There’s something quite profoundly liberating about carrying yourself, and everything you own, over a mountain using only the power of your own body. The feeling you get as you finally approach the top, the knowing that now you will make it, where before it might have seemed impossible. Slow (super-slow 5km/h) up and up until those shiny, glittering diamonds in the distance become cars sitting at the top of the pass. You regain your breath and rhythm and flow and slowly you get there.
The emphasis really is on slowly here. You can’t climb a mountain with a 40kg bike in a hurry. Though it is a little reassuring knowing that if you don’t make it, you can always rock up anywhere and pull out your tent and finish the job tomorrow. That and a big bag of food.
Amongst many other things, 16 Snickers bars powered the journey in three days from Verdon to the top of Col Agnel. Well actually it was 15 Snickers bars, the 16th one was eaten as reward at the top of the highest pass: the highest road between France and Italy, and only 10 metres short of the highest col in Europe. In a few days I unknowingly climbed the height of Mount Everest, and then some more. But that also meant that I descended the height of Mount Everest too. That’s a lot of downhill. And anyone outside of the Netherlands knows that cycling down hills is pretty darn fun.
Cycling down Col Agnel may actually be the longest continuous descent in Europe, from 2,744m down to less than 300 in Italy. After an hour of going downhill (all the time smiling and occasionally laughing) I began to wonder if I wasn’t actually cycling below sea level. You only truly realise how far you’ve climbed when the descent just keeps going and going. After an hour and a half or so, I finally got to the bottom and ate my delicious, stone-baked, Italian pizza and drank a big bottle of beer. It was all over. Now it’s totally flat land for hundreds of kilometres (looking at a topographic map you’ll see the Alps end like a wall before the plains of northern Italy).
I guess in the end, you may wonder, why the hell would anyone want to do that? I mean, the coastal road from France to Italy, which completely avoids the Alps, is barely 100 metres; why climb up so high, for essentially, nothing?
When you push yourself to your limits, and find them, you learn something about yourself. And the limit increases.
Cycling over mountains from France to Italy with a 40kg bike 😄 I followed the river Verdon to the source and over Col d'Allos on the way to even bigger mountains...🚴🏔💪 #cycletouring #biketouring #biketour #worldbybike #bikeramble #bikewander #adventuretravel #adventure #alps #alpinecycling #travelgram #instatravel
When you put yourself through such unimaginable, voluntary hardships and suffering, when the real tough moments come, they seem infinitely easier.
That, and you get a damn good view, a huge pile of endorphins, serotonin and dopamine …and then a lengthy downhill to boot.
That’s why I climb mountains (on my bicycle).