Sun is an essential part of cycling and cycling events. Many cyclists fly away to training camps in search of warmer weather. Many races have nicknames celebrating sun (“Ruta del Sol” or Route of the sun is Vuelta a Andalucia in Spain; or “La course au Soleil” is Paris – Nice to mention only the most famous). Part of the appeal of some of the most popular races is in fact lack of sun; this makes them notorious yet prestigious among cyclists.
By Zlatko Tomšić/AiC
But for an end of season mass participation event, sun, sea and warm temperatures is a winning formula for most cyclists. Even more so if the date of the event is in early October and the venue is ►Umag. Situated at the north of Croatian part of the Istrian peninsula, just under an hour drive from Trieste, Umag is better known as a host of ATP tennis tournament which in 2018 was in its 28th edition, and as a tourist vacation destination during the summer months.
But in the last six years Umag and Istria, in general, have worked hard to promote themselves as a premium cycling destination. Istria Granfondo is an event that showcases the best things on offer, such as picturesque roads, renowned hospitality and of course – first class gastronomical and enological offer.
Festival of cycling
A true festival of cycling, Istria Granfondo will take place from October 5th to 7th 2018. Over the course of a weekend it will offer two competitive events, Classic with 136 km and 1450 meters of climbing and Small of 90 km and 880 meters of climbing; family and gourmet cycling tour, a leisurely Sunday recovery ride of 25 km, and a variety of supporting events for the whole family over the course of the weekend.
But the main events that everything else revolves around are the Classic and Small marathons or granfondos. The routes have two distinct parts. First 20 km is along the coast, mostly flat and serve as a warm-up. Then both courses head inland for a series of rolling hills. There is one major climb on the classic route to Oprtalj from 78 to 84 km. But do not let this make you think there is little climbing.
The courses are full of small rollers and bends that break the rhythm and drain the strength. The smart way to ride is not to go all out and save some energy for the second half of the course. Then you can enjoy passing through the beautiful combination of green vineyards and blue sky. The classic route passes by ►Pazin and its’ famous cave and ►Motovun, an Istrian gem, most famous for the film festival. It is almost a pity to race over this course, it is so beautiful.
Cyclists should be careful as there are a couple of sections with poor asphalt and some narrow roads, all well marked in road book and signaled by volunteers on the day of the event. Good news is that the last 40 km on the classic and 30 km on the small route are all gently downhill, so there is a chance to catch one’s breath before final sprint in Umag.
Start finish area is by the famous and beautiful tennis stadium. There is plenty of free parking places, and you will enjoy the after the race with the usual pasta party and musical entertainment. Organizers have plenty of experience and participants are well taken care of.
Angelo from Italy said: “The location is stunning. This is our first time here. We are staying in Umag, and we like it very much. We’ll be back next year. The trail is good, just as it should be, and the landscape is breath-taking. Our son also took part in the race, but he made it to the finish line much sooner than we did.”
Uroš from Ljubljana added: “This is our second time here. The race wasn’t so hard, and it was well organized. The weather is great. We also like the additional activities, food and drinks, and entertainment. I often come to this part of Istria since we have a flat in Zambratija.”
Autumn is a great part of the year in Istria and deserves a whole weekend to fully enjoy all the treasures offered. Besides enjoying a great cycling event do take your time to sample local delicacies, visit sights, or just enjoy the sun.
After all, you have all winter to ride in rain and dark. 🙂