Bike Road Trip

Covid-19?

2020 is a strange year! Covid-19 has strike us and I don’t think anybody could foresee this. Earlier this year we were in Costa Rica, when the lock down was entered in Belgium. Luckily we came back via Holland and we still had a flight. What followed was a very strange period and we cancelled some travel plans and decided to wait to see what future would bring; We concluded quickly that we would not take a plane for the rest of the year, as our experience with the empty airport in Costa Rica, and seeing stranded people, was too impressive. We started thinking of and old fashioned road trip. 

Biking

Since 2017 we didn’t do a bike trip and the Pyrenees were still a blank spot on our palmares that started to shout louder and louder. We concluded that biking alone on some cols, outside the holiday season should one of the safest options available. That was clearly the correct assumption. Never we have seen less people during our trips than during this one. Nevertheless we had to stay flexible as the Belgian government kept on changing the colors of the departments and regions. We had to drop Andorra and Monaco from our initial plan, but with the Pyrenees, Mont Ventoux & Toscany we had some great challenges. To address our hunger for new countries, we added San Marino and Liechtenstein to the list. Like this we create an impressive road trip through Europe but still kept the driving hours small. Except the first and last day.

Cognac

After a weekend of biking with friends in the Belgian Ardennes we left towards the Pyrenees for our holiday. The distance of approximatly 1200 kilometers was too much for 1 day after such an intensive weekend. We decided to split the trip in 2 and selected Cognac for a one night stay. We found a great AirBnB hosted by Alain and Michèle. The room is very spacious, sparkless clean, has a great bed and bathroom. There were plenty of ameneties like candies, sweets and water. We didn’t had time to use the pool in the cosy garden.

We were surprised by Cognac. It was completly different than we expected. 

The Pyrenees

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Tour de France

During our stay in the Pyrenees the World famous Tour de France passed close to Argèles-Gazost. We spend a day to experience what it’s all about. The article “Un jour dans le Tour (de France)” tells you all about our adventure.

Le Mont Ventoux
Le Mont Ventoux

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Sanremo
Cipressa

From the Mont Ventoux to Italy it was too far to make that in 1 day, as we don’t want to sit all day long in the car. That’s why Sanremo was the ideal intermediate stop to ride yet another Monument: Milano – Sanremo. 

We decided to focus on the final of the race and ride the last 30 kilometers which covers the Cipressa and the Poggio. Until this part the race is boring anyway. 

Cliches in Pisa

We only foresee a quick stop over in Pisa, to take the traditional tower pictures and eat a pizza in Pisa. 

Tuscany
Strade Bianche

You can ready all about our Strade Bianche adventure on this dedicated page: Strade Bianche

White road with climb
San Marino

San Marino is a mountainous microstate surrounded by north-central Italy. Among the world’s oldest republics, it retains much of its historic architecture. The country is around 61 square kilometers small and several websites state it’s the 5th smalles country in the world. The capital is also called San Marino and is located on the Monte Titano. The hunger for new countries and the satisfaction of adding another pin in the meters big world map in our house made us come here.

Marie-Claire had the great idea to bike around the country and I was immediate convinced. During Covid-19 some people bikes around Flanders or Belgium, but that is too far. However, riding around San Marino is quite manageable. San Marino isn’t too big, but it is really a biking paradise. You can go up and down the Monte Titano from all angles and the average grade of the climb is mostly around 6 to 7%, which is still comfortable for me.

The signs with warnings about the steepness are certainly very accurate. Where we can’t believe the signs were correct during our Strade Bianche, we are sure these were. We came across a decent of 20% and it for sure was 20% as Tom reached a speed of above 80 km/h. 

Strava gpx track: 62.6 km with 1400 altitude meters

Main road towards the historic center
Main road towards the historic center
Great landscape and roads
Great landscape and roads
Bikes on the border
Bikes on the border

After cooling down in the marvelous swimming pool of our AirBnB we took our car and drove to the old city of San Marino. You can either go with the cable car or drive higher up the mountain where you have 10 parkings. We took parking number 9 as all have their advantages. If you want to explore the entire city you have to go up and down anyway. However, they have elevators that bring you quickly where you want to be. The parking was not that expensive. We paid a few euros to park a couple of hours. 

The capital of San Marino is a very beautiful and cozy city. It is a tangle of small streets with shops. We can advise you to go by end of the day as then the day tourists are leaving the city and it becomes way more calm. We had read this tip somewhere on the internet and we are glad we did so. Certainly in Covid-19 times. Most streets and squares were empty. From the center we went up the hill to take a look at the three iconic towers. Certainly tower number two you must have seen on one of the many pictures of San Marino. We think that 2 to 4 hours are enough to explore most of the city. If you have some drinks on a terrace it will take you longer. When you have a clear day like we had, you have endless views over the city and the surroundings. Make sure you don’t miss these views where the cable car arrives.

La Terrazza

By the end of the day we went for dinner in the number 2 of restaurants of San Marino (according to TripAdvisor). This restaurant has a terrace with a wonderful view on the mountains and the Palazzo Pubblico. The food was very tasteful and to Belgian standars it was very affordable. We took the 4 course gourmet menu. I advice to make a reservation as the restaurant is mosly full and ask to sit at the window, so you sit with your back to the rest of the people. When you are in the middle of the restaurant, it loses much of its charm. There were a bit of clouds so we did not have the best sunset, but still we got plenty of nice colour shades.

La Terrazza
View from terrace
Valbrona - Tour of Lombardy

While weather and biking condition were still great we decided to go to the Como region and to ride our 5th and last one-day biking Monument. We found a nice AirBnB in Valbrona which was near the track of the race The Tour of Lombardy. We had a newly renovated appartment for ourselves. The property also had a big swimming pool and a brand new tennis court. So when you are looking for a nice place to stay, make sure to check if this place is available. You won’t regret it, as both the living room and bedroom have views directly on the lake, which is very nice in the evening with the light on the other side of the lake. 

From our property we could descend to the Lake of Como and we were immediate on the official track. The detailed information about the Tour of Lombardy you can read here. Make sure to check out our adventure about Madonna del Ghisallo, Muro di Sormano and Civiglio. A great experience.

Swimming pool
Playing tennis
Playing tennis

Museo del ciclismo

The day after our Tour of Lombardy we reserved some time to visit the museo del ciclismo on the top of Madonna del Ghisallo. During our ride itself we focussed on the church, but we learnt on the internet that the museum was also worth a visit. That is fully correct. We spend about 1 hour and a half in the museum. When you like cycling you will not borred. There is a huge collection of bikes, shirts and other cycling related items. The entrance fee was 5 € per person and that is really a fair price. Don’t forget to visit this museum when you are around.

Liechtenstein

Let’s be honest, if you travel often, after some time, the virus or hunger of adding more and more countries to your list will hit you. This road trip was perfect for adding Liechtenstein to our list, which is a German-speaking 25km long principality between Austria and Switzerland.It’s known for its medieval castles, alpine landscapes and villages linked by a network of trails.

After checking out we went for a city walk in Vaduz. It’s not that big, but the main shopping street has some charm and we enjoyed it. Liechtenstein is not big, and if you are not there for skiing or hiking, I would not plan too much time to explore. A half or full day will give you already a nice impression. Anyway, we are glad we spend the night and a day in Liechtenstein.

Zug (Switserland)

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