Plenty of people ski The Alps. Some, with more grit, hike the rocky terrane. I've done both, across Austria, Switzerland, France and Italy, but not Slovenia, Liechtenstein or Germany, where the ranges stretch across Upper Bavaria and the Allgäu.
I've now cycled The Alps. Up The Alps. That sounds more impressive when written like that.
The word "Up" gives the statement an emphatic tone, with perceptions of struggle and sweat, and images of accomplishment.
Bradley Wiggins cycled up the Alps in his Team Sky lycra; sweating, chugging his way with vigorous competitiveness against his rivals; standing on the pedals, crouched forward, his back acute, legs pumping up-and-down, up-and-down, over and over again, faster and faster and faster on his Pinarello Dogma 2. The racing bicycle light, crafted, a bespoke-fit.
I was on a rented e-bike.
It's all the more straightforward on an e-bike. You still have to pedal but there's an assisted push, an electrical surge as I cycled along the banks of the Trisanna River in Austria, clicking through gear changes. Soon my competitive nature kicked in and I marked-off village after village, climbing higher from Iscghl, in the Valley of Tirol, through Mathon to Vergiel and up to Galthur, Gasthaus and eventually Verbella, to 2800m.
At the summit there's a breathtaking glacier with a restaurant perched on the side. It allowed me a breather (a plate of kaiserschmarm with apple sauce), and a much needed time-out, my wheezing, asthmatic lungs spluttering like a chocked exhaust.
The climb to Verbella was intense and lactic-inducing, even on an aid-assisted bike. It was the Col de la Croix de Fer climb of the Tirol Valley. A long, seemingly never-ending stretch of concrete increase.
Okay, so it was actually quite easy. Okay, so I'm unfit. Okay, so I wasn't fighting for a winner's jersey and come to think of it, I wasn't even challenged. But I could have stopped at any time. I could have given up at any point. I could have waxed my legs, vaselined my buttocks, donned my competitive lycra and sat on the sofa watching Austrian football and drinking pints of Stiegl.
I cycled-climbed The Alps and I don't care what you say.
Words by David J Constable
Illustration by Marco Corte