JULIJSKE^ALPS, SLOVENIA
JULIJSKE^ALPS, SLOVENIA
JULIJSKE ALPS, SLOVENIA
A New Classic is Coming
JULIJSKE^ALPS, SLOVENIA
JULIJSKE^ALPS, SLOVENIA
JULIJSKE ALPS, SLOVENIA
A New Classic is Coming

Slovenia, Rising to New Levels.

Huddled together with Italy, Croatia, Hungary, and Austria, Slovenia is a quiet and incredibly well kept secret. In this tightly packed community of countries, Slovenia seems to us to be the most unassuming resident – which is something many of the Slovenians we met didn’t seem to mind. Maintaining a unique identity, over half of the country is covered by thick forests, pristine lakes peppered across the landscape, and limestone mountains in the Julijske Alps rise like giants to nearly 3,000 meters.

Words: Our Team in the Field

Photography: Pauline Ballet

Slovenia? Yeah, Slovenia!

Known for its mountains and skiing, the Tour of Slovenia continues to spotlight the Slovenia’s cycling potential. Covering between 500km to 650kms each year since 1993, the tour shares more and more of Slovenia’s secrets with the world and is also beginning to lift Slovenian cyclists to the global stage – on the first big day in the Alps in this year’s Tour de France, Primoz Roglic of Slovenia took Galibier to his limit, rising up to grab Slovenia’s first Tour de France stage win.

Blanketed with forests, alpine climbs, and isolated roads? A history of cycling, both at the urban and professional level? A millennia-long winemaking culture?

Yeah, the perfect destination for a MAAP Field Trip. We had to check this place out.

Coordinating a MAAP Field Trip – Logistics!!

We knew Slovenia would be the destination for our second MAAP Field trip and also to test out our new range. Now, how do we pull it off?

We had a European home base with MAAP co-founder, Ollie, in Italy for the season working on new product research and development. A good start. And, fortuitously, a few of MAAP’s Aussie team riders had been on a holiday in Europe escaping the Aussie winter. After a few months of partying in Europe, Slovenia would be a healthy and much needed shock to the system. Also with Italian MAAP ambassador, Virginia, back in Italy after studying abroad in the UK, we had the beginnings of a crew for the trip.

On arrival day, 10 of us in total, from the US, Switzerland, Australia, Sweden, France and Italy, all descended upon the Venetian airport. Coordinating arrival times. Organizing luggage. Packing our already overstuffed hire cars. Hectic. Crazy!! But we were all here, ready to explore Slovenia's lesser known but uniquely impressive Julijske Alps.

The drive from Venice to Volče, some of us jet lagged others glued to the window, gave us a chance to catch up and talk through the routes. Big days ahead!

Volče is a wild little town with a total population of 1 pizza shop — and just over 500 permanent residents settled on the Soča river. Arriving at our house, we were greeted by a neighbor unashamedly staring over the fence at us while we unpacked the car in the driveway and began to build up our bikes in the middle of an oppressive heat wave rolling across Europe. We walked into the house and our jaws dropped. Hot. Airless. Our neighbor’s baby screaming. No air-conditioning! Okay, let’s go grab a pizza and then get stuck into it.

At 9pm, in the now “cooler” 30° C temp, we all rallied back around the bikes to build everything up in preparation for the trip’s first ride — Vršič Pass loop. Naturally, we had a few bike issues. But thankfully, Victor, aka Macgyver, who spent 10 years in the Swiss army, pulled off some serious bush mechanics when a couple of us noticed some pesky mechanicals.

Up Early With Fresh Legs.

Late to bed. Early to rise. The combination of our tiny house being a heat box and our adrenaline pulsing in anticipation of what tomorrow will bring resulted in more tossing and turning than actual sleep.

All good, though.

Who needs sleep when you’re getting ready to ride new and challenging routes with great people in a country you’ve never been to before? Exactly.

Plan A Route, Then Throw it Out the Window.

The best plan is to plan for things to change. Always. You can hold on to that one.

Do your research, consider potential hurdles, and sketch out ideal routes. But when reality changes, you need to be ready to change course.

In our case, it wasn’t a hurdle that caused us to shift the day’s plan. It was the pull of possibility.

We set off that morning to ride the Predil and Vršič Pass loop. It’s an ambitious route with 92 kms of riding and 2120 m in elevation gain. But when driving past the Mangart turnoff, we saw a road pitch up somewhere between 12 to 15% and stopped still. Someone in the group said, “Let’s ride a couple of kms that way to see how it is.” Okay. Here we go.

We parked the van and got ready to roll. Best described as steep and narrow, we rode up through a few turns and saw no reason for turning around.

Rookie Mistake?

Adaptability beats accuracy 9 times out of 10.

Adventuring Slovenia? Overstimulated? Psyched to turn over the legs after big days of travel? All of that and probably more as we realized well into the climb that we left our food and water back in the parked van! Rookies.

We could either turn around or just keep going… We just kept going.

Wait For It...

The slow snaking switchbacks seemed to number in the hundreds as we gradually ascended the ever increasing steps to Mangart.

The road to the top is still in its solitude and protected by Slovenia’s tall pine trees on both sides. As we pressed on to our right the road dropped to down oblivion and a massive cliff wall rose to the left of us, we knew the pain was higher up.

The trees disappear as we crept to greater and greater elevation, revealing peaks of limestone as old as time piercing high into Earth's upper stratosphere. The road marches on to the apex of the pass. Still, no food, no water, no respite. Ahead, a gigantic rock face loomed over us, casting a shadow across the valley. Head down. Just concentrate on the next turn of the pedals and grinding over more steep.

The road is good but this ceased to be fun a while ago. The legs are trying to keep a rhythm as we see a gradient sign that might as well have been a psychological knockout punch. Thirsty. Hungry. Hurting. We’re not stopping. We know it’s going to be epic.

Mangart, Europe's Quiet Classic.

If we’re honest with ourselves, climbing is hard.

It’s rare you look at a climb with joy. In hindsight, sure, climbing can be romanticized. It's sagacious, beautiful, triumphant. All of those things. But in the moment, it’s none of that. It’s just hard. So it meant something when Luke Parker said, "This is one of the top 3 climbs in the world. And I've done a fuckload of climbs! You can quote me on that."

Mangart defies confinement. Without question, this place is a new superlative. You've heard of Stelvio Pass, Passo Di Giau and Alpe d'Huez. Now, you've heard of Mangart.

On an absolute high from the ride, we took our time to soak it all in before descending down to the local pizza place to feast on Slovenia’s finest with a few cold beers and cokes. Reflecting on the kms, the vertical metres and the handful of times we nearly went down due to hunger, we put our feet up and we settled in.

Day 2 – Predil Pass, Vršič and Soča Valley.

We got up early to beat the heat. After another mostly sleepless night cursing the heat as we all laid there sweating it out in the house and questioning whether we should’ve taken it a little easier on the local vino, we somehow stumbled our way to into our kits and got ready to head out for another classic Slovenia climb.

Time to Rise and Ride.

On a high still from the ride up Mangart, our expectations for the day’s route washed away the fatigue. If James, Luke and Alex were starting to feel their European holiday, they put on a good show and didn’t grimace at all as we discussed the day’s route out to Predil Pass, Vršič and Soča Valley.

Warming up on Predil Pass

Situated on the border of Slovenia and Italy, Predil Pass takes you from Slovenia into Italy towards Tarvisio. Starting from Bovec, the ascent is just over 4 kms with a total gain of about 520m. At over 11% on rough pavement, it’s a challenging but nice way to warm up the legs.

We hit a bike path which brought us back into Slovenia at Kranjska Gora, home to an old Slovenian ski resort in northwestern corner of the country. Sitting humbly in the shadows of mountains, and surrounded by glacial lakes of Triglav National Park, it’s worth doing a google image search of this quiet ski town.

Here, we stopped for a coffee and some lunch before tackling the main climb of the day. Most people climb Vršič Pass from the north side to avoid descending on the cobbles. It’s a more stunning ascent, too, but with 9km of riding at a touch over 8% average grade, we knew it was going to sting a bit.

Vršič Pass, Every Man for Themselves.

The Russian Road up to Vršič Pass was originally constructed by Russian Prisoners of War, given the area's strategic location in WWI. This historical note juxtaposed with the road’s picturesque beauty gave us all a deeper level of appreciation for the climb as we stepped up one cobblestone switch back after the other.

In the mountains, if gravity is the enemy then heat is the killer.

The unrelenting heat made it feel like we were climbing with anchors behind us. In conditions like this, you hit it too hard and risk blowing up. Outside, it’s hot and ruthless. Inside, everyone’s got their own internal soundtrack playing. But Miley Cyrus said it best, “Just breathe.” Which is exactly what we did.

Knowing the top was near, we found a rhythm and got lost in our own heads.

Dropping Into the Soča Valley.

After Vršič, we dropped down the south side into Soča Valley.

The Soča Valley is famous for the colour of the river, a bright aqua. And from there it was a nice cruise back to Bovec, a mountain town in northwestern Slovenia, surrounded by the peaks of the Julijske Alps. With the mountains, forests and glacial lakes of Triglav National Park to the east, and the turquoise Soča river right in front of us, we posted up for a couple of cold cokes and beers to quell the heat and toast to the ride.

As we sat there in the valley, we circled around how discovery is one of those hard ideas that’s easily tossed around in conversation but rarely followed up on and actioned because it’s possible most of us find it easier to live in the world we know than to explore the one we don’t.

Discovery is not a given. It’s an option. We can choose to go after it or we can choose not to. Discovery is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Life moves too fast and cycling is too good to wait for certainty and guarantees. If you know this already, you’re a step ahead of the rest.

Finishing up at the restaurant, we made our way back to Volce and hit the local pub in Tolmin for dinner. Which is when in a very sweet way Pauline said to us, “Guys, no more pizza. Please. I can’t eat any more pizza.” A totally reasonable request given it’s all we ate the previous two nights. So we shifted course and went to a traditional Slovenian spot serving river trout from the cold stream right in front of the restaurant and Ćevapčići which is a grilled minced meat delicacy. The perfect way to close out two epic days or riding and relax into the evening.

MAAP in the Field, Exploring Slovenia

The more we see while out riding, the more we get to see of the world – as individuals and as a global cycling community, we’re made better because of the new perspectives gain from seeking out different routes and roads. We came to Slovenia not knowing what to expect. Now, we know we need to explore more.

To check out more of the riding and antics from the team in Slovenia, have a look at the trip's video. It adds a whole other dimension to the adventure.

Learn more about MAAP's latest styles by visit MAAP.cc

MAAP Field Trips

From local trips to global adventures, MAAP Field Trips bring committed crews of people from across the globe together to take on imposing routes and terrain that often get overlooked or ignored, share in common experiences, and create new stories with others passionate about progressing the sport of cycling.

JULIJSKE ALPS, SLOVENIA

A New Classic is Coming

SLOVENIA, RISING TO NEW LEVELS.

Huddled together with Italy, Croatia, Hungary, and Austria, Slovenia is a quiet and incredibly well kept secret. In this tightly packed community of countries, Slovenia seems to us to be the most unassuming resident – which is something many of the Slovenians we met didn’t seem to mind. Maintaining a unique identity, over half of the country is covered by thick forests, pristine lakes peppered across the landscape, and limestone mountains in the Julijske Alps rise like giants to nearly 3,000 meters.

SLOVENIA? YEAH, SLOVENIA!

Known for its mountains and skiing, the Tour of Slovenia continues to spotlight the Slovenia’s cycling potential. Covering between 500km to 650kms each year since 1993, the tour shares more and more of Slovenia’s secrets with the world and is also beginning to lift Slovenian cyclists to the global stage – on the first big day in the Alps in this year’s Tour de France, Primoz Roglic of Slovenia took Galibier to his limit, rising up to grab Slovenia’s first Tour de France stage win.

Blanketed with forests, alpine climbs, and isolated roads? A history of cycling, both at the urban and professional level? A millennia-long winemaking culture?

Yeah, the perfect destination for a MAAP Field Trip. We had to check this place out.

COORDINATING A MAAP FIELD TRIP – LOGISTICS!!

We knew Slovenia would be the destination for our second MAAP Field trip and also to test out our new range. Now, how do we pull it off?

We had a European home base with MAAP co-founder, Ollie, in Italy for the season working on new product research and development. A good start. And, fortuitously, a few of MAAP’s Aussie team riders had been on a holiday in Europe escaping the Aussie winter. After a few months of partying in Europe, Slovenia would be a healthy and much needed shock to the system. Also with Italian MAAP ambassador, Virginia, back in Italy after studying abroad in the UK, we had the beginnings of a crew for the trip.

On arrival day, 10 of us in total, from the US, Switzerland, Australia, Sweden, France and Italy, all descended upon the Venetian airport. Coordinating arrival times. Organizing luggage. Packing our already overstuffed hire cars. Hectic. Crazy!! But we were all here, ready to explore Slovenia's lesser known but uniquely impressive Julijske Alps.

The drive from Venice to Volče, some of us jet lagged others glued to the window, gave us a chance to catch up and talk through the routes. Big days ahead!

Volče is a wild little town with a total population of 1 pizza shop — and just over 500 permanent residents settled on the Soča river. Arriving at our house, we were greeted by a neighbor unashamedly staring over the fence at us while we unpacked the car in the driveway and began to build up our bikes in the middle of an oppressive heat wave rolling across Europe. We walked into the house and our jaws dropped. Hot. Airless. Our neighbor’s baby screaming. No air-conditioning! Okay, let’s go grab a pizza and then get stuck into it.

At 9pm, in the now “cooler” 30° C temp, we all rallied back around the bikes to build everything up in preparation for the trip’s first ride — Vršič Pass loop. Naturally, we had a few bike issues. But thankfully, Victor, aka Macgyver, who spent 10 years in the Swiss army, pulled off some serious bush mechanics when a couple of us noticed some pesky mechanicals.

UP EARLY WITH FRESH LEGS.

Late to bed. Early to rise. The combination of our tiny house being a heat box and our adrenaline pulsing in anticipation of what tomorrow will bring resulted in more tossing and turning than actual sleep.

All good, though.

Who needs sleep when you’re getting ready to ride new and challenging routes with great people in a country you’ve never been to before? Exactly.

PLAN A ROUTE, THEN THROW IT OUT THE WINDOW.

The best plan is to plan for things to change. Always. You can hold on to that one.

Do your research, consider potential hurdles, and sketch out ideal routes. But when reality changes, you need to be ready to change course.

In our case, it wasn’t a hurdle that caused us to shift the day’s plan. It was the pull of possibility.

We set off that morning to ride the Predil and Vršič Pass loop. It’s an ambitious route with 92 kms of riding and 2120 m in elevation gain. But when driving past the Mangart turnoff, we saw a road pitch up somewhere between 12 to 15% and stopped still. Someone in the group said, “Let’s ride a couple of kms that way to see how it is.” Okay. Here we go.

We parked the van and got ready to roll. Best described as steep and narrow, we rode up through a few turns and saw no reason for turning around.

ROOKIE MISTAKE?

Adaptability beats accuracy 9 times out of 10.

Adventuring Slovenia? Overstimulated? Psyched to turn over the legs after big days of travel? All of that and probably more as we realized well into the climb that we left our food and water back in the parked van! Rookies.

We could either turn around or just keep going… We just kept going.

WAIT FOR IT...

The slow snaking switchbacks seemed to number in the hundreds as we gradually ascended the ever increasing steps to Mangart.

The road to the top is still in its solitude and protected by Slovenia’s tall pine trees on both sides. As we pressed on to our right the road dropped to down oblivion and a massive cliff wall rose to the left of us, we knew the pain was higher up.

The trees disappear as we crept to greater and greater elevation, revealing peaks of limestone as old as time piercing high into Earth's upper stratosphere. The road marches on to the apex of the pass. Still, no food, no water, no respite. Ahead, a gigantic rock face loomed over us, casting a shadow across the valley. Head down. Just concentrate on the next turn of the pedals and grinding over more steep.

The road is good but this ceased to be fun a while ago. The legs are trying to keep a rhythm as we see a gradient sign that might as well have been a psychological knockout punch. Thirsty. Hungry. Hurting. We’re not stopping. We know it’s going to be epic.

MANGART, EUROPE’S QUIET CLASSIC.

If we’re honest with ourselves, climbing is hard.

It’s rare you look at a climb with joy. In hindsight, sure, climbing can be romanticized. It's sagacious, beautiful, triumphant. All of those things. But in the moment, it’s none of that. It’s just hard. So it meant something when Luke Parker said, "This is one of the top 3 climbs in the world. And I've done a fuckload of climbs! You can quote me on that."

Mangart defies confinement. Without question, this place is a new superlative. You've heard of Stelvio Pass, Passo Di Giau and Alpe d'Huez. Now, you've heard of Mangart.

On an absolute high from the ride, we took our time to soak it all in before descending down to the local pizza place to feast on Slovenia’s finest with a few cold beers and cokes. Reflecting on the kms, the vertical metres and the handful of times we nearly went down due to hunger, we put our feet up and we settled in.

DAY 2 – PREDIL PASS, VRŠIČ AND SOČA VALLEY.

We got up early to beat the heat. After another mostly sleepless night cursing the heat as we all laid there sweating it out in the house and questioning whether we should’ve taken it a little easier on the local vino, we somehow stumbled our way to into our kits and got ready to head out for another classic Slovenia climb.

TIME TO RISE AND RIDE.

On a high still from the ride up Mangart, our expectations for the day’s route washed away the fatigue. If James, Luke and Alex were starting to feel their European holiday, they put on a good show and didn’t grimace at all as we discussed the day’s route out to Predil Pass, Vršič and Soča Valley.

WARMING UP ON PREDIL PASS

Situated on the border of Slovenia and Italy, Predil Pass takes you from Slovenia into Italy towards Tarvisio. Starting from Bovec, the ascent is just over 4 kms with a total gain of about 520m. At over 11% on rough pavement, it’s a challenging but nice way to warm up the legs.

We hit a bike path which brought us back into Slovenia at Kranjska Gora, home to an old Slovenian ski resort in northwestern corner of the country. Sitting humbly in the shadows of mountains, and surrounded by glacial lakes of Triglav National Park, it’s worth doing a google image search of this quiet ski town.

Here, we stopped for a coffee and some lunch before tackling the main climb of the day. Most people climb Vršič Pass from the north side to avoid descending on the cobbles. It’s a more stunning ascent, too, but with 9km of riding at a touch over 8% average grade, we knew it was going to sting a bit.

VRŠIČ PASS, EVERY MAN FOR THEMSELVES.

The Russian Road up to Vršič Pass was originally constructed by Russian Prisoners of War, given the area's strategic location in WWI. This historical note juxtaposed with the road’s picturesque beauty gave us all a deeper level of appreciation for the climb as we stepped up one cobblestone switch back after the other.

In the mountains, if gravity is the enemy then heat is the killer.

The unrelenting heat made it feel like we were climbing with anchors behind us. In conditions like this, you hit it too hard and risk blowing up. Outside, it’s hot and ruthless. Inside, everyone’s got their own internal soundtrack playing. But Miley Cyrus said it best, “Just breathe.” Which is exactly what we did.

Knowing the top was near, we found a rhythm and got lost in our own heads.

DROPPING INTO THE SOČA VALLEY.

After Vršič, we dropped down the south side into Soča Valley.

The Soča Valley is famous for the colour of the river, a bright aqua. And from there it was a nice cruise back to Bovec, a mountain town in northwestern Slovenia, surrounded by the peaks of the Julijske Alps. With the mountains, forests and glacial lakes of Triglav National Park to the east, and the turquoise Soča river right in front of us, we posted up for a couple of cold cokes and beers to quell the heat and toast to the ride.

As we sat there in the valley, we circled around how discovery is one of those hard ideas that’s easily tossed around in conversation but rarely followed up on and actioned because it’s possible most of us find it easier to live in the world we know than to explore the one we don’t.

Discovery is not a given. It’s an option. We can choose to go after it or we can choose not to. Discovery is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Life moves too fast and cycling is too good to wait for certainty and guarantees. If you know this already, you’re a step ahead of the rest.

Finishing up at the restaurant, we made our way back to Volce and hit the local pub in Tolmin for dinner. Which is when in a very sweet way Pauline said to us, “Guys, no more pizza. Please. I can’t eat any more pizza.” A totally reasonable request given it’s all we ate the previous two nights. So we shifted course and went to a traditional Slovenian spot serving river trout from the cold stream right in front of the restaurant and Ćevapčići which is a grilled minced meat delicacy. The perfect way to close out two epic days or riding and relax into the evening.

MAAP IN THE FIELD, EXPLORING SLOVENIA

The more we see while out riding, the more we get to see of the world – as individuals and as a global cycling community, we’re made better because of the new perspectives gain from seeking out different routes and roads. We came to Slovenia not knowing what to expect. Now, we know we need to explore more.

Learn more about MAAP's latest styles by visit MAAP.cc

MAAP FIELD TRIPS

From local trips to global adventures, MAAP Field Trips bring committed crews of people from across the globe together to take on imposing routes and terrain that often get overlooked or ignored, share in common experiences, and create new stories with others passionate about progressing the sport of cycling.