1300km with 17000m of elevation gain in 8 days – BIKEGEAR.CC THE RIDE –

A few months ago I googled about epic cycling events in Europe and I came across a Dutch cycling event called “Bikegear.cc The Ride”. 1300km from Stelvio (Italy) to Cauberg (Netherlands) in 8 days through 8 countries.

I was immediately hooked.

How awesome would it be to ride through Europe, especially that particular route: from the Italian Alps to the Flatlands through regions that are world famous for cycling.

I got very excited. I had to do it!
1300km in 8 days is already an impressive ride. The 17000m (!!!) elevation gain would make this event a real epic ride. Throw in camping and you got a complete adventure.

Soon enough I was registered.

One day before the event start, I signed the white board in Prato alla Stelvio. I looked around. Participants from all stages of life and fitness levels made up a peloton of 260 cyclists. Now, we are strangers. But soon enough, faces become familiar, riding styles recognizable and the morning faces at 5:30am memorable.

Surrounded by snowcapped mountains it was hard to believe we would be in the flattish Netherlands in 8 days. Joining this event alone, I was excited to get to know the other participants, helping each other, suffering together and exchanging stories of our days.

Before getting into what really happened behind the scenes each day, I want to share a few details about the event itself. The organization was absolutely top notch! Although all communication was in Dutch, I knew exactly where and when to be. The camp sites were professionally set up with everything what I needed. An entire camp village moved with The Ride. All tents were set up before we arrived, a recharge station for phones and bike computers, free massages, dinner prepared by Pro Tour chefs and an event atmosphere that clearly indicated that the organizer knew a thing or two about putting on a show.

8 days later having arrived in Valkenburg, I would never have thought that I would feel as I do now. I am incredibly exhausted having ridden 50+ hours in the last 8 days. I am extremely tired from sleeping 4-5 hours a day.

But all these are minor disturbances compared to that huge feeling of accomplishment and achievement. This ride put me through extreme ups and down – physically and mentally. Events occurred I could have never foreseen: a tire explosion and close elimination from the event, severe heat exhaustion, picking the right fights, a nasty descending crash, my pursuit for supermarket pic-nics and the dedication of another cyclist becoming such an incredible teammate that showed once again to me that cycling with a team is so much more fun than a solo goal.

I will also share how I recovered after each stage, what I ate and what I think is important along the way – especially when I was mentally and physically exhausted.
But let’s start from the beginning. Day 1: From Prato alla Stelvio to Silvaplana. 129km with 3900m of elevation with Stelvio, Foscagno and Bernina Pass. For those who have been in that region know that this ride by itself would be tough enough. How I managed to make it even tougher on day 1 will be in the next post.

Five tips to make travelling your lifestyle

In the last 10 years, I have lived on three continents, five countries and about 30+ places. Some of them weren’t longer than a month, one lasted for an entire six months. It was almost worth noting down the address. I truly love travelling, moving around and meeting new people and cultures. I am not afraid of moving to a new continent without knowing a soul, the language or the culture. In fact, I thrive on the excitement of experiencing new adventures.

Rather than travelling, I call it moving because I do immerse myself into my surroundings, in fact that is a must for me. I don’t like to be a tourist and prefer to stay where the locals live and do what the locals do as told here.

Although moving to an unknown places seems scary at first, there are ways to make this an amazing adventure. Here are few tips:

  1. To make moving easy, I own just enough stuff that I truly need, nothing more. Despite being an absolute bike addict, I only have one bike. Carrying extras of anything makes me feel weighed down. The adventures I am experiencing discredit any materialistic belongings. Stuff weighs me down. Experiences lift me up.
  2. Be happy with yourself alone. Don’t be afraid to be alone in a new country where you don’t speak the language or understand the culture. Yes, it seems at first overwhelming and scary but exactly those intense emotions you will never forget and appreciate even more because they make you feel alive.
  3. Smiling opens doors. There is no better way to communicate. Enough said.
  4. Be proactive. Moving into a new country but then hanging out in front of the TV is not worth the effort. Get out with or without a plan. You learn so much from looking around.
  5. There is no better strategy to learn than observing. Find out why the locals do certain things. How they behave. How they interact. What is different than what you are used to and why could that possibly be?

Travelling is an enriching and rewarding experience. Just buy a plane or train ticket and get out! With or without plan.

Because life is a journey!

Where is Option C? Cycling in the sea of hills.
I have been riding in the Parma-Bologna-Reggio region for the past two weeks and I should know it by now. Once you are in the hills, there is barely a flat spot. But I keep getting too excited on the first climb, only to die on the next. My riding buddy told me 100km roundtrip. It will take us 4 hours. That should have been an indicator already that the climbing will not end after the first climb. So heading out on the flat from Reggio we were climbing up to Baiso again – 7km climb, consistent in its gradient. A climb you can really get into a rhythm. I liked it. Well, it became a time trial effort and I was quite exhausted once on the top. I thought to myself, great, the next….I looked at my Garmin….60km…ahem…we only have ridden 40km by now??? Ouch! My riding buddy gave me some indication what’s ahead and besides a tough 1km climb, it seemed I could take it easy now. He definitely didnt exaggerate about the steepness of the climb to Valestra. But from there on, downhill!

Climbs everywhere. So many options. It was hazy today so the views were not super spectacular.
So, still recovering from the effort up to Baiso, I had the return back home in my head already, sailing all the way downhill. Then my riding buddy said: Monika, we got two options. Either a 8km steep climb or a 10km gentle climb. What do you prefer? Okay, these were not exactly the options I had in mind so I had to refocus my mind. I took option B and we rode up to Toana. You have a pretty good view while climbing up to Toana. A sea of hills everywhere. The view distracted me from my attention-seeking legs.

Once in Toana, we grabbed a coffee, admired the snow-capped mountains which seemed so close. My riding buddy gave me three options this time for the return trip. I took the easiest option as my legs were truly fried by now. We were heading the same way back with a little detour to avoid the Baiso climb. This is a great ride for everyone as you can make it very hard (Just smash it up Baiso!) or take it easy. Coffee in Toana is highly recommended. And check out the views to your left!

6 top cycling routes in the Appennine mountains in Italy

For a lot of cyclists, riding in Italy means climbing Passio di Giau, Stelvio or Passio di Gavia, all in the Italian Alps.

And exactly that was my plan when I drove to Italy. But the weather was not exactly coorporating so when I woke up in the Dolomites (Northern Italian region) and saw rain, fog and cold, I packed my stuff and left.

My plan?

Driving to a place where it is sunny, mountainous , remote and very Italian.

Another four hours further South from the Alps, I found the place that had it all – the Northern part of the Appennine mountain range.

The terrain features everything – flat, rolling, hilly and some serious climbing – shallow or steep. And the best part – little traffic, great weather and well…amazing recovery food! Prosciutto, Parmesan cheese and Balsamic vinegar all come from this region.

If you find yourself in this region, check out these rides – from a tough day on the bike to lazy recovery rides:

Tour du Mont Blanc – 330km with 8000m elevation
This weekend`s cycling tour led through Switzerland, Italy and France hitting climbs like
  • Col de Champex (9.3k, 560m elevation),
  • St Grand Bernard (45km, 2000m elevation),
  • Petit St. Bernard (28km, 1287m elevation),
  • Cormet de Roselend (20km, 1100m elevation) and
  • Col de Montets (11.5km, 420m elevation)
….all around Mt. Blanc.
We had every kind of weather. From cool Spring-like temperatures while crawling up Grand St. Bernard to Mediterranean heat in Aosta, Italy having lunch in a park to damp and rainy weather in Ugine, France to clear sunshine in Chamonix.
It`s fun cycling through three different countries with different food options, weather and terrain. We stayed in small ski resort towns that offered cute hotel rooms with a homelike character.
Here is the route with some pics:


The route
The pain measured in elevation
Fantastic weather


A glimpse to the Mt. Blanc


Tunnels – sometimes so dark you have no clue where you are riding


St petit Bernard….Not so petit though with 1,300m of climbing!


Since we just crossed into Italy, a crostata had to be on the re-fuel menu


What a view!



Sunshine on the ascent, mystic fog on the descent


Cycling in the clouds


View to Martigny, our start and end point


Turquoise lakes


Another view to the Mt Blanc
On next weekend`s agenda will be Italy with climbs like Stelvio Joch, Gavia und den Mortirolo.
Picture source: http://www.chamonix.net/english/summer-activities/cycling/tour-du-mont-blanc 
Photo Credit: Paul Boerner