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The Art of Bikepacking: 3 Week-Long Challenges Across Europe for the Hardcore Cyclist

By Monica Buck

When it comes to cycling, you’re not the type to shy away from a challenge. You crave the adrenaline, the burn, and the glory that comes from conquering the toughest rides. Europe offers some of the most brutal and rewarding cycling adventures on the planet. Below are three week-long itineraries designed specifically for hardcore cyclists like you, including an intense MTB route that will test your limits and elevate your spirits.

1. Dominate the Dolomites: Ultimate MTB tour

Route Overview

  • Starting Point: Bolzano, Italy
  • End Point: Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy
  • Distance: Approximately 400 kilometers
  • Elevation Gain: Over 15,000 meters
  • Duration: 7 days

Day-by-Day Itinerary Highlights

  • Day 1: Bolzano to Val Gardena (Approx. 60 km)
  • Day 2: Val Gardena to Alta Badia (Approx. 55 km)
  • Day 3: Alta Badia to Arabba (Approx. 50 km)
  • Day 4: Arabba to Canazei (Approx. 60 km)
  • Day 5: Canazei to San Martino di Castrozza (Approx. 70 km)
  • Day 6: San Martino di Castrozza to Auronzo di Cadore (Approx. 65 km)
  • Day 7: Auronzo di Cadore to Cortina d’Ampezzo (Approx. 40 km)

What to expect: Prepare for an epic MTB adventure across the rugged and majestic Dolomites. This route throws at you a mix of steep climbs, technical descents, and breathtaking alpine scenery. You’ll need to bring your A-game, tackling rocky paths, forest trails, and mountain passes that demand skill, endurance, and sheer determination.

2. Conquer the Pyrenees: Trans-Pyrenees Challenge

Trans-Pyrenees Challenge

Route Overview

  • Starting Point: San Sebastián, Spain
  • End Point: Banyuls-sur-Mer, France
  • Distance: Approximately 800 kilometers
  • Elevation Gain: Over 20,000 meters
  • Duration: 7 days

Day-by-Day Itinerary Highlights

  • Day 1: San Sebastián to Pamplona (Approx. 130 km)
  • Day 2: Pamplona to Jaca (Approx. 140 km)
  • Day 3: Jaca to Bagnères-de-Luchon (Approx. 150 km)
  • Day 4: Bagnères-de-Luchon to Saint-Girons (Approx. 100 km)
  • Day 5: Saint-Girons to Foix (Approx. 80 km)
  • Day 6: Foix to Perpignan (Approx. 130 km)
  • Day 7: Perpignan to Banyuls-sur-Mer (Approx. 70 km)

What to expect: This is not for the faint-hearted. The Trans-Pyrenees Challenge is a testament to your endurance and cycling prowess, presenting relentless climbs, fast descents, and variable weather. Be prepared to push your limits as you traverse national parks, conquer iconic cols, and immerse yourself in the rugged beauty of the Pyrenees.

3. Master the Alps: Alpine Arc Adventure

Route Overview

  • Starting Point: Geneva, Switzerland
  • End Point: Venice, Italy
  • Distance: Approximately 750 kilometers
  • Elevation Gain: Over 18,000 meters
  • Duration: 7 days

Day-by-Day Itinerary Highlights

  • Day 1: Geneva to Chamonix (Approx. 100 km)
  • Day 2: Chamonix to Aosta (Approx. 110 km)
  • Day 3: Aosta to Courmayeur (via Col du Grand-Saint-Bernard) (Approx. 80 km)
  • Day 4: Courmayeur to Bormio (Approx. 120 km)
  • Day 5: Bormio to Bolzano (Approx. 150 km)
  • Day 6: Bolzano to Cortina d’Ampezzo (Approx. 100 km)
  • Day 7: Cortina d’Ampezzo to Venice (Approx. 90 km)

What to expect: The Alpine Arc Adventure is an odyssey that challenges your limits and rewards your spirit. Across seven grueling days, you’ll tackle some of the most demanding passes and descents in the Alps, navigating through breathtaking landscapes that test your endurance, skill, and willpower.

These itineraries are not just routes; they are battles against the elements, tests of endurance, and journeys of self-discovery. As you pedal through these challenging terrains, remember that each turn, each ascent, and each descent is a story in the making—a testament to your resilience and passion for cycling.

Gear up: Ensure your bike is in peak condition, suited for the demands of your chosen route. For the MTB challenge, your bike should handle technical terrains, while road challenges demand lightweight, reliable gear.

Train smart: These routes demand peak physical condition. Tailor your training to include long rides, elevation gains, and, for MTB riders, technical skill development.Plan for Recovery: After each day’s ride, prioritize recovery—nutrition, hydration, and rest are key to sustaining a week-long effort.

Embrace the community: Engage with other cyclists you meet along the way. Shared challenges forge lasting bonds and enrich your experience.Respect the Environment: These natural landscapes are a privilege to explore. Minimize your impact and leave no trace.

As you embark on these epic journeys, remember that the true reward lies not just in the destinations you reach, but in the stories you create, the limits you surpass, and the indomitable spirit you demonstrate. Gear up, ride hard, and embrace the adventure that awaits.

As you embark on these epic journeys, don’t forget that the true reward lies not just in the limits you surpass, but also the stories you create. Gear up, ride hard, and embrace the adventure that awaits. Do any one of these and count yourself ready for the next Škoda Titan Desert!