Day 47 - Slovenia Loop

Monday 11th August 2014


We awake to a bright morning. One of the many good things at Gasthof Hochalmspitze is the breakfast. We take our time, loading up the energy for the day.

We are going to ride the Slovenia loop today. Mick and I have ridden these roads before but it's the first time for Clive.

It is a day of contrasts in and out of three countries. First we wind down the B99 to Spittal An Der Drau and on to the outskirts of Villach. The highway in the sky drops down here and through a tunnel into Slovenia, but we are going the interesting way.
 
Reavie, Lust For Glory

First the Würzenpaß with its Bunker Museum and wrecked WWII tank by the roadside. This pass is in desperate need of resurfacing on the Austrian side but once over the border at the summit it smooths out on the Slovenian side for the drop down into Podkoren.

Its a quick run east to Kranjska Gora and the foot of the wonderful Vrsic Pass. Here the contrast between the north and south faces is massive. On the north side the pass climbs up a series of cobblestone hairpins to a small lake and a saddle between two looming mountain heights.
We stop again at the little Russian Chapel half way up. And again for coffee at the auberge on the summit. 

At the Russian Chapel
Cobblestone hairpin #8 on north side of Vrsic Pass
High up on the Mangart Road

Gets a bit narrow near the summit

Then it's the glorious sweeping curves and hairpins down the Soca Valley to Bovec. I've ridden this road a dozen times and it never fails to thrill me. As usual there is hardly any traffic. The sun is shining and all is well with the world.

Just shy of Bovec we turn right and swing back up the road to the Predil Pass. A few kilometres from the pass there is a right turn up the Mangart Road.

The Mangart is one of those biker 'must do' roads. It was built by the army in 1938 for strategic purposes. It's a very narrow and rocky road that twists and flicks through tunnels and round tight hairpins clinging to the sides of the mountain. There is a toll - €5 for a bike.

View over Triglav from the Mangart road


At one point there is the astonishing satnav screen where the road appears to loop over itself (see video below
) as the track goes through a tunnel then climbs up a hairpin to run back over the tunnel beneath.

Clive, who insists on calling it the Marigold Road, is feeling very uncomfortable. The road is little more than a track clinging to the side of a mountain with unfenced thousand metre drops a couple of metres to the side.


 But by God it's worth it. The views are incredible. We are above the clouds rising to the highest paved point in Slovenia at over 2000 metres.
The pavement finally runs out near the summit

There is a one-way loop at the top and a footpath will take you over the mountain top to the village of Mangart. But the paved road ends here and so we slowly wend are way back down to the junction with the Predil road.

We stop for a pasta lunch at the cafe on the Lake at the summit, then continue down some fantastic hairpins and sweepers to Tarvisio in Italy. Clivio's Panigale has finally arrived for a visit home.

Next we turn left and ride the fast A road west to Pontebba before turning north and up the Passo de Pramello (Naßfeldpaß auf Deutsch).

I probably said it before, this is one of my favourite roads in this sector of the Alps. The Italian side climbs up a spectacular river valley on fast surfaces and fast bends and hairpins.

But this time it comes on to rain. Rain in the Alps is seldom gentle and today is no exception. In seconds we are riding through a torrent of rain, visibility is down to a few metres and the road is awash.

In 'No Mans Land'

It's always a matter of judgement when to stop and don the waterproofs. Ahead I can see blue sky and often you can ride through for a minute or two and emerge onto dry roads and into bright sunshine.

I decide to press on. Got it wrong this time though and by the time I dash into the cafe in 'No Mans Land' at the summit I am drenched. The other two are way behind but soon arrive as sodden as I.

Dripping wet we hurry inside.

Mick to Clive: "I'm surprised you didn't stop and put your waterproofs on when we ran into that lot."

Clive replies: "I would have done but my waterproofs are in your fecking tank bag."

That will teach him to ride a Ducati with no room for more than an Allen key and a spare set of keys.

We dry off as best we can over coffee. And of course the sun comes out and the temperature rises by 10 degrees or more.

The next section of the ride is fantastic. Down into Austria on the Naßfeld then along a fast road east to the turning for Weißensee. The pass road up and over to Greifenberg isn't long enough to get its own name but it is a real beauty. Wide, new black tarmac with hairpins aplenty and fast sweepers. I love it. 

Then it's east along the B100 and up the B99 to Gmund and the turning for Malta.
It's been a glorious day's ride and even Clive, who has been agitating for a rest day since he got here, admits he has enjoyed himself. 

"Except for that fecking goat track", referring to the Mangart. No stamina these young 'uns.


  

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