The foot of the mountain. Piemonte. Where the vast range of the Alps begins to yield to the rolling hills of vineyards, the great lakes and quiet rural villages.

Yet the mountains haven’t quite let go their grip. Still, there crops up a spike or two, like the 18km Mottarone to 1,500m with ramps that are enough for any Giro.

This Custom Fully Sported Cycling Tripjourney we took our American friends on took in several lakes; Maggiore, Mergozzo, Orta, Viverone and Candia. Between and around these lakes we visited towns and villages of Stresa, Bella, Piverone and Viverone, Oropa Sanctuary and little old Milan.  We saw fancy restaurants and local cafes, mixing with the dandies and the signore e signori on market day, getting a flavour of Italy.

Una settimana grande. Great company with our friends. Saw much we loved. Found even more places we want to explore further. And learned a lot about Italy and ourselves along the journey.

Thanks Italy and more importantly, thanks to our friends who came along for the journey. A pleasure.

Just whet the appetite for getting back on the road again; Lands End to John O’Groats next week and the Dolomites in July (still space on this one…just saying…).

Last year we ventured into Switzerland in seek of cycling adventure. What we found was more than we had dreamed of.

One of the best mountain climbs we have done, followed by one of the best climbs we have done. Then more… All in epic low rolling cloud, enveloping and caressing us up to and beyond 2,000m.

On cobbles.

It was another recce for a Sommet Independent Trip this year. Sommet Independent is one of our flagship, custom options, alongside our Fully Supported Cycling Trips; both tailor made, or bespoke if you like, handbuilt trips putting you and your dreams first from the minutes of first contact until long after the trip is finished. Both are all about you. Fully Supported is just that; we are there with you all the way, full personal, technical and vehicle support all trip long. Where Sommet Independent differs is that we deliver a trip for you which you then experience on your own. In your own company. Be that solo, or with friends, but completely free in your own space. All the details have been taken care of, no hassles of arranging airport shuttles, no worries about dodgy dowloaded GPX files taking you astray or up the wrong mountain; nor worries about hotel quality or being cycling friendly. We have got that all covered, and more, delivered to you ahead of your trip. You just go and ride.

I digress. Back to Switzerland. On awakening in our, lets say traditional, quaint, Swiss mountain hotel, with accompanying charm, it was one of those drizzly days where you might (well, I might in Barcelona) decide to pass on the ride for the day normally. But, this was the Gotthard Pass awaiting. A long, true mountain climb, which is largely all cobbled and has no access for traffic. That drizzle, in such circumstances, becomes that epic rolling cloud mentioned above. Warmers on, jacket ready, off we go.

The smooth tarmac initially out of the village at the bottom made us wonder if we were on the right road. Where are my cobbles? Cobbles to climb into the sky. Patience. An army truck or two later and a few more sweeping bends, crossing the motorway bypass – which allows for our traffic free progress – and then there it was, the end of the smooth and onto the cobble. Now, they aren’t Roubaix cobbles, but they are still cobbles. A little greasy too.

Soon after that barrier – CX dismount and vaulted (stumbled) over – which makes an already amazing climb a paradise. No cars beyond this point. Just the gentle chatter of the chain from the gentle cobbles, the beating of the heart and the heat of the breath fogging in front of the face while parting the clouds higher and higher. Other worldly. Like a throw back in time on these roads of yesteryear.

Sweeping bends and ancient bridges, hairpin bends and precipices beyond. The Gotthard has it all. I could have gone up and down all day. Popping out at the top though, we had another on the agenda. Descend into the valley for a short traverse to the Furka Pass. The descent off the Gotthard has an option of all smooth tarmac or half on cobbles then the rest on tarmac. Maybe the former was more sensible in the greasy conditions but, as mentioned, epic was the feeling of the day so cobbles it was.

Where the Gotthard shows Swiss engineering adeptness of a recently bygone era, the Furka is a more modern representation of just how to build a mountain road. Super smooth, super curvy, not a pothole or weather induced pimple in sight. Just velvet, sweeping and hairpinning (sic) up to beyond 2,000m again. What a climb. And what a descent.

Ever since that day, we have talked about going back. Weekly it gets mentioned, often several times a week. We are going back.

The point here, aside from a tale of exploring, is that with Sommet Independent, we are opening up these sufferings we have endured to discover the best bits of Europe for you to ride. And for you to go and ride them Sommet Independent or Fully Supported by us. We are giving you the choice and the opportunity to make the most of riding in Europe, and do it the way you want.

 

photography by theMUSETTE.cc except for a couple by Nick Frendo, where stated.

 

Five months to go until the wonderful La Resistance cycling event and our collaborating trip in Annecy in the Alps. The mixed terrain high mountains adventure we can’t wait for.

Part of our DNA is to look for rides and cycling trips that are interesting, challenging, fun, refreshing. On all terrains. So as soon as we found out about La Resistance we jumped at the chance to be involved and we are now the official travel partner. We have put together a cracking long weekend escape to encompass the event and take advantage of Annecy for an extra couple of rides on top of that.

Anyway, this week eight hardy souls galloped through the lanes, fields and bridleways of Kent getting their legs, bikes and minds ready for September. There was, perchance, a little more mud on show than there will be in the Alps. But the essence of camaraderie and adventure in the dirt and on the connecting bits of road that was ever present. A grand day out and plenty of fun.

Imagine that, way up high in the fabulous Alps…

We had a ball. There’s another taster ride on the horizon in a couple of months, for which we hope to just about have our bikes cleaned up. And before long, it will be time for our long weekend escape trip over to Annecy to do the real thing, La Resistance. The journey has just begun…

Photography by Jim Clarkson, Ross Muir and Nick Frendo.

We have partnered with La Resistance to create an escape in the high mountains (the Alps) taking on mixed terrain for a whole new adventure. Find out more in our Trips area.

 

It’s not the first time we will go up and get high on gravel. High mountain cycling on gravel is done as oft as possible.

The peace and tranquility of only hearing your heart beat, your lungs gasp for air at 2,000m, mountain beasts chuntering as you pass and your’s and your fellow cyclists tyres’ crunching over gravel.

Gravel_08  Gravel_18

The very early morning start, from an inner city suburb, packing the car with your mates, the drive before the rush hour to leave that city madness behind and the munching on pre-made, foil wrapped haut-hearty-cuisine on the go.

   

The mountain water, the tiny villages, the technical twists and turns and the mid-ride lunch with a view.

   

Mixed terrain in the high mountains.