you entertained, but if you want to do it like the Giro D’Italia professionals, there is only one way to climb Mortirolo, and that is via Mazzo.  To say this is a tough climb is an understatement. In fact, I’ll share the stats with you before saying any more…

  • Length of climb: 12.8km
  • Average gradient: 11.8%
  • Maximum gradient: 20%
  • Elevation gain: 1315m

From Bormio, you have to cycle +/- 28km to Mazzo di Valtellina where your climb will begin. It’s all downhill on the way out, which may sound great, but that mean’s it’s all up hill on the way back, so bear that in mind when planning your journey. From Mazzo, Mortirolo Pass jumps from 4 percent to 9 percent in the blink of any eye and stays that way for the first 4km until you reach San Matteo Church, where things really start to get exciting (or should that be painful!). From here, the gradient soars to almost 14 percent and stays that way until you reach the Marco Pantani Monument at the 9km mark. You’re cycling through a forest tunnel at this stage, so you are fortunately sheltered from the sun, but its hot, its tough, and you may ask yourself why you even cycle… this pass has grown men in tears.  Your last 4kms average at around 9 percent, and so there’s really no respite until you reach the top. Unfortunately, there is no bar at the top of Mortirolo, so take a photo at the sign to prove you really did it before making your way back down to curve number 4 for a much-needed cold drink.  You’ve done it – you are a superstar!

Sound like your perfect cycling holiday? Book your Bormio 3 Mountain Pass Challenge!

 

Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge New Zealand 2018: Entries Now Open!

How far would you be willing to travel to participate in a one day international cycling sportive? Well, if like the rest of us, you would go to the end of the earth to cycle an amazing route, the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge in New Zealand could be the perfect choice for your winter cycling holiday!

An award-winning cycling event that celebrates its 42nd year in 2018, the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge attracts some 7,000 riders from across the globe who flock to New Zealand’s North Island year after year to take part in one of 5 main road bike categories. NZ’s largest cycling event also offers a selection of challenges for off-road cyclists, elites, and groups, and there’s even kiddie rides, so the whole family can join in.

The most popular route by far is the ‘Bike Barn Around the Lake’, which is a single lap, 160km circumnavigation of Lake Taupo. Offering spectacular scenery, it really is one of the most beautiful rides in all New Zealand, and while the event is deemed ‘suitable for all abilities’ you need to be in good shape if you are to compete with the pros, who finish in less than 4 hours.

If 160km with +/- 300m elevation doesn’t sound like much of challenge to you, then you’ll be pleased to know that there is more on offer. The 320km Enduro will see you cycling around New Zealand’s largest lake twice, while the 640km Maxi Enduro will see you spinning around the lake a whopping four times, but it is an official qualifying ride for the Race Across America, so if you are thinking of taking part in the “World’s Toughest Cycle Race” in 2019 – this could be the perfect warm up!

Of course, New Zealand is a long way to go for a one-day sportive, and so most international entrants combine the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge with a self-drive holiday visiting both the North and South Islands. The good news is, New Zealand was made for cycling holidays, so you can rent bikes and bike racks on one island and leave them on the other.

Where will your next cycling adventure take you?

 

 

 

Cycle from Lake Titicaca to Machu Picchu: Peru MTB Adventure

Cycling Holidays are one of this year’s biggest travel trends, and with exciting new routes popping up all over the world, there are some fabulous adventures to be had on two wheels.

No longer reserved for the super fit, the super-rich, and the super talented amongst us, the cycling holidays of today are designed to suit all budgets and all abilities, and whether you are looking for a short and sporty break in Europe, or a two-week cycling holiday somewhere warm and exotic, it’s easy to find the perfect trip… you just need to know where to look!

One of the most exciting tours to come out of South America is the magnificent Lake Titicaca to Machu Picchu Cycling Tour in Peru. On off-road Mountain Bike Adventure covering some 587km across the altiplano, it highlights some of the most beautiful scenery in all Peru. Cycling quiet urban roads and remote mountain passes, you’ll have the unique opportunity to visit those places that the everyday tourist never gets to see, and as the tour ends at the Empire of the Incas – Machu Picchu, it really is a cycling holiday of a lifetime.

Cycling from Lake Titicaca to Machu Picchu takes 12 days including a night in Puno at the beginning of your trip, a night in Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Pueblo) and a final night in Cusco. You will stay in a variety of accommodations ranging from traditional homestays to camping and hotels, and you can expect to cycle anything between 45km and 115km per day.  That may not sound like a lot, when you consider the altitude in which you will be riding at, every kilometre counts!

Despite the remoteness of this Peru Cycling Holiday, a support vehicle is never far behind, and so you only have to carry the absolute essentials with you and can jump on the bus if you feel you need a break.

Here’s a brief overview of what the Biking Titicaca to Machu Picchu Tour looks like:

  • Day 1: Arrive Juliaca, transfer to hotel in Puno for overnight.
  • Day 2: Take a boat tour to the Uros Islands. Set up the bikes. Overnight with local people at a homestay.
  • Day 3: Ride from Lake Titicaca to Lampa – 65km
  • Day 4: Ride from Lampa to Trapiche de Palca – 55km
  • Day 5: Ride from Trapiche de Palca to Cañon de Tinajani over 4,500m Pass – 45km
  • Day 6: Ride from Cañon de Tinajani to Pacomarca – 65km
  • Day 7: Ride from Pacomarca to Lake Langui – 85km
  • Day 8: Ride from Lake Langui to Cusipata – 115km
  • Day 9: Ride from Cusipata to Pisac – 85km
  • Day 10: Ride from Pisac to Ollantaytambo – 75km – Transfer to Machu Picchu Pueblo
  • Day 11: Guided Tour of Machu Picchu – Vistadome Train to Ollantaytambo – Transfer to Cusco
  • Day 12: Departure

Available from end of April to early November, this really is the South American Cycling Holiday that dreams are made of…!