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Is that what we all ride for? Those moments when it’s just you and the mountains, a thin ribbon of tarmac ahead of you that disappears into the unknown. When the higher you climb, the further away you feel from the everyday. By that point in the ride, when the distance you’ve ridden doesn’t matter; everything’s about going up, using your own power, an assault on all of your senses. Those moments when the grandeur of the mountains put life into perspective.
As cyclists, we’re all guilty of romanticising climbs. As something central to the sport we love, either in terms of racing where history is written on the steepest and longest slope or as the motivation to keep us training on our local roads, year in, year out, we immortalise riding uphill. Even if the most devout sprinters amongst us would be loathe to admit it, and others might argue they’re only in it for the descent. Either way, cycling into the high mountains has its perks and a raison d’etre for everyone.
And fortunately for us, you’d be hard-pressed to picture a better location for our HQ. ASSOS is tucked into a pocket of Southern Switzerland, flanked by mountains (some of which are rideable all year round). To the east, there’s a short ride to Lake Como, the Sormano, the Ghisallo, and beyond. But heading north, within an hour or two of setting off, we can be riding some of Europe’s most mythical passes.
But there’s a twist, a drawback. These experiences can only ever take place in summer, in that hallowed period between May to October, before they’re reclaimed by winter and carpeted in snow. That time is now here. For these months when our radius is widened, there’s nothing we love more than heading in the mountains for long rides and discovering new roads. We have asked some of our closest friends to share their favourites.
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0.1 Simon Warren, Colle del Nivolet, Italy
British author and cyclist with extensive knowledge when it comes to climbs: www.100climbs.co.uk
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0.2 Michael Valgren, Passo dello Stelvio, Italy
A recent convert to Northern Italy’s Alpine landscape
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0.3 Noemi Ruegg, Albula Pass, Switzerland
Swiss Cycling’s up-and-coming talent on roads she’s known since childhood“Right now, the Albula is my current favourite road. I’ve just finished a training camp in the Engadin with Swiss Cycling and I spent so many hours on it. I genuinely enjoyed every minute. It’s quite a long way up — you basically climb all the way from Thusis or Tiefencastel — and the landscape is so incredibly varied. You hardly meet any cars; this is a major bonus in my eyes so you can enjoy the ride rather than think about the risks. You begin by going through pretty villages and it’s a bit undulating. The gradient ramps up as you go past some lakes and tiny bridges, then you’re up and out through the trees. The higher you get, the more beautiful it becomes. By the end of it, you’re completely encircled by mountains and the views are awe-inspiring. The Umbrail will always be a special road because it was the first “proper” pass that I rode with my dad. It was one of those unforgettable rides where you’re on your bike for the whole day. Really inspiring.”
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0.4 ASSOS of Switzerland, Lago del Narèt
The long-standing favourite at the office