Rapha on Location: South Tyrol

Rapha On Location: South Tyrol

Towering mountain passes, vineyard valleys and the best of Italian and Austrian food and culture make South Tyrol a dream cycling destination, as we found out in the latest Rapha photoshoot.

04 October 2019

Rapha’s 2019 Autumn/Winter shoot took place in South Tyrol, a region in the Dolomites that had previously been part of Austria, but since 1918 has been under Italian governance. Towns and mountains still retain both their Italian and German names and it is a place that enjoys the best of the two cultures and dramatic geography, making it a unique and demanding place to ride a bike.

If you’ve ever taken to two wheels in the Dolomites, you’ll know that you can spend plenty of time in the big cog at the back, thinking “it has to level out in a minute”. The elevation you can achieve in a couple of kilometres is astounding, but the scenery is inimitable.

You’ll run out of superlatives quickly in South Tyrol, but often you won’t be able to utter them anyway – the steep ascents see to that. Fortunately there are also more forgiving roads that allow you to take in the scenery whilst being able to breathe.

A group of Rapha riders recently spent a few days testing out the latest Autumn/Winter clothing in the area, arriving just before the snow arrived and the ski lifts started up again for the winter season. The typically changeable mountainous weather and big elevation changes ensured that the full range of kit was put through its paces.

The group’s favourite ride of the shoot took in the Passo Gardena climb. Averaging 6.4%, the 9.3km steady ascent winds up the mountain from the ski village of Corvara, connecting Val Badia and Val Gardena. A classic passage of the Giro d’Italia, the race last passed through here in 2017 when Tejay van Garderen took his first Grand Tour stage victory.

After Calfosch / Colfosco, the first part of the climb passes through the smooth roads of the green valley. The dingling cowbells spur you on. As you're climbing, more hairpins appear above, limestone rocks rise up around you and breathtaking views open up over the valley. Anneleen Bosma, Rapha ambassador says: “I highly recommend doing this climb early in the morning as the sunlight dawning on the limestone is just incredible.”

The fusion of Italian and Austrian is nowhere more apparent than at the cafe and lunch stops. Chalet Gerard at the top of the Passo Gardena serves up big bowls of fresh pasta, followed by slices of apple strudel the size of a house brick and doppios – double espressos to the uninitiated.

Just as the chair lifts and snow on the very tops of the peaks hint at the impending winter playground for snowsports, South Tyrol offers all the things that cyclists want in the summer season: demanding climbs, some of the best food Europe can offer and one of the most beautiful locations for riding your bike.

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