Montenegro: Is it an up and coming cycling destination?

In my mind Montenegro is the hidden gem of the cycling world and I am fairly confused as to why it hasn’t been taken advantage of by the likes of pro teams and serious amateurs looking to tear up the sides of stunning mountains.

The country is situated in the Balkans  and is bordered by Croatia to the west, Bosnia and Herzegovina to the northeast,  Serbia to the north west, Kosovo to the east and Albania to the south east.  It’s a land of craggy mountains nestled at the side of the Adriatic coast.

My trip consisted of large climbs, coastal roads and incredible views which meant by the end of the trip I was well and truly cooked. The roads are fairly safe, but when you get into town centres and villages you need to be a bit more cautious as they are not used to cyclists. The cyclist community in Montenegro mostly consists of local triathletes- training for their annual half ironman and bike packers coming down from Dubrovnik.

I  based most of my rides on targeting specific climbs which were all  situated around the Bay of Kotor. However, I’m sure if you felt adventurous enough you could go inland and find some heftier stuff.

Here’s a taster of just two of the rides on offer in Montenegro:

The first climb that I scoped out was the Mount Lovćen climb which we named ‘The Ladder’ due the the 25 hair pins, which sure enough, resemble a ladder. The climb had one of the most stunning panoramic views I have ever seen overlooking the whole Bay of Kotor; very rewarding

Height: 1,749m (5738 ft)

Length: 29.62km (18.40 miles)

Average gradient: 4.9%

Maximum gradient: 16%

Difficulty: 5/10

Road Surface: Near perfect, few cracks.

Risan is the other climb which I included into a few of my rides in ‘Monte’. It wasn’t the largest nor the smoothest, but is still worth the effort if you can connect to the main road which will reward you with a rapid, smooth, flowing decent. A cyclists dream.

Height: 688m (2257 ft)

Length: 12.8km (7.95 miles)

Average gradient: 5.3%

Maximum gradient: 9.2%

Difficulty: 4/10

Road Surface: Not the best, arguably should be done on a gravel bike…

Fun for a challenge though 🙂

These are just my two favourites based on my time there (not long enough) but there are tons of little climbs scattered around the bay and some fairly large beastly ones behind the initial mountain line if you are feeling particularly brave.

Overall, Montenegro should be a bucket list cycling destination as it is bursting with some of the most spectacular views I have ever seen from the saddle.  I can’t wait to visit again later in the summer and will be sure to update you all on my second visit soon!

Blocking the Triple for Kittel

If Marcel Kittel stayed with his prior team “Quick-step Floors” would he have won and more importantly would he have gotten the triple? Who knows? However what can be seen from Dubai Tour is that if you stuck any lead rider in the Quick-step Floors team at least one win out of the five stages would be spoon fed to the rider due to the team’s incredible organisation amongst the bunch sprint.

The Best Bits:

1. The Gear

The bikes were to die for. From Cervélos wrapped in green film to make them look like they had undergone intense radiation to the new 3T Strada which only had one chainring. There were super bikes everywhere!

I was intriguedIMG_1987 by the whole one-by concept so I managed to talk to one of the Aqua Blue team mechanics and ask him the gear ratios that were chucked on the bikes.  I was told that they were running a ‘9-32’ on the back (cassette) and unfortunately I was buried in gear ratio information about the Hatta stage which left me confused and out of my depth as far as gear knowledge goes…

2. The Performance of the Emiratis

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The UAE National riders put on an incredible performance. Although they did not see any stage wins, they showed dominance and power within the breakaways that they were in (most if not all). Mohammed Al Mansouri did an brilliant job demonstrating the formidable form of Emirati cycling although he was a bit worse for wear by the end and not able to complete the rest of the Tour.  By the last stage seven riders depreciated to four, however they still showed their influence on the peloton considering the number of riders lost.

3. The Layout of the Tour

The Dubai Tour has the same start line for every stage so this makes stress-free. The cyclists, managers and mechanics were laid back compared to other stage races due to the ease of setting up shop every morning. This is especially good at the start of the season as transfers (such as Marcel Kittel to Katusha Alpecin) would have been made and team bonding is crucial if teams want to be successful for the rest of the season.

The Frustrating Bits:

1. Course Design

A bunch sprint on ice? Who decided to have the determining last stage bunch sprint on what appeared to be a slippery road surface? Riders bikes slipped out from underneath them as they went round the final corner luckily none seemed to be seriously injured however if someone were to be injured the teams wouldn’t be to happy considering its the start of the season.

2.  The Heart-breaking Moment

The talented 19-year old Brandon McNulty (Rally Cycling) unfortunately got caught in the final 50 metres from the uphill finish on Hatta Dam. Watching the current under-23 US champion’s  lead slowly slip away can only be described as heart-breaking.

He had given it his all and finished 21st losing 11 seconds in that final nail-biting and awful 50 metres. Quote of the Tour has to be “When I saw the climb it was an ‘Oh Sh*t! kind of moment.” McNulty was heard to say.

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me! You’re probably wondering what this is.

Basically, this is a place for me to exert all my cycling knowledge, news and obsessions. As my blogs unfold in the weeks and months ahead I’m going to review a number of products, shops and services as well as passing on tips and tricks I have learnt. This will also become a place of discussion about UAE based races and cycling activities. Don’t worry this isn’t all about me. A featured Rider of the Month interview will reveal the secrets of members of our biking fraternity.  Don’t forget to visit my Instagram @alex.cycles where I will be posting polls so that you can interact and determine what’s next.

“Don’t buy upgrades, ride up grades” – Eddy Merckx

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