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From Venice to Vienna

Travelling around the world on your bike is the most incredible thing. So whenever you get the chance it is not to be missed. To me these adventures are the best way to create experiences; moving from one place to another every day, watching how the landscape changes, meeting people on your way, and constantly going from being excited, to exhausted, and back again. Sharing this with people who enjoy it as much as you do on the way is amazing.
Words by Birgitte Krag // Photos by Joe Harper

Travelling around the world on your bike is the most incredible thing. So whenever you get the chance it is not to be missed. To me these adventures are the best way to create experiences; moving from one place to another every day, watching how the landscape changes, meeting people on your way, and constantly going from being excited, to exhausted, and back again. Sharing this with people who enjoy it as much as you do on the way is amazing.

I really wanted to make a trip that was challenging, but achievable. Where we would have to reach our limits and see how far we could push past them. To, at one point or another, be in doubt of how we would do it, or even if we could do it. Each day should bring scenic climbs, stunning nature, hard mental and physical challenges, and some unexpected surprises.


Venice to Tolmezzo.
Arriving and meeting the other girls for the first time. I was excited to meet them as I would spending the next five days with these women. And the only things we knew that we have in common is that we loved to ride our bikes and be part of adventures on the bike.

You could sense that everyone was excited to get riding, just get out there on the road, but also, nervous and cautious of the unknown, what the days would bring and how we would respond to this.

I was excited to finally get going. This is actually one of the best feelings, the first pedal stroke on the journey. The mark of beginning of your adventures. You know you have epic days ahead. The unknown, surprises, senses, and that emotional rush. I had been craving this: the warm pavement, the intense sun, Italy. And my legs were feeling good.

"Going on an adventure on the bike with five women, where four of them I have never met before. I have no idea who they are as humans or riders, but now we are going to spend the next five days together – from early morning to late evening. This is maybe as big a challenge as riding.

As a group of women not knowing each other from the beginning, we are still more than able to push and pull each other through hard days. Where had I been on my own I would have quit several times because it would all seem too overwhelming, and I would start to doubt myself every minute of pain."

- Birgitte

Tolmezzo to Weisensee via Monte Zoncolan.
The previous night and the following morning it was all about Monte Zoncolan. Widely regarded as the hardest climb in Europe with its average 12% gradient and inclines topping out at 22%, we would reach this climb after only 20 kilometres. Filled with a mental mixture of fear, anxiety, and delight, I was super excited because this had always been one of these climbs I felt I needed to attempt. I had heard countless people talk about the steepness one would be subjected to on the way to the top, which only increased my competitiveness with myself and my eagerness to experience it for myself.

The first part was dreadfully steep and leg-shaking. The road shot straight up towards the sky. My bike: covered in sweat. My pulse: escalating uncontrollably. This really was a breathtaking and majestic climb. For split seconds I would think, as I so often do “I don’t think I can do this,” but I would keep riding, driven by shear stubbornness. And at the same time, coursing through my body and mind, would be that spectacular thing I enjoy so much while suffering up these climbs: sustaining the actual mental presence to be able to take in these mind-blowing views.


"There was something really special about riding with only women. It never felt like we were competing with each other to get to the top first, but celebrating those who did and admiring each other for our strength and perseverance.

A trip like this makes you pretty vulnerable; you connect with people on the bike in ways that would to take years with other people. You see each other at your rawest moments and can deeply empathize with each others feelings."

- Pauline

Weisensee to Murau.

The day started off with some gravel in the woods by Weisensee, which was so beautiful you felt like stopping and staying there for a week.

We reached the Sölkpass climb. One of the most beautiful climbs I had ever done. 13 kilometres of pure Austrian heaven. Austria is so green and lush. The green hills, the little cute houses on the hills, the flowers, the sweet smell of freshly cut timber, the grey mountains in the horizon, the fresh air.

My senses were fully stimulated and that was the fuel that kept me going for hours. It is usually times like this where I get these split seconds of happiness. Alone on the climb, I sense and feel the fresh air, the colours, the smell, my bike. I was there on my own, but still together with the girls. We were each able to share this interpretation in our own unique way. I was there, somewhere in southern Austria, and not knowing if I would ever come back to this place. I wanted to perpetuate this feeling, but my consciousness would slip away towards other impressions and the feeling would gone before I knew of it. All that would remain is a memory. And Sölkpass is a memory I will not forget.

There are days when cycling is as much a psychological effort as it is a physical one. Days when, had you been alone, you would have quit. The distance seems too far, the climb too steep, the heat too oppressive, the fatigue too great.

But those thoughts fade away when riding with a group of strong women, all pushing themselves and at the same time pulling each other through moments of pain, anger, exhaustion and defeat. You think you know your breaking point, but realize it’s far beyond what you had in mind. And sometimes you can’t see that on your own."

- Jenna

Murau to Lunz am See.

The longest day. 170 kilometres. It was getting really hot during the day. Because of the smaller little climbs, the group easily split up and we rode in smaller groups depending on pace. We were all low on energy being cooked in the heat. So less talking and more of what felt like continuously never-ending pedal strokes.

"I knew it was going to be though, both physically and mentally, but it also sounded like the perfect plan and the best environment to challenge myself. I love the idea of spending long days on the saddle and looking at new landscapes while day after day, accumulating more fatigue and having to keep going despite it. I am continually chasing the feeling of helplessness, when the body has given up but you still have so many kilometres to go. It is then that the mind takes over, and you learn a lot about yourself.

I took on this challenge with no agenda; ready to receive and process all inputs. I wanted to see what it was like to share a challenging trip with other women, as well as see how I reacted to five days of riding."

- Carla

Rolling into Vienna.
An ‘easy’ day with rolling hills. We got up very early to avoid the heat from the previous day. And this day held a mixture of feelings. I was looking forward to arrive in Vienna to relax. To Austrian beers, schnitzel, apfelstrudel, wearing normal clothes, and not having to sit on a bike for hours in the blistering heat. Only 30 km from Vienna and then that was it. That feeling of having ridden for such a long time, in an instant, faded into what felt like we had only just begun.

"This trip was so much more than simply just cycling around in beautiful surroundings in Italy and Austria for five days. I joined the Women's trip because I liked the overall message in it - promoting women's cycling, trying to empower women, and also to challenge myself.

The first day was, for my part, filled with expectations and excitement – not knowing what was to come. Completely in contrast to the last day, where my body was tired and I was so glad and even proud for what we had accomplished. "

- Line

"The chatter of Italy, the industrial flats of the North, the overflowing coffee bars, the warm air full of jasmine, potholes scattered on descending roads. This gave way to cool and collected Austria; well organized and smooth roads, way too neatly mown lawns that provided zero shade. Our trip was something in between the two: sometimes we were organized, collected and efficient. At other times we would be chatting, laughing, sticking our heads in a fountain, or just swearing up another climb. We alternated between hard, quiet efforts and socializing and flaunting our emotions.

I felt good during the trip. There were tough moments, but there was always something to laugh about or look forward to. We suffered at times, but it wasn’t a sufferfest. I didn’t shed a single tear or thought of quitting a climb or the trip.

Still, the last 20 kilometres up and over Sophienalpe and all the way into Vienna were emotional for me. Not because I felt I did something super-human or because it had been that tough. Tears came because only months before I had lost faith in myself, I found it hard to trust people, and that things one day would be great again. That moment, that day, that week turned out so well that I believed in it again and that still stays with me now. "

- Emmy

In a way, the end of this trip marked the beginning of something new. The beginning of this desire to venture into the unknown with a group of strong, passionate women whom I had never met. I believe that because what we were doing every day was so intense, it felt so natural and easy to connect. Together, we went through moments of doubt, pain, joy, relief, and shear exhaustion. The only thing we knew we had in common was that we loved to ride our bikes and explore the roads. After these days we had seen each other in pain and anger, but also, at times, with an unexpected surplus of mental and physical resources being able to cheer and pull each other through the tough hours. I really felt like I made some friends, that I want to meet up with again – and this was just based on five of days of riding in Italy and Austria.