During the shortest days of the year the weather reminds us what will be waiting in Spring. Here below the ‘catch’ of three sunny rides.
Winter is the coldest season of the year in polar climates and temperate climates, between autumn and spring. Winter is caused by the axis of the Earth in that hemisphere being oriented away from the Sun. (Wikipedia)
Winter? Whatever… (Mark Koghee)
The Cerkev na Hribcu or in English Church on the Little Hill is from the 18th century and belongs to the settlement of Puštal. But when you can see the church it means that you are in Škofa Loka.
Don’t you just hate it too when the person riding next to you is constantly trying to keep his front wheel just in front of yours?
There is more than 50 per cent chance that the Kamnik-Savinja Alps (with Škofa Loka here in the foreground) will be completely covered in snow before Spring.
And again the Kamnik-Savinja Alps but now with the Sint Michaels Church designed by Jože Plečnik.
And that is how these pictures get made.
Religion or the road…
A little bit of last minute inspiritation for all the builders of miniature Christmas villages. Šentjošt nad Horjulom (619 metres).
“Bicycles are almost as good as guitars for meeting girls” (Bob Weir, Grateful Dead)
Sunday-ride, 16 October. About hairpins, churches and crosses
Riding in Dolenjska
The Dolenjska or Lower Carniola region of Slovenia lies in the south-east of the country. Saturday the first of November friend Alenka guided us on a three hour tour from Otočec towards the east and back to Otočec.
Mission to the secret tunnel of Goli Vrh
Once upon a time…. Between world wars I and II the western part of Slovenia (then part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia) was Italian territory, according to the Treaty of Rapallo. To defend the rest of the country and capital Ljubljana against the Italians a defense line consisting of bunkers, tunnels and forts was built in the lush forests and mountains between the west of Slovenia and the centre of Slovenia, from north to south. This fortification system is now known as the Rupnik Line, named after Slovenian general Leon Rupnik who led the fortification works.
The Rupnik Line was never really used. When the Germans invaded Slovenia in 1941 the vast majority of the defense line wasn’t ready yet. General Rupnik probably wouldn’t have regretted it. During the Second World War he collaborated with the Fascist Italian and Nazi German forces.
Nowadays you can hike and ride along the fortification system. Recently I spotted a brand new sign that pointed the way to the Rupnik Line. In the village of Suhi Dol, 25 kilometres from Ljubljana, my adventure started. I was on an expedition to the underground fort on top of Goli Vrh (962 metres).
Top 10 views from the bike, 18- 19 October
Saturday ride, 11 October
Views from the bike of monday 29 September
In Black-and-White: Conclusions of the Amateur World Championships
From Thursday 28 to Sunday 31 August Ljubljana hosted the World Cycling Championships for amateurs.
Some personal conclusions from the championships:
Amateurs take their cycling much more serious than professionals.
You are never too old to:
– Ride the newest and most expensive bikes
– Ride fast
– Be fanatic
The level of racing was sometimes close to professional.
There are too many world champions cycling.
– Only one man can be the best cyclist in the world, but for adult men there are UCI rainbow jerseys in the categories (Under 23 years, Professionals, under 35 years, under 40, under 45, under 50, under 55, under 60, under 65, above 65.
And then we have para cycling world championships, military world championships, world championships police cycling, the world medical cycling championships, the world championships for firemen and last but not least, of course, the world cycling championships for journalists, where I will participate from 3 to 7 September in Austria. Will the real world champion please stand up?
Riding with Pantani
On the roads of Italy’s region Emilia-Romagna we have been chasing the spirit of the late cycling hero Marco ‘Il Pirata’ Pantani. These were the roads he loved and when you ride them you will discover why. The roads of Emilia-Romagna twist through a countryside filled with vineyards and ancient villages and towns. They inspire to ride.
Ten years ago Pantani died at the age of 34, but when you ride his former training routes he still feels very much alive. Had Pantani still been living today, we might have forgotten about him. Now that he’s dead many of his fans make sure we will never forget him. Il Pirata is remembered with roadpaintings and roadside monuments. And when you ride his former training routes you might, sometimes, feel him riding with you.
Text and photos Mark Koghee
Monte Zoncolan – The Grande Finale of 3 weeks Giro d´Italia
The climb to Monte Zoncolan is 10 kilometres long and has an average gradient of 11.9%. On Saturday May 31 it was the last major climb in this year´s Giro and the toughest. All 156 cyclists who started the climb finished in time. Winner was Australian Michael Rogers, last one was Australian Michael Hepburn 29 minutes and 9 seconds later.
We were 5; Marjetka, Amadeja, Ela, Robin and me. After 1 kilometre of the climb we found a place to watch. Here´s what we saw.
How I saw the Tour of Slovenia
From last Thursday till Sunday Slovenia’s most important bicycle race was held. Here my favorite photos from my two visits to this year’s the Tour of Slovenia.
Giro d’Italia – Visit to ‘Slovenian’ stages 10 and 11
One of the benefits of Slovenia is that the country is so close to Italy. For two days I have been immersed in the world of Giro d’Italia. The Italian cycling circus was the last two days close to the border of my new home country. It was an excellent opportunity to go and feel the vibe of this stylish race for a pink jersey.
Today the Giro started in the old mining hamlet Cave de Predil, just across the border. Yesterday the finish was on the Altopiano del Montasio where on the 20 % steep slopes riders got some help from the crowds. Hundreds of Slovenians cheered, screamed and lent a helping hand on the Altopiano del Montasio.
Ride to Litija makes ground shake
We were three; my Dutch friends Jeroen, Robin and me and we were riding our bikes on a Sunday morning along the fast streaming river Sava. It was cloudy and it was fresh. The wind was so strong that it even brought back memories of our home country. But it was dry and after the bad weather spring brought so far, we were happy.
After we left the outskirts of Ljubljana the road meandered through small villages. We had the water on our left, wooded hills on our right. We took turns in the lead to maintain our speed in the headwind that blew dust and small branches our way.
Sooner than I expected we reached the small town of Litija. I doubt Litija, home to 7000 people, ever saw so many Dutch guys together. When we entered the small bar of the Spar supermarket to hydrate ourselves, the heads of all other guests turned our way. The day would never be the same in Litija.
We drank, paid and left. Through the hills we rode back to Ljubljana. And in Litija the ground was still shaking. 3.0 on the Richter Scale to be precise. We Dutch never go unnoticed.
Cycling against a hairdryer
In the Netherlands wind is wind. And in winter the wind is always chilly. In my mother tongue a föhn is a hairdryer.
Here in Slovenia a föhn (fen) is a wind from the mountains and that wind is always warm. In winter it can make snow disappear with the blink of an eye, in summertime the wind can blow wildfires at high speed through forests. Föhn winds are believed to be the cause of suicides, accidents, violence and headaches. But on Saturday the föhn brought me nothing but happiness when it treated Slovenia to an early spring.
Saturday started chilly. When I left Ljubljana by bike around noon it was 5 degrees Celsius and I was afraid my gloves weren’t up to the task of keeping my hands warm. The tyres made small drops of dirt from the wet road jump up on my bike and trousers. It was a true winter ride. But that lasted for ten kilometres. Then the wind picked up, clouds dispersed, and the temperature took a ten degree leap up. Grey became green, white became blue.
My hands were sweaty in no-time and I had to take the gloves off. I zipped my jersey open and rolled up my sleeves. The föhn blew the heavy scent of earth in my nostrils. Nature was waking up. It was January 5 and spring was here. I braced to pedal against the strong headwind and realised that for the first time on the bike I was happy with a headwind.
It’s now Monday and winter is back. The sky is grey and the temperature is 3 degrees Celsius. I hope for a swift return of the föhn.
It’s funny, I emigrated 1300 kilometres to the south to a completely different country but I still live next to wetlands. The Zaanstreek, the Dutch region where I am from is surrounded by wetlands. It’s protected nature that I know very well because I always used to ride my bike through and around it. Here next to Ljubljana there is the Barje region, 160 square kilometres of wetland and just like the wetlands in the Zaanstreek a Natura 2000 protected area.
Almost every time I ride my bike now, I go round Barje. Not because it makes me feel so at home but because of the time of year. Any other direction would have me do a climb. That won’t really be a problem but descending will. The temperatures got down to around ten degrees Celsius on the ground and colder the higher you get, making the way back again very chilly. Flying down a mountain is neither nice nor safe when you are shivering. Especially in this time of year when the road surface is full of wet leafs and mud.
So with just two really small climbs, in the Netherlands they still would be categorized as mountains though, I enjoy the smoothness of riding on the plain these days. Today I made a round again and it was as grey outside as it also was in the Netherlands. The roads were for the most part as flat as they are in the Netherlands, I rode the same bike as I rode in the Netherlands, the goats I met spoke the same language as the goats in the Netherlands but as you can see in the pictures I took on the way the views in the Slovenian wetlands are different from the as-far-as you-can-see-view you have on the plains in the Zaanstreek.
Party in tights
,,They are dancing on the table in the other room’’, my girlfriend said. I couldn’t believe it but when I went to take a look I saw a stable full of people that were singing, screaming and dancing to the brisk tunes of traditional Slovenian Oberkrainer music. Osmice (eights) is much more than a culinary festival, it’s a party on the farm.
Back in the days that Slovenia was still part of the Habsburg Monarchy empress Maria Teresa only allowed farmers to sell their surpluses of wine and meats eight days a year. Although times have changed the tradition survived in the region around Trieste. Some farms still open their doors to the public for eight days and serve their homemade wines and meats.
After discovering the Kras-region by bike on saturday, we drove by car to the top of a hill close to the town of Sezana, at a stone’s throw from the Italian border. Through a winding narrow road we reached a farm that was surrounded by parked cars. Inside there were rows of long tables along which people drank from big unlabelled bottles of wine and ate from plates full of prosciutto and other homemade meats and cheeses.
The mood already seemed good when we sat at the only table that was still available. But things really started to get ecstatic after the band made its entrance a good half hour later. While I set my teeth in the sausage of the main dish, I heard the sounds of people going out of their mind in the adjacent stable. When I stood up to take a look, I also turned out to be quite an eye catcher. I saw people staring at my legs which were dressed in tights. I forget to bring my jeans and had to walk around my cycling pants. But on a farm where wine was consumed as water on a summer day and where the people were dancing on tables I fortunately wasn’t that much out of the ordinary with ‘sexy’ outfit.
A little taste of Osmice (around 6 pm):
In a ditch
The Slovenian roadside ditches. This sunny Sunday was all about ditches for me. And that was quite unexpected. Today I rode my first bicycle race in Slovenia. Although cycling didn’t have any priority for me this season, I was going for a podium spot. The distance for sure wouldn’t be a problem. This last race of the season, which was my first one, was only 21 (!) kilometres short. That’s hardly worth leaving house for but because I never raced in Slovenia before and it was only ten kilometres from home I set off with high hopes.
There were not more than thirty other amateur racers at the start. Some were already changeless when they rode in to each other at the start and had to put their foot on the ground. I lasted a few kilometres longer. A few fast kilometres on a slightly descending road that swirled through a green oasis of sunbathing grass.
I rode in last place of the peloton. That way I could avoid the falls people predicted me. And a fall there was. Where the road was straight, visibility was good, the speed was high and the peloton consisted of no more than twenty men, somehow some guys managed to hit the deck. From left to right the road was blocked by broken bikes and parts and injured men. And I dove in to the roadside ditch with my bike. One meter and a half I drove down, a few meters I rode over the dried bottom of the ditch and when I tried to ride up again the narrow tyres of my racing bike didn’t proof themselves sufficient to tackle the grass and mud of the slope. I had to step off, walk up to the road and when I was back on the bike I saw the peloton disappearing in the distance. I finished my first Slovenian race in a chasing group, far behind where I hoped to be; an anti-climax.
After the race I took my camera out to take some pictures of the pro-race. I cycled along the route of the race again, looking for a spot that would give a nice perspective on the action. When taking pictures I always like to go for the frog perspective. That often means i have to lie down or kneel. But not this time. The place that gave me the best view on the race happened to be in … a ditch.
When I came home and opened the door I immediately saw my girlfriend shaking her head. ,,I warned you’’, she said. ,,So you better don’t complain that you are tired.’’ In the meantime the pasta she prepared for me, was cooking. So that relentless she wasn’t. And she was right.
Today I went out for a bike ride to the Italian town of Trieste. Since two months now I’ve been living on Tržaška Cesta which means road to Trieste. Riding my bike to the seaside in Trieste was just something I had to do. When I told my girlfriend of the plan this week she called me a fool. ,,You will never find your way out of the centre of Trieste. I really wouldn’t do that if I was you’’, she said. So I did do it.
I started shortly after nine in the morning. It was still fresh. The first twenty kilometres were flat and a slight breeze was blowing towards me. ‘Good, tailwind, when I come back’, I thought. I saw hills and mountains, meadows and forests. I rode quite easy and made good progress. I still felt fresh when I crossed the Italian border after three hours of riding. I was in a completely different world by then. I breathed the sweet air of pinetrees on a hot and dry summer day. And I heard the chirping of crickets. Twenty minutes later I stood next to the sea in Trieste. I had done almost a hundred kilometres. More than expected, but 200 altogether would still be manageable.
Would I find my way back? No doubt. I just had to go up again. So when I saw a road rising in the centre I took it. Didn’t I notice that all the roads where leading up? Well, I guess I just thought the one I took was the right one. Quite soon I noticed it wasn’t. The things I passed in the descent, I didn’t see here. But I had to go up so as long as I went up, I would come out on the right road. I didn’t tough. And when I reached the end of my climb I saw in the distance the other mountain, next to the one I was climbing, with the road I had to be on. Ups.
I descended back into town. Searched and found the right way, drove in the opposite direction of oneway streets no to get lost again and I climbed back towards Slovenia. I wasted an hour and made an extra 26 kilometres. By now it had warmed up to thirty degrees, I was sweating and with each pedalstroke my legs hurted more. Out of Trieste the road is rising for twenty kilometres. When you are fresh it’s not a hard climb but fresh I wasn’t anymore.
On the way back I had to stop four times to get water for my bidon and I had to buy two colas. I never drank so much per kilometre. The last flat twenty kilometres were everlasting. A breeze was blowing against me. Indeed, the wind turned. ‘I would’ve been home now’, I thought when I reached the last 26 kilometres, remembering my detour through the suburbs and hills of Trieste. The thought made the pinches in my worn out legmuscles even stronger.
I rode 225 kilometres into a headwind and climbed 2500 vertical metres in total. I believe the wind wouldn’t have turned if I had paid more attention on getting the right route out of Trieste. When you ignore a warning you always get paid for it.
At home I waited a bit before I entered in an attempt to let the worst signs of fatigue leave my face. But the strain was obvious. I was naggered and my girlfriend noticed it the moment I stepped in. ,,I told you so.’’
Pasja Ravan: Love at first ride
Pasja Ravan. The name sounds exotic to my Dutch ears. Every time I see it, I get a vision of an oriental belly dancer. But Pasja Ravan is not oriental nor is she belly dancer. Pasja Ravan is a 1000 meter high mountain near Ljubljana. And I climbed her yesterday by bike.
Pasja Ravan is a rock covered in green fields and dark forests. She is capricious like a woman though. Her slopes are then steep, then close to flat. When I reached the peak I fell in love with Pasja Ravan immediately. She made me feel on top of the world. Although the Alps I saw in the distance are far higher.
In the valley it was hot but here the cool breeze whispered sweet words. It was neither hot nor cold. There was a freshness that made me feel reborn; despite the almost ten kilometres I just rode uphill. There was a small chapel on the top with a wooden bench next to it. A tree threw its shade over the bench. I looked at my watch. It was two in the afternoon. Siesta time. I sat down on the bench, stretched and lay down. I never wanted to leave Pasja Ravan.