Back In The (Ouch) Saddle: Cycling From Slovenia To Italy
I was lucky enough to join the 2023 Trans-Europa Cycling Tour in Budapest for the beautiful 2 week stretch to Venice. After a few days, some of the riders asked when I was going to cycle. After a few more days, more riders chimed in so…
I decided that I would ride the stage out of Ljubljana, Slovenia. I checked out the figures and it looked doable, although perhaps a bit of a stretch for someone at home who rides his bike to the farmer’s market and the local brewery. The 92.8 km included 1031 m of climbing which didn’t sound too bad at the time.
I woke up early on my cycling day and got myself ready.
After a hearty breakfast at out hotel, I headed off, trying my best to hear the GPS instructions above the sound of the traffic. Fortunately, I was riding with Odessa, one of our Tour Leader Trainees, so I essentially followed her out of the city. Lots of bike lanes and very respectful drivers. I felt good. A little surprised given my last stage on a bike during one of our tours was on the Bamboo Road in 2015.
Once outside Ljubljana, we stopped to refill our water bottles and one of the many free fountains along the road. If you prefer milk to quench your thirst, you will love Slovenia. They have these roadside machines – Miekomats. Modern vending milk dispensers they usually can be found near a local dairy farm. Made of stainless steel, they are self cleaning and you can bring your own vessel to drink out of or they will provide a PET bottle. Ice-cold and very fresh. The farmers continuously replenish the milk.
The first of 2 projected climbs of the stage began. A long steady 5 km climb up into the hills. We stopped to pee at the summit and to learn about the threat of African Swine Flu to the local domestic pigs and wild boar. I felt great. This was going to be fun.
We enjoyed spinning along the beautiful back roads checking out the numerous beehives (Slovenia is famous for its honey) that dotted the forest and making great time to lunch, scheduled for about the 46 km mark.
We stopped at the bottom of a hill and checked our location. According to RideWith GPS, we were already 3 km into our 11 km climb to the summit of the pass. Nice! I told Odessa to go ahead. Lunch was just 8 km away and there was only one road. No problem.
I pedalled off and then the pain began. The climb was relentless. Every time I struggled through a corner, another slope presented itself. I started taking breaks. Lots of breaks. My initial projected lunch arrival time fell by the wayside. At one particularly low point, I turned a corner and the incline ahead looked so steep, I gave in, hopped off my bike and walked.
Finally, behind everyone else, I pulled into our lunch stop. Exhausted but also a little bit proud of myself despite the brief walk with the bike.
And then…the reward. An absolutely incredible 17 km downhill towards Italy. Immediately after we crossed the pass, everything changed.
For one thing I wasn’t swearing anymore but the views were spectacular and the flora immediately changed. Cacti appeared as did a number of palm trees. And the vineyards! Slovenia had quite a few but in Italy, it is a whole different ballgame!
The downhill finally came to an end (rats) and we eventually pulled into our hotel, the traditional TDA flagging tape marking the end of my return to cycling on the Trans-Europa.
Respect to all the riders on the 2023 Trans-Europa! My ride taught me just how much effort and determination you put in each and every day.
A big shout out to Odessa for hanging back with me and encouraging me to finish the stage.
Join us on this spectacular 2 1/2 month cycling adventure across Europe. The route passes through eleven countries, starting in Tallinn and finishing...