2,455 km. 76,000 vertical meters. 70 passes in 18 days. A challenge that is hard to imagine just reading the numbers. Moments that stay in your memory for the rest of your life. A physical & mental strain that pushes you to your limits day after day. Lukas Rathgeber about his unforgettable time in the Alps with his father and what motivates him to leave his comfort zone every time.
A guest contribution by Lukas Rathgeber.
Three months ago I received word that the Silk Road Mountain Race will probably not take place this year. Everything was already organized, such as the flights to Kyrgyzstan. It was also planned that my father would support me before and after the race and explore the country himself during this time. The Alps and Pyrenees were immediately on the radar as alternatives. With the opening of borders in Europe in June, the Alps became a realistic goal. I've often cycled in the Alps, but how about riding all the 2000m passes in a row as closely as possible? I couldn't let go of this idea and I started planning the route.
The Thin Air Project
The result of the planning was 58 passes over 2000m plus a few others that lie along the way and are too beautiful not to ride. A real sporting challenge packed into a cool trip with my father. The converted camper van was a central part of the planning. Independent, practical and fast. The only question was whether it would really work in the end to drive 2500km and between 70,000 and 80,000 meters in altitude in just over 2 weeks. That would be an average of around 4500 hm per day. 'Get rich or die tryin' was the motto.
Austria: Bielerhöhe, Kühtai, Timmelsjoch, Staller Sattel, Grossglockner, Nockalmstrasse
The first pass to be overcome was the Bielerhöhe. Completely naive but with great legs and full of energy we started. I met the Canyon Sram Girls on the Kühtai and then burned up on the Timmelsjoch. Legs adjusted to 800 hm/hour - comfortable pace. Passed the biathlon stronghold of Antholz on the way to the Staller saddle. No Dorothea Wierer seen. Frozen on the Großglockner with temperatures in the single digits and drizzle. Completely showered on the Nockalmstrasse.
Italy: Jaufen Pass, Penserjoch, Würzjoch, Zoncolan, Sella di Razzo, Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Passo Giau, Passo Falzarego, Passo Valparolo, Grödener Joch, Sella Joch, Passo Pordoi, Passo Fedaia, Passo di San Pellegrino, Passo Valle, Passo Rolle , Passo Brocon, Passo Manghen, Passo dello Stelvio, Passo di Gavia, Passo di Mortirolo, Forcola di Livigno, Passo d'Eira, Passo Foscagno, Splügenpass, Kleiner Sankt Bernhard, Colle delle Finestre, Colle delle Assietta, Colle di Sampeyre, Colle di Esischie, Col de la Lombarde.
Der Jaufen and I will no longer be friends, no matter from which side. Beautiful, quiet Friuli, with the dream passes Zoncolan and Sella di Razzo. In contrast, the touristic Dolomites. Lonely camping spot under the Drei Zinnen at 2300 m. With single speed the last 3 km because the battery in the brake lever was empty. In addition, slight symptoms of altitude sickness overnight. Hotspot Cortina d'Ampezzo. Overcrowded and therefore stressful Sella tour with a wonderful finale at Fedaia. Manghen as the end of the Dolomites. Went in at 35 degrees, arrived at the top at 7 degrees in the rain. Then pizza, transfer and rest day in Vinschgau.
The king's stage started at 4 a.m., in the moonlight on the Stelvio. highlights. Continue via Gavia and Mortirolo. 198 km with 6700 hm at the end. Between Switzerland and France via the Little Saint Bernard. Lots of lightning and rain. Just keep going. From Susa to the Finestre. It is immediately among the top 5 passes of all. Enchanted, mystical forest with 1000 serpentines on the first 10 km. Then gravel up to over 2100 m. My dad drives directly to Sestriere. I take the Assietta Höhenstrasse. The 38mm tires are just wide enough. The road translation was rather limit. A dream road!
Freshly endorphinized from Sestriere to France. In Piedmont I wished for the Gravel wheels again. Beautiful 2000er passes that nobody knows, with road conditions that nobody wants to know. The descents were more strenuous than the ascents, especially for the head. It's hard to keep concentration high. The last pass in Italy is the Col de la Lombarde towards Isola 2000. The lower back is slowly becoming noticeable. Cola is a magic drink during this time.
Switzerland: Umbrail, Bernina, Ofenpass, Flüela, Albula, Julier, San Bernardino, Lukmanier, Oberalp, Susten, Grimsel, Furka, Gotthard, Nufenen, Simplon, Grosser Sankt Bernhard.
Sunrise on the Umbrail and *****cold descent to Bormio. Endless 1900 hm to the Bernina. 24 hours later, a dream lap in the Engadin. Short police interlude at San Bernadino, rain at Lukmanier, storm at Oberalp. The legs hold up surprisingly well. My dad is in a good mood too and does whatever he can to make my life easier. Film and photo visit from Germany for two days. Have fun for everyone involved. Continue west and the Swiss classics Grimsel, Furka Susten. Jumped into the lake in Valais, then changed the brake pads. Fought the trucks on the Simplon Autobahn. Transfer to the Great Saint Bernard. Nice and empty on the way up and crowded at the pass.
France: Col de l'Iseran, Mont Cenis, Montgenèvre, Col d'Izoard, Col d'Agnel, Cime de la Bonette, Col d'Allos, Col des Champs, Col de la Cayolle, Col du Vars, Col du Lautaret, Col du Galibier, Col du Télégraphe, Col de la Croix de Fer, Col du Glandon, Col de la Madeleine.
For breakfast after 1000 hm 2 eclairs in Val d'Isere. Super nice pass, many cyclists. Passed by a woman who drove up again with 350W to propose marriage to her. Language difficulties, then highest watt output up to the pass. Long descent to Mont Cenis, busy, beautiful lake, off to Piedmont. Montgenevre border crossing direction Briancon. Finally pizza again. Col d'Izoard. Another classic. Case deserte on the back. Rolls so well that I still halfway up the Agnel. Super nice camping spot in the high valley at 2100m. The next morning at 7 a.m. at 4 degrees we continued towards Italy. At the end back in Isola 2000. Everything full of people again. Community festival in Isola in the valley, no restaurants open. Pasta in the field kitchen. 500 g pasta is no problem for two. Short night in the valley and up to the highest point on the Cime de la Bonette at 2800m. Nothing going on at 7am. Best weather, a dream. 9 o'clock running upstairs. Col d'Allos next, meanwhile it's busier again. Missed my dad upstairs and drove on. He didn't see me or look for me either. But I was already on my way to the next pass. 100km later we found each other again. Col des Champs - dream pass. Chased by the storm on the Cayolle. Lost to nature 3km before the summit. It doesn't matter, 3km is always possible. Up in the car and later for dessert Col du Vars.
Last day. First Galibier for breakfast. The legs still manage 800 hm/hour. Absolute diesel legs. No hard efforts possible, but no problem in the middle range 8-10 hours. Next: Col de la Croix de Fer. My dad and I laugh as we slowly count down to the end. Survive the last tricky descent from the Glandon. Into the Madeleine. Another almost 2 hours uphill. I start to reflect, try to remember all the passes. Dad provides me with coke. Then the time came. Slightly perplexed, we both stand on the Madeleine and drink a chilled Orangina and look into the distance without saying much. An intense trip for both of us. Relaxing for the first time in 18 days.
In the end, the project was indeed a real challenge. Both on and off the bike. It was super exciting to leave your comfort zone every day. You never knew when the point would come and how to deal with it. Of course there were also dark moments, but getting out of it and always staying positive was just nice. On the bike I felt more alive and free than ever before. On some of the most beautiful roads in the world.
Together with my dad, we have spent 18 days pursuing the goal of mastering the challenge. It was an indescribable feeling for both of us when we finally made it. During this time we were a well-established team, everyone had their tasks in Van Life 2.0. Due to the demanding stages, the stage was always directly before the stage and so we were energized for the 18 days without much rest. We were always in a positive mood and had a lot to laugh about. This trip would not have been possible without my father. Thanks. In addition to the whole numbers, one thing above all is remembered at the end. A trip we will both remember forever. And that's what it's all about, 'right?
2,455 km. 76,000 vertical meters. 70 passes - 58 of which are paved passes over 2,000 m. 18 days. A lifetime experience.
Discover all the routes Lukas has ridden in his Komoot Collection.
Follow Lukas on Strava and get insights into his daily training and new adventures.
Videography: Peter Bender
Photography: Lina Jakobi
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