This summer, my Dad, Sister, Mom, and I traveled to Europe to ride road bikes through Austria, Slovenia, and Italy in the Dolomite Mountain Range, and the region of Catalonia in Spain from the Pyrenees to the Mediterranean. After flying into the Venice airport and spending a few days there, trying new foods and getting into the 6 hour time shift, we finally headed into the country to begin our ride through the Dolomites. This part of the trip was to be 6 days of hard riding with lots of climbs and beautiful views, full of cultural experiences. Since I could probably write a book on this trip, I will only cover the highlights and show in pictures. A picture is worth a thousand words right?
One of my favorite things in the Dolomites where the hills. Unlike at home, where hills go straight up and straight down, there are many switchbacks going up, which are really fun. Everyday we would have at least one switchback climb, and my dad and I would race to the top-I am proud to say that by the end of the trip I was able to give him a run for his money on a few of the climbs where we were both huffing and puffing to the top. Also fun, were the downhill switchbacks where you had to constantly switch you position to get around the hairpin turns and paying attention lest you go off the much skinnier roads. Going through the different countries, it is interesting to see the different pitches that are the norm. In Italy, the pitches would be about 6-8% grade, in Austria they would be about 10% grade, and then you enter Slovenia where the climbs are vertical, only about 14% AVERAGE grade. We had one killer climb that had an average of 14% grade for 10 kilometers, in the middle of a 125 K ride. It was hard.
Interestingly enough, we also passed through a bunch of ski areas, one of which was the IBU Biathlon stadium in Rodarm, Austria, and the amazing ski trails that were to be found in Niederdorf and Toblach, Italy. It was amazing to see Nordic skiing such a big sport over there-I want to go back in the winter and check some of the trails out.
Throughout our rides we saw shrines to Jesus…everywhere. My family is not religious, but my dad and I decided to make excellent use of these shrines and had “Sprints for Jesus.” The goal was that whenever you saw a shrine you had to sprint as hard as you could to beat the other person, they were fun and hard, and I am able to say that I did sprint intervals up the Dolomites:).
Although our rides were amazing, so was our food. We constantly gorged ourselves on the different courses offered to us daily and enjoyed every last bite. On the last day in the Mediterranean, I even stole myself to eat fish which I’m not usually a big fan of. Along with the food was this one drink that we looked for everywhere, the cafe cremé. It is basically a creamed ice espresso that is absolutely delicious and an excellent pick me up at the top of the climb or trying to come back to life after an eight hour flight.
After our sixth day of riding, absolutely exhausted and looking for a couple days off, we flew to Barcelona where we spent a day enjoying the city. We hiked to the top of a big hill that had a castle on top from which we could see the Olympic stadium and torch, an archery range within the castle grounds, and my worst nightmare, a driving test practice area:)
Although we had a good time there, we were glad to jump on the train and get back into the country. We arrived in Ripoll, Catalonia (Catalonia is about to have a vote for independence from Spain), picked up our bikes from our next independent tour company and headed out for a short, easy 45K ride to get fitted to our new bikes. This trip was only 5 days and we stayed in two places twice, Girona, and on the Mediterranean sea in St. Feliu.
The rides here were also easier and a little bit shorter on average, but still had the awesome switchback climbs and descents that I love. One of my favorite climbs was on the second day where my dad and I pushed really hard up a 25 kilometer climb. We didn’t know how far it was when we began, and I was able to lead him up almost the entire climb and still be in the running for the Top of the Climb sprint. After more riding and more racing to the top of climbs we finally arrived at the Mediterranean on the fourth day and were able to go swimming in the sea…which is warm (better not invite these guys to Maine). On our last day, which was a big 120K loop with LOTS of climbs we ended our trip and prepared to go back home.
However, our good fortune was not over yet, on the second leg of our trip, the flight from Frankfurt, Germany to Boston, my sister and I got upgraded to First Class and got to recline on the second floor of a ginormous jet and enjoyed sipping champagne(I had orange juice:).
It was an amazing trip that I will never forget and I hope to do again some day.