If ever there’s a time to be inspired to pack your bike, fold the lycra and head to Europe for some amazing cycling in the Italian Alps it’s now, as Il Giro d’Italia begins in earnest.
Described as the toughest race in the world, Il Giro is also a celebration of Italy’s people, culture and terrain. There’s no better way than to embrace all that the country has to offer, than by clipping in and embarking on your own personal tour.
At once beautiful and brutal, the world’s elite cyclists traverse the diverse terrain that punctuates the beautiful countryside.
None is more audacious, breathtaking and exhilarating than the mountain section, which reaches its toughest point this year during stage 14, or ‘the queen stage’, starting at Alpago and finishing at the northern alpine resort town of Corvara in Alta Badia.
Here we find six of Italy’s most challenging peaks - the Passo Pordoi, Passo Sella, Passo Gardena, Passo Campolongo, Passo Giau and Passo Valparola.
Not only is this stage long - in fact at 210km, it’s longer than most of the 2015 Tour de France stages - but it comes packed with six categorised climbs, five of which top an altitude of 2000m.
Set against the backdrop of Il Giro, the Dolomite region provides the casual cyclist with not only a range of thrilling routes through uncrowded, well-surfaced roads, but an opportunity to follow the classic during one of its formative stages.
As with many of the most popular road cycling destinations in Italy, the Dolomites offer routes for cyclists of all abilities, with the winding roads, postcard views and luscious terrain providing plenty of stunning scenery.
Concerns about sharing the road with cars are not applicable in a region where many of the cycle routes are sparsely populated by the four-wheeled, motorised variety. Italy itself is a very cycling-friendly nation.
And then there’s the food.
The Dolomite region, with its mixture of Austrian, Italian and native Ladino influence, offers a unique culinary experience to satisfy the appetite of the most committed cyclist.
Traditional Ladin fare such as bread dumplings and spinach, ricotta cheese and Sauerkraut pancakes are just some of the dishes available throughout this diverse cultural region.
The carnival atmosphere of Il Giro is not only a celebration of the endurance required to contest one of the three-week ‘classics’ but the cultural diversity of Italy itself.
Once you’ve witnessed the thrills and majestic countryside that make up Il Giro, there’s no better way to experience all it has to offer, than by jumping on a road bike yourself and seeing what all the fuss is about.