Transfăgărășan Challenge 2024

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Transfăgărășan Challenge 2024

Riding your own road to adventure in Transylvania

Robert Thorpe, Editor in Chief

Food for the Soul

Life isn’t always as smooth as we’d like it to be. Modern life can be chaotic, unpredictable and filled with detours that challenge us both mentally and physically. We live in a world where at times, it seems that image is more important to people than integrity, and where the truth and reality of day to life is seen as a scary entry into reality.

Finding a challenge – a real challenge – is therefore, more important to us than ever. Something that we can control and focus on, and which at the same time, helps to return us to that positive state of mind that is so necessary in life. Yes, cycling releases endorphins – those all-important elements that create happiness – but finding the place and the event that fits the bill isn’t always easy.

After all, the cycling world to frequently seems to be filled with a bland group of events based solely on commercialisation, saying ‘ride this road’, ‘burst a lung on this climb’ and ‘ride in crowds of wannabees’ on some Spanish Island, where your chances of solitude are about as remote as finding Unicorn pooh in some magical forest – it’s simply isn’t going to happen. And so, it’s thankfully quite refreshing to know that there is still a place in the world, and an event to really challenge yourself on, and that actually means something – welcome then to the Transfăgărășan Challenge, and the opportunity to cycle up what is correctly described as the most spectacular ribbon of tarmac in the world – the Transfăgărășan Highway, in Romania.

A challenge of epic proportions

The Transfăgărășan Highway is a unique and quite spectacular road, high in the Fagaras Mountains of Transylvania, close to the World Heritage Site, historic city of Sibiu – which, over the years has probably become one of my favourite places on earth. I’ve fallen in love with this medieval tapestry of tranquillity, nestled beneath the mountains; and I’ve fallen in love with the mountains where escapism is still possible, and where adventure seems to await you around every bend in the road – and there are many – and around every turn on every track in the vast forests that line the lower slopes of the Carpathians. It’s as though God himself dropped a long length of ribbon across the mountains, and people simply tarmacked on top of it. The road weaves endlessly and creates surprises at every turn. There’s even bears in the forests that line the lower slopes – bears, in modern day Europe!

The Transfăgărășan Challenge cycling event is in its 4th year now, with the epic road being closed in advance of the UCI professional Sibiu Cycling Tour race, and it allows for a select group of amateur riders the unique opportunity to cycle upwards for over 24km, into the high mountain pass, and to feel that spirit of true adventure, as the road simply winds its way slowly, through forest and onto sheep meadows, before opening up a magical and unbelievable scene of sublime tranquillity, as the summit beckons you.

Challenging yourself is often the hardest part

Riding the event myself in 2022 and 2023, I’d been through one of those life moments, where a new focus was required, and I desperately needed to be able to escape from the world for just a short period. I needed to find inner peace again, as many of us do daily – if the false existence of social media allows. In March 2022, I’d lost my older brother – still too young – when he passed away unexpectedly of a heart attack during the pandemic. Then, one year later, I lost a very dear friend to cancer, aged only 44, and my mother also, in a few short weeks. So, you see; my life is no different from your own. It’s filled with challenges and despair and worry, and we struggle at times to stay positive.

However, as I cycled up the Transfăgărășan, I simply looked into the forests, and across the high meadows to the mountain peaks, and I set my own challenge – to ride alongside those people I’d lost and to remember them. To close my mind to the world and to find some inner peace as I turned the cranks. My only challenge was to stay on the pedals and to not stop – all the way to the summit of this quite beautiful and quite remote road.

I was out of condition – I still am. It takes time to recover from life at times. However, I recall smiling and feeling an inner calm as I climbed – on both occasions. I was overwhelmed by the beauty and solitude and majesty of the Transylvanian mountains. I had found that challenge for my soul and for my spirit, and the endorphins were racing once more. I’d also been welcomed into the hearts of the people of Sibiu, and I had that reassurance that comes with happiness. This was my challenge, and my heart began to dance once more as I rode higher and higher.

The magical city of Sibiu – World Heritage Site

Sibiu is an undiscovered oasis of magical possibilities and has a wealth of great hotels and other places to stay. My own favourite place is the 4-star Art Hotel, close to Piata Mare (the main square), and near to the Lumos Cafe, which is in my own humble opinion, one of the very best coffee shops and cafes in Europe. You can also fly direct to Sibiu from London, meaning that it’s easily accessible from anywhere.

However, the very best element of the Transfăgărășan Challenge – well, that’s the huge group of willing volunteers that give their time in advance and on the day, to put together what is probably one of the best cycle sportive events in Europe. It certainly has the potential to beat all others. Imagine it; riding in sweet solitude up the most spectacular road in the world, amongst friendly people. The event is limited to only 500 riders too, meaning that it’s possible to enjoy the ride, without being surrounded all the time by wannabee Chris Froome’s. No, the only challenge here is conquering the mountain pass the Transfăgărășan Highway and finding true adventure within the warm embrace of Transylvania, rightly described as Europe’s last [and most beautiful] wilderness.

If you’d like to ride that ultimate cycling adventure, away from the masses and in quite beautiful scenery, then there’s still an opportunity to enter the Transfăgărășan Challenge 2024. Simply click the link here and take a look for yourself. Yes, you could fly off elsewhere and ride with the masses. I promise you this though; the best ride of your life awaits you in transfixing Transylvania, away from the chaos of this oft confusing world.

It’s created by volunteers who warmly smile and greet you, and its set in one of the most special places in Europe, the Carpathians. Why not find yourself once more and feed your soul, as you ride into adventure on the Transfăgărășan Challenge, cycling the most spectacular road in the world!

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