Hurricane over Germany. Hurricane Sabine raged in February with wind speeds of 200 km/h and more in Europe. During such a storm, all kinds of things fly around your ears and you can’t think of longer bike tours. When it storms and snows in Germany in the winter months, cyclists are drawn to warmer climes. A training camp then gets them in shape for the upcoming season. In February I was allowed to escape the cold and stormy weather in Germany and in 2020, as in the years before (read more), I was able to herald the start of the cycling season in Cyprus.
Cyprus means a traditional rendezvous with Thomas. Thomas Wegmüller is a former professional cyclist and runs BikeCyprus, a bike rental company for racing bikes and mountain bikes. He also offers guided rides. He also rides as a guide himself and knows the island like the back of his hand. He knows every pothole, every 20 percent ramp or a dangerous trail that ends in nothing. Thomas is also familiar with the treacherous raingutters with wide holes in the direction of travel, which now and then appear out of nowhere and ruin the spokes. As a Swiss, he naturally offers the Swiss bike brand BMC for rental.
Starting point for Dani and me was the Pissouri Bay in the south of the island. Here the sun settled in the protected bay and the temperatures climbed noticeably over 20 degrees in the sunshine. The regular destination of our bike rides, however, was the Troodos mountains around the highest mountain Olympos with almost 2000 meters above sea level. In winter it had snowed a lot and in the Troodos mountains there was still snow in the highest 500 meters of altitude at the beginning of our trip. With the many different kinds of trees, which together with numerous monasteries of the UNESCO world cultural heritage create a wonderful landscape, it is pleasantly cool there in summer and many people seek refuge from the summer heat with up to 40 degrees. In February, on the other hand, one longs for sunrays in the quasi alpine hills. In order to prepare ourselves for the temperature differences between the warm coastal area and the mountain regions, we decided this year to enjoy full comfort. Instead of a minimalistic saddle bag with tube and tools, we got a big Ortlieb Seatpack for change of clothes. In retrospect, it turned out that we only needed the full scope of the bag on the second day, when there were significantly more clouds than sun. In the airy heights the air temperature was 5 degrees. Otherwise it was so warm on the other days in the sunshine during the ascents that one was on the way in short-short without a wind vest and even started sweating heavily. My Garmin bike computer then showed 25 degrees in the sunshine.
The early bird catches the worm
At our first trip Wolfram joined us. He is a racing bike veteran, who keeps his bike activities high until today. From unusual activities like the bike ride to Mount Everest Base Camp, the standard bike holiday on the Canary Islands or the participation in the classic Oetztal Cycle Marathon, everything is on his agenda. We got along very well right from the start and so our wonderful rides were enriched by ingenious conversations. As our first bike tour we had the Cedar Valley in mind, which is located in the mountains west of the Olympos. Thomas warned us beforehand that we had to leave early, as the day length in February is of course still short and the tour takes a lot of time. The tour should have about 165 kilometres with nearly 3000 metres of altitude difference. We briefly overlooked the fixed departure time of 9 am. In reality, 9 o’clock turned into 10 o’clock. We were still in good spirits and enjoyed the climbing in the partly steep climbs, further and further into the mountainous interior of the island. When we had the first 1000 meters of altitude difference behind us, we passed the last bigger place Argios Nicolaos and missed to fill our bottles. The crucial mistake, as we later found out. In the last years the ascent north of the village further into the mountains was not possible due to closed roads. This year we wanted to take the chance of the opened road. A small road meandered through the mountainous forest. And as it is so typical for Cyprus, we were completely alone for a long time. Only when we came close to a small village we met hunters. The road was often flooded or covered with stones and earth, so that we were hesitant to make progress in the intermediate descents. It was warm and we urgently needed water. But on our route there were only small villages. Therefore we had to leave our route and climb further up the mountains to reach a bigger village. Now we had mastered most of the altitude difference, but it was not sure how the road conditions would be in the later descent and if we would have to fight with bigger obstacles, which would increase our driving time. But then the twilight and darkness would become a problem. So we decided to play it safe and take an alternative route back to Pissouri Bay and avoid the onset of darkness.
Plastic is not only unwanted in the sea
Cycling around Olympos was waiting for us on the third day. The way to the summit was still blocked with snow, so that we chose the place Prodromos as the highest point of the tour. Thomas was on board of the tour and showed us the most beautiful roads. Usually I plan the routes with Komoot or Strava. But the stored maps have some pitfalls and are faulty, so that one gets into gravel passages with the racing bike or does not plan drivable roads at all, as they are shown in the map material as not tarred. Thus, we racing cyclists can miss a lot. But Thomas knew the island far away from the virtual reality and so we could enjoy some small fine roads with fantastic landscape. We met a professional “bike couple” who were mega excited to have met Thomas Wegmüller: “We have to take a picture, otherwise nobody will believe us”. And yes, Thomas only narrowly missed the victory of the legendary spring classic Paris-Roubiax in 1988, when a plastic bag got caught in his switchgear on the last few kilometres in a duel with Dirk Demol at the front and he was unable to start one of his infamous finish sprints. On the fourth day it became windy and a storm was announced. So we kept the exit short. The heavy storm with thunderstorms, but then swept over us only in the evening and at night. The next day the spook was over and the sun was shining from a cloudless sky. In the meantime the almond blossom had spread and covered wide areas with a delicate rose. Dani, Wolfram and I made a trip to a wine bar and shop (agrovino wine shop/bar) in Lofou, which turns into a small but fine coffee during the day and is very popular with cyclists.
The best comes last
On Green Monday, Cyprus is just a hugh party. It is the last day before the beginning of Lent of the Greek Orthodox Church, which ends with Easter. The inhabitants celebrate everywhere. Barbecues are everywhere and many like to go to the Troodos mountains and Olympos. On this day, the traffic was like changed and suddenly there were also numerous cars on the mountain roads where one is usually almost alone. After the sun had heated up well the day before, Dani and I decided to drive into the Troodos mountains, in direction to Olympos, until the snow blocked our way. We chose small roads for the ascent and thus avoided the car traffic. But the way was quite steep. The view compensated for the effort. Then we got into a wall of fog. The sun disappeared and the mountains were full of clouds. We continued our way up and suddenly the fog lifted and we drove through the top of the clouds out into the sunshine. The sun had already melted the snow and the driveway up to the top of the island was free. Up there it was pleasantly warm in the sunshine, even though the air temperature was less than 10 degrees. For the departure we packed up warm and took the shortest way back to the coast. At some point, every holiday comes to an end. So we said: bye bye see you later, beautiful Cyprus.