Friday Group Ride #33

As Padraig prepares to board a flight for Fantasy Island, where Mr.Roarke and Tattoo will set him up on a dream bike and point him at the sorts of Alpen cols that spend most of their time being mailed around as postcards, the Group Ride turns its attention to the world’s great rides and wonders where YOU would most like to Tour.

To me, the Cairo to Cape Town ride documented in this film is awfully appealing. In my mind ‘adventure’ is usually found very near the intersection of fun and misery.

One of my neighbors is working on a project with his kids where they ride every inch of every street in our town, documenting it on a map as they go. They’ve been riding for four years and have about ten percent of it done. On the flip side, this fellow rode his bicycle from Sweden to Nepal, and then climbed Mt Everest without oxygen or Sherpa support.

Everyone has their own idea of adventure, and hardcore fans, such as ourselves (because let’s be honest, if you’re not a hardcore cycling fan, you’re probably not reading RKP), often dream of taking in the same climbs as our heroes, the Tourmalet, Aubisque, Zoncolan, Mortirolo, Ventoux, Galibier, Izoard, Marie Blanque, Blockhaus, Peyresourde, Alpe de Huez, Portet de Aspet, Superbagnéres, Stelvio, Gavia, and on and on and on. There is a not small industry of tour operators who cater to the desires of freaks, such as ourselves, who wish to spend their holidays slowly draining every last bit of energy they’ve got across an inert and oblivious mountain range.

So do tell us. Where do you dream of riding? Or, what tours have you taken that shifted your paradigm, blew your mind and rearranged your auntie’s quilt collection? Speak to us of hill and dale. Spin us yarns of legendary ascents and the drops on the other side, the ones that left you bowel-clenched and shaking, but ultimately satisfied that you’d done something special.

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  1. James

    Whilst in college I had studied in Europe, in Denmark in June and England in September. In the middle I toured Europe on bike going from Copenhagen to Beograde, Yugoslavia. The problem back then was that I was always broke! I would like to tour Europe now that I’m older and a bit more affluent. That would be my dream ride! Someday…

  2. dvgmacdonald

    I’d love to ride in Europe. A little in the spring (as much of the Flanders & Roubaix courses as I could take in), and a little bit later on in the year (bring on the Dolomites, the Alps & the Pyrenees). It’ll be a while before I can afford those rides, though. In the mean time, I’d like to get to Colorado & ride up Mt. Evans, and maybe take in some of the other major mountain passes. Maybe I’ll drive out to New Hampshire next summer & ride in the Presidentials (I don’t know that I’ll pay to ride the Mt. Washington Hill Climb, but there are plenty of tough roads out there). If I’m really lucky I figure sometime I’ll make it to Hawaii to ride Mt. Haleakala or some of the other volcanic climbs.

    In the mean time, I live in the driftless area of Wisconsin, which has plenty of tough hilly rides. I’m making it a goal to ride at least one of the bigger ridge lines each week until the weather makes it too uncomfortable. 40 or 50 miles can leave me totally spent, and if I get time for 75 or 100, that’s even better. I figure if this terrain was good enough for Robbie Ventura to map an Olympic course, it’s plenty good for me to drag myself around.

  3. Champs

    Sadly, I’ve done very little riding outside of the Midwest. I am no mountain goat, but I dream of long, high, steep climbs, and at best you can only hope for the latter.

    I’ve finally rectified some of that this year. This July, I got out to the Cascades, and I’ll be in the Rockies in a couple weeks. I may have to ride on borrowed mountain bikes, but I’ll take what I can get.

  4. Alex Torres

    Europe is fantastic for a bike ride, no doubt. France, Italy, the small german roads along endless rivers and villages, Belgium… But I had an amazing time cruising the Andes from Santiago de Chile to Mendoza in Argentina last year. Incredible and varied scenery, challenging winds, little roads snaking through rock valleys, endless climbs. And excellent weather.

    It was a weeklong ride, every day a different one. To climb 55km nonstop to Portillo ski resort was something (even more so after some not exactly flat 120km…). It´s still the longest and hardest climb I´ve ever done with 15%+ “Huezquian” hairpin turns that almost ruined my left knee for good in the end. Very cold even in spring, too. And big trucks flying up and down the road scaring the spirit out of us every 5 minutes hehehe…

    After 3 or 4 days of longer but flatter rides – in which the group rode a race-like pace – we climbed another monster: the road from Santiago to the ski resort of Valle Nevado. Not as long as Portillo´s but equally hard with more than 41 hairpins with heavy inclination. Extremelly cold nearing the top but you get so tired and hypnotized from the effort and surrounding you don´t even notice.

    The climbs and roads in Chile are a bit like Italy´s, with a mix of inclinations that range from 4 up to almost 20% in some places. In the Pyrenees they´re much better paved and while longer, they´re mellower going from 4 to 9 or 10% at most, rarely above that.

    But variety is the spice of life so it´s only better that every place has its particulars. Makes for a unique experience. The altitudes are also bigger in the Andes, those two peaks riseabove 3.200m. Some guys felt the lack of oxygen and got pretty beat up. Even if you´re OK about altitude, you feel it at some level.

    Of course I loved all that. And it was great training too. Even though I´m far from a natural climber, after that no climb is long or tough enough 😀

    Sorry for the long post :-p

  5. Greg

    next summer i’ll be taking the trip of my dreams. my training and our wives are hitting italy for a week with two days in bellagio for the pilgrimage to the ghisallo and we are following that with a few days at (hopefully) bourg d’oisans/alpe d’huez to catch the tour and ride a few days there as well. as if that wasn’t enough we are finishing up on the champs elysees to see the finale. this has been a dream since i watched my first tour in 1986 and every year i spend august pretending i’m riding the famous mountains of europe. oh yeah… i live in pancake flat florida. let the sufferfest begin!

  6. michael

    The Cent-Cols challenge is on my “bucket list” of to-do rides, as are the Dolomites in all their glory and splendor.

    A cross-Canada ride is also on my wish list, if nothing than to better appreciate the width and depth of my own country.

    Lastly, i’ve got a trip filtering through my head involving the old Silk road which has been burning inside me for years, as has the idea of biking from Alaska all the way to Tierra del Fuego.

    too many places to ride and experience and not enough free time and disposable income!

  7. Sophrosune

    We’re a funny bunch. Alex’s vivid description of his ride made me realize once again that the more we suffer on the bike, the more memorable it is for us. I am hoping my friend can make it over here in Spain to ride the mountains around Madrid. When I imagine the rides we might do, I am worried about how tiring they can be, but then I remember it’s this kind of punishment we relish. So, Padraig, as counterintuitive as it may sound: I hope you suffer (at least to the point of it being a cherished memory). 😉

  8. cthulhu

    The Stilfser Joch is an incredible climb. I was my first and yet only time in the Alps and we tackled that climb on the first day. While it ma not be the longest or hardest, it is so far the most beautiful one i rode. That said, I of course want to check out the French climbs of the Alps, the Pyrenees and the Dolomites.
    And I still dream of cycling through New Zealand and Japan and Ireland. Especially Ireland, hopping from one Whiskey distillery to the next one. 😉

  9. Doug P

    I agree with Mark, Flanders is on all the best lists-esp. the ‘Ronde’!
    This year I’m climbing the California passes. I’ve done all the “Death Ride’ ones several times, so next was Tioga pass, higher than any in Europe.
    Much harder was Sonora Pass, harder than Ventoux or L’Alpe d’Huez.
    Next Yuba pass and finally Lassen!
    Summer 2011 it’s the Alps!
    The Galibier,the Lautaret, the Col du Télégraphe,
    and the Col d’Iseran!
    I’ve never had better cycling than on the roads of France,
    and NOTHING beats the Vercors if you’re a climber at heart!

  10. Doug P

    P.S. If you climb the West side of Sonora Pass, remember- it gets easier (and also it’s incredibly beautiful!!!!) after the 9000ft marker. Kinda makes you forget how brutal the last 5 miles and 2000ft of climbing was, and how you almost lost your cookies back there.

  11. trev

    I agree with Mark. Ride the Flanders route. visit the Chimay Brewery. Go get a picture with Eddy.

    Belgium is king.

  12. david a.

    Off road – I dream of taking a ‘cross bike or mtn bike on the Colorado Trail….a self-supported lung-busting tour would be epic

    On the road – one day on the Going to the Sun highway in Glacier National Park in June would be my dream ride….or a multi-day tour in Tuscany with all the associated Italian trappings is my fantasy tour.

  13. Touriste-Routier

    I’d like to take in most of the classic cyclosportives & Gran Fondos. The Ronde, L-B-L, L’Eroica, and Felice Gimondi are highest on my list. A bad day on the bike is better than a good day at the office

  14. jc

    In the fall of 1986 I received a flier in the mail for a training/racing camp being held in northern Italy. It came to me because, at sixteen, I had recently gotten my first USCF license and was on the mailing list. I read it and thought, maybe I could do that. But where could I possibly get the money? After all, my mom was in graduate school at UC Berkeley, my dad was nowhere, and what little money I had was already going toward sew-up tires, and I could only afford those one at a time. Back then, I worked in the local bike shop sweeping. Occasionally, I would get something cool to do, like clean Chris Charmichaels 7-11 team bike that he was selling at the shop. But mostly, I swept but I didn’t care. Every afternoon I went there after class, smelled the Tri-flo in the air and new I was home.

    I read the flier and had visions of racing against men with names like Francesco, Moreno, and Giuseppe along Italian stradas. I could see it all, smell it all. I was Dave Stoller, only I had a red Cinelli. I scrimped and saved and horded my money all that fall, winter, and spring. By April I had saved enough for the ticket and part of the fee. My mom used school loan money for the rest, as she had to buy the Cinelli. By the end of June I was crossing the Dolomiti by train, barreling toward Vicenza and a month of training and racing that, some twenty five years later, is as fresh and vibrant in my mind as it was when it was happening.

    We were based in a little town in the foot hills of the Dolomiti; Castel Cucco. Barely a wide spot in a narrow road, we set out every morning, filled with espresso and fresh bread for hours long rides, through tiny Italian towns nestled in river valleys and along miles of freshly fertilized fields. ‘Smell the Oxygen, Cigo!’ our ride leader Ronato Pallazzo would say as we could barely breath, ‘Smell the magnolias…ha ha!’in his thick accent. We road the Monte Grappa, still painted with the names of our heros. I’ll never forget rolling over that white paint..’Via Moser’and ‘Bontempi’ there from when the Giro rolled up that same road in 1984. And I can still see and hear one of my coaches, whose English wasn’t so good, as he gestured toward the paint, ‘Bontempi…Eeessgood- Strong like bull’

    I’ve never made it back, but every fall I dream of it, stare at the map and think of those days.

  15. Larry T.

    Just back from two-wheeled paradise this week after living in Italy since January of this year. I’m horribly biased but there’s simply NO place like Italy to be a cyclist or cycling enthusiast. What I find odd (and a bit sad) is while so many cyclists will shell out thousands of greenbacks to buy the newest-latest wonderbike year after year, so many of they don’t value the actual EXPERIENCE of riding the thing. At the risk of pissing off many a bike dealer we say instead of spending all that dough on a new bike to ride on the same old routes, at least once spend that same dough on a European bike tour. While of course we’d like to show you the best of Italy at CycleItalia, JUST GET OVER THERE no matter who you choose to look after you. The final thought – “when you look back over your life, do you remember the things you bought…or the things you DID?” Don’t put this off for “someday”.

  16. randomactsofcycling

    I’m with Larry T.. I have never enjoyed my cycling so much as this year. While I have not been fortunate to take in any foreign countries, I am fitter than I have ever been (still riding the same bike) and more motivated than ever to get even faster.
    So with all this new found fitness, I’m planning my trip to southern France. Beginning in the Pyrenees then heading east to the Alps, Cote D’Azur, Monaco then Italy. If planned well, should be both brutal and beautiful.

  17. Souleur

    Well, you guys have already mentioned some great rides, some in my bucket list of definite must do’s…like marks Ronde, is no doubt a high one, and dvgmacdonalds Mt Evans, add Mt Washington are 2 climbs on my must do’s also.

    But Robots question is 2 fold, so here I go. What ride undid my aunties panties or something like that? No doubt this one for me was the Wichita Falls TX ride some years ago, Hotter-than-Hell hundred. In the midwest where I am, there are few riders comparatively to other parts of the country, so my buddy and I are pretty much lone wolfs. But to have been part of a ride of 12,ooo riders, 500 of which were like minded sufferagists, and working in an eschalon together and coming in w/106 miles in 4hr 25min broke the ethereal bounds, opened my eyes to what I could do and I realized its a big world out there.

    But where would I dream of riding?? That is fairly open, so here we go.

    Souleur lays his head down at night and dreams of riding w/men like Gino Bartali and the other old statesmen of our sport, BUT, if I had to pick one ride, I would have pick the day in the early 1970’s, I would be on my best form on my best day happily spinning in Belgium down a pave’ path, in Molteni wool on a Colnago master-extralight in early April, and have Eddy pull up aside, chat for a moment as he asks me to join in for the remainder of the day……

    Of course, I was just a toddler back then, but to go back and ride with them but for a day, would be a dream come true.

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