As an endorphin junkie, I love to sweat and nothing makes me sweat like cycling. In fact, cycling can hurt me like no other sport. There is nothing quite like cresting a long uphill, the legs and the lungs screaming for relief, and then catching your breathe on clean, fresh air on a long, fast downhill.
Cycling is absolutely the best way (IMO) to experience a new place. Instead of being stuck inside a temperature-controlled bus or car looking out on the sights through a window, cycling allows you to feel the breeze, to experience the smells (the countryside, the bread baking in the house you just passed), and to drink in the landscape around you. Cycling allows you to fully savor a place. And, you don’t get car-sick or car-sleepy.
My home in Virginia offers some hard-to-beat cycling opportunities (the breathtaking Blue Ridge Parkway and the gentle rollers of the wine country near my home are personal favorites). I’ve taken full advantage over the years. Now I’m looking forward to some new scenery. Here are my top spots for 2014:
1.) The Great Ocean Road
Our first stop is Australia. While there are many beautiful spots to cycle in Oz (the wine regions, in and around Canberra’s including Lake Burly Griffin, the Snowy mountains, etc.), my number one “Must-Cycle” is The Great Ocean Road. We are thinking about renting a camper for one week so that we can spend nights right alongside the road and be on and off the bike with no trouble each day. But — and this is a big BUT — I’m not really much of a camping gal. I’m more of a reservations gal. We’ll see.
2.) Catalonia to the Pyrenees and down the Costa Brava Coastline
After Oz, we head to Spain, which is a gateway to awesome cycling routes all over Europe. We will be staying in Andalucia, which has its own charm for cyclists, but many other cycling regions are calling me. The first is Catalonia, going up toward the French border along the Pyranees (where the big boys of cycling train), and back down to the beautiful coastline of Costa Brava. There are a number of organized cycling tours in this area. The descriptions of the terrain focus on the land of Dali, the challenging, 2000-meter climbs in the Pyrenees and the stunning views from the coastal roads. I’m hoping my friend Susan (long-time cycling and triathlon buddy) will come and join me
3.) Lanzarote and Mallorca
Two additional places on my “Must-Cycle” list in Spain are scenes of big Ironman races: Mallorca and Lanzarote. Mallorca is a beautiful Mediterranean island off the coast of Spain with many deserted back roads, curvy, thrilling descents and picturesque scenery along the water.
Lanzarote is the scene of what is arguably the toughest Ironman race on the planet. Located in the Northern part of the Canary Islands, the bike course for this race is wild, windy, hot and beautiful. Since I’m not likely to do this Ironman, I’d love to cycle the course.
4.) Provence, France
I really can’t believe I haven’t cycled here yet. Beautiful scenery, empty roads, and of course, food and wine to die for. ‘Nuff said.
5.) The Serra da Estrela Mountains in Portugal
Long grades of 10% of more, tunnels carved from rocks, lots of local cheese, uncrowded roads that run between steep cliffs and valleys carved out by glaciers. Sounds perfect. And not too far from Spain.
We’ll see how I do with these first five. Once I check these off the list, I’ll start looking at the Italian Dolomites and maybe Greece (Peloponnese is supposed to be fabulous).SHARE THIS ARTICLE