Still raving over their 2015 private custom tour with HC Bike Tours, Frederick and Colin Ruegsegger came back to the Italian Alps with 8 of their friends in 2016! Another 8-day private custom tour, it was the highlight of their multi-week stay in Europe. It featured some of Italy’s most famous climbs as well as the beauty and serenity of Lakes Como and Garda. The cornerstone for the tour plan was the desire to conquer the infamous Passo Dello Stelvio.
The new recruits included avid cyclists, primarily friends of Colin, the younger Ruegsegger, and a few spouses/partners that were interested in more sight-seeing and shorter tourist-style biking. The tour started in Venice and ended in Milano, and included easier and harder route options on most days. The experienced cyclists were eager to test their limits on the tough climbs planned to challenge even the strongest legs! With legendary climbs like Passo Motirolo, Passo Gavia, Muro di Somano, Madonna del Ghisallo and a few more leading up to the mighty Stelvio, HC Bike Tours team had planned a route that would not disappoint!
The group converged in Venice for the tour kick-off on Day 1. Some had arrived a few days earlier to visit the town of Venice and also to acclimate, others ‘fresh off the plane’ picked up at the airport by HC Bike Tours. Since there is no bike riding allowed inside of Venice, HC Bike Tours the rest of the group in Venice in the morning to drive everybody in two comfortable HC vans to Riva del Garda town located in the north of the lake Garda. The rest of the day was consumed with bike assembly, bike fitting (for those renting bikes from HC Bike Tours), getting settled in, walking around the town and fueling up for the next day’s ride.
On Day 2, the group tackled a big ride encompassing 5 lakes – a route from the town of Riva del Garda to Lago di Ledro, then on to Lago d’Ampola, Lago d’Idro, Lago di Valvestino, Lago di Garda and finally to Gargnano. Due to a late start and some unexpectedly challenging terrain including a long stretch of gravel road at the start of the ride (it was a great experience we will guess never repeat😊) and a fair bit of climbing, Aigars adjusted the route to get the group to finish the ride JUST before dark. But the group bonded over the challenge and returned to the hotel tired and happy.
Riva del Garda => Lago di Ledro => Lago d’Ampola => Lago d`Idro => Lago di Valvestino => Lago di Garda => Gargnano
Day 3’s ride kicked of the climbing, with all riders tackling the Monte Baldo, riding 60 miles and climbing 8400 ft. The day featured perfect weather and lots of smiling faces, especially after the climbing was completed!
Riva del Garda => Monte Baldo => Riva del Garda
The first two nights the group stayed in a luxury 4-star Du Lac et Du Parc Grand Resort hotel complete with SPA exactly on the lake Garda.
On Day 4, the group tackled the mighty Stelvio. With transportation from the hotel to the ride start in the town of Merano, the planned route over the Stelvio and to the next hotel was 60 miles and 10,400 ft of climbing. After the big Day 3, some intrepid riders tackled the full ride, with the rest of the crew taking the SAG van up to the summit and planning to ride the downhill. But unfortunately, mid-way up the climb, the weather revealed it had other plans. As low cloud/fog set in, all the riders who started the climb successfully summited. But with extremely wet and near-freezing conditions at the top, all riders ended up gratefully taking seats in the vans for a warm and safe descent to the town of Bormio for a really special stay at a Agroturismo Rini, an agritourist hotel in the heart of the Alps, featuring farm animals and home-grown delicious food.
Merano => Passo dello Stelvio => Bormio
After a tough Day 4, our group faced an equally challenging Day 5, the classic loop from the Bormio including both Passo Motirolo and Passo Gavia. Only Colin and one of his friends guided by Aigars the founder of HC Bike Tours decided to take on the challenge of the Motirolo. Most saved their energy for the Gavia, taking a seat in the van up and over the Motirolo. The weather was perfect, making the 69 mile, 11400 ft day a little more manageable. And the convenience of returning to the same hotel was appreciated by all!
Bormio => Passo Mortirolo => Passo Gavia => Bormio
There was still more challenge for the group on Day 6. With a 2-hour drive to the ride start in Lecco, our riders bid a fond farewell to Bormio and Agroturismo Rini. The ride from Lecco included Muro di Sormano and Madonna del Ghisalo on the way to the beautiful town of Como, a 60 mile day with elevation gain of 9800 ft. And the Muro, frequently featured in the Il Lombardia and the Giro d’Italia, offers something special with a 2 km section of 15% grade! Some riders opted to take a road that went AROUND the hill instead of over it, but most tackled the climb and all made it, with some taking a few breaks along the way. The weather again cooperated, making the climb worthwhile! Accommodations in Como were a special treat, the palace-like 4-star Hotel Villa Flori beside Lake Como with beautiful lake (and mountain) views. The beauty and luxury helped fire up our riders for one more big day…
Lecco => Muro di Sormano => Bellagio => Madonna del Ghisallo => Como
Day 7 featured the Lago di Lugano and the Balcony of Italy. No transfers, so our crew was able to ride from the hotel and return, after 74 miles and 11,100 feet of climbing, for more pampering! The ride also included towns of Menaggio, Lanzo D’Intelvi and Argegno. To celebrate this last riding day of the tour, HC Bike Tours provided special ‘snack stops’ out of the support van, ‘catered’ with home made jams and fresh bread, local traditional cheese, prosciutto and other local specialties. And though the climb to Italy’s Balcony is not particularly spectacular, Italy’s Balcony is a very special place, with super-scenic views overlooking both Italy and Switzerland, and a small café making it a great ride finish. Tired but proud and content, the riders spent a good hour there, beginning their celebration, before tackling the descent back to Como for more spa treatment followed by great food and drink, ride analysis, photo sharing, story-telling and brainstorming for future trips, at the final group dinner.
Como => Menaggio => Lago di Lugano => Lanzo D’intelvi => Argegno => Como
Day 8 was ‘transfer day’ after one last breakfast in Italy. HC Bike Tours took on the task of getting each of the participants to the next stage in their journey, including, hotels, car rentals and 3 different airports. One couple initially went to the wrong airport! Luckily HC Bike Tours was able to redirect to the right airport and everyone made their flights.
“After going on a 2015 HC Bike Tours ride in the Pyrenees, we came back to Europe again this year for a custom tour in the Italian Alps. I can’t say enough good things about the HC team – they not only take care of all logistics, guiding and ‘coaching’, but they are great people and we enjoyed our time with them quite a bit. Our rides were memorable and now it’s time to think about working with the HC team on our next adventure!”
Frederick J Ruegsegger / Passo dello Stelvio Private Custom cycling tour 2016 / Read more Reviews here.
Summary / Highlights
♦ September 18-25, 2016
♦ Start: Venice | End: Como > Milan airport
♦ 600 km (370 miles) ridden / 8 riders + 2 non-riders
♦ 8-day / 7-night guided and SAG van supported cycling tour accompanied by the owner of HC Bike Tours
♦ Cycling climbs in Italy: Passo Mortirolo, Passo Gavia, Muro di Sormano, Madonna del Ghisallo, Passo dello Stelvio
♦ Explore: Venice, Riva del Garda, Merano, SPA & wellness treatments in Bormio, Como, the lakes Garda and Como and many cosy villages along the lakes
♦ The tour was tailored for two ride-groups with different routes and to let non-riders have fun while riders are out riding
Remember, it`s your Private Cycling Tour! You can shorten the rides any time or even ride more!
Build your Custom Passo dello Stelvio Italian Alps cycling tour here.
#Aigars Paegle, #Italy Bike Tours, #Passo Stelvio
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