The Col Collective


Mike, Any tips for vegans looking to experience the fine riding and cuisine that France and Italy are known for? I would love to do a trip with a cycling tour group and I also love to eat. I wonder if the tour groups cater to those of us who are strictly plant based. I also thought about doing something self guided but I am intimidated by the prospect of overcoming the language barrier enough so to ask for a vegan bite to eat in some unknown alpine village. Any advice as to how I can overcome this hurdle? Tim

Hi Tim,

Thanks for contacting us, it’s a really good point you raise and something we always have to consider when we’re travelling.

When we film The Col Collective all three of us are vegan so where possible we tend to try and stay in apartments and cater ourselves making use of the local supermarkets to get supplies both for evening meals and food throughout the day, however this is not always practical.

As far as eating out in the restaurants go, almost everywhere we eat will cater for us in some way, more and more places especially in the tourist towns have vegetarian choices which you can have the cheese removed. In Italy we usually resort to cheese free pizzas and tomato pasta (if it’s made without egg) or roasted vegetable salads. France can be a little more tricky but in most cases they will happily prepare you a vegetable dish with potatoes, rice or pasta. If you can learn a couple of basic lines in French and Italian to help with the ordering it will go a little way to helping ensure they understand your needs.

For travelling with a tour operator, we can’t speak for everyone so we contacted our travel partners at La Fuga asking how they cater for a vegan diet, they offer tours all over Europe - here is the response from Wei-Ho the Operations Manager:

“We definitely cater for vegans and will accommodate any dietary requirements specified as far as possible. In fact one of our lead tour managers, Fabrizio, is a vegan. He is also Italian which boggles the mind as being Italian and vegan traditionally seems like two conflicting ideologies!

So if in Italy or France (Fabo speaks fluent french too - is a ski guide in winter) and vegan - travel with Fabrizio wink

Here’s a nice little write up from Paris-Roubaix from one of our customers who was vegetarian. She was pleasantly surprised to find Fabo being vegan.

Worth noting we don’t currently have any specific routes based on vegan restaurants - we normally base our trips around routes first then we can find the right accommodation / catering to fit.

However we’re open to any inquiry and can offer a fully bespoke trip if required. “

I really hope this helps with your trip!

Ride safe,


Topic: Nutrition, Travel

I'm currently staying in Nice and was looking at doing and out and back from Nice to the Col de la Bonette while I was here. It's the start of May now, do you think this will be manageable with the temperature at the moment? If so, what clothing would you recommend as a minimum? Rob

Hi Rob,

Thanks for getting in touch.

It will be a good ride out of Nice towards the Bonette, one of my personal favourite climbs. It is very early season so first things first double check that the pass is now open, the local tourist office where you are should be able to tell you and there will be signs in St Etienne de Tinee, you may be able to ride part of the way up if the summit itself is still closed.

The weather changes hour by hour in the mountains and of course the temperature drops considerably at higher altitudes so before you leave check the weather in the morning, we use the and Michelin, check the forecast both in St Etienne de Tinee at the base of the climb and at the summit, just type in Col de la Bonnette and it will give you the weather at the top, this way you can best prepare your kit in advance also be mindful of wind speed and direction as this can add to the perceived temperature on the mountain.

Kit to take as a minimum:

- Good base layer

- Long sleeved jersey or short with arm warmers

- Leg/knee warmers (if you’re not wearing tights)

- Gilet or lightweight packable shell if conditions are good. Heavier weight waterproof jacket if weather is poor.

- Gloves, beanie or ear warmers under your helmet for descending or even as you approach the higher altitudes on the way up

- Shoe or toe covers

Keep warmth in mind rather than saving weight, more is more in this case.

I hope this helps, have a great ride, and thanks for your support.


Topic: Alps, Climbs, Travel

Love the website and the informative & inspirational videos - you make it look so easy! I signed up for Santini Granfondo Stelvio in a moment of madness ... Nonetheless as daunting as it looks am very excited at the challenge. I plan to spend 4 days at Lake Como (based in Cernobbio) and then head to Bormio 3 days ahead of the event. Can you recommend routes/rides leading up to the event? Want to explore as much as possible however not at expense of the main objective - to conquer Stelvio. I have previously done training camp weeks in Denia & Mallorca hence familiar with multi day riding. Wendy

Hi Wendy,

Thanks for getting in-touch and for your comments on the site and videos, I’m so pleased to hear you are enjoying them.

You’re in for a really special trip, Lake Como and Bormio are stunning locations to ride your bike, and there are no words for the Stelvio, it just needs to be experienced to feel the scale and spirit that climb has.

There is an abundance of riding options around Lake Como to start warming up for the event and more importantly to explore the area. I’ve attached a pdf (in Italian but easy enough to follow) with several routes with varying distances and elevation around where you are staying which should be a good guide to get you started, there are plenty of routes to keep you occupied for the 4 days, the famous climbs in the area are the Muro di Sormano and Ghisallo which are easiest to access out of Bellagio. There will also likely be cycling maps available at the local tourist office, but to be honest you cannot go far wrong with your location.

Whilst Bormio is the centre point for the Stelvio, most routes out of there take you over a climb, so the route choice would depend on how much riding you want to do before the event. Climbs other than the Stelvio and Mortirolo which you can save for the day are:

The Passo Gavia - If you have it in the legs it would be a crazy shame to miss climbing the Gavia during your stay, this climb for me is on my all time top 10

The Umbrailpass which finishes at the summit of the Stelvio but takes a different route up

The Passo del Forno

Foscagno Pass


If you visit you can see the routes in more detail, you will of course also find route information from the local tourist office.

I really hope this information helps, keep us informed as to how to get on during your trip and most importantly enjoy it, take your time and soak up all the mesmerising scenery wink

Ride safe!


I am spending three weeks in Italy this October, flying in and out of Venice. Hoping to head to the Dolomites, the lakes district, and something in between??? Looking at basing out of Arabba and Como. I am aiming at riding at least 65km's a day with hopefully some days in the 120km+ range. Any towns and areas you'd suggest to base out of. I love being in the mountains, to climb, and to reap the rewards of the descent as well.

Andrew, Italy is a wonderful place to ride as it offers so much variety in terrain and rich cycling history for endless inspiration.

October marks a seasonal change and riders head down from the mountains into the rolling lower regions like Tuscany and Prosecco. Events like the eclectic L’Eroica, Granfondo Prosecco or Cinque Terre are perfect rides for this time of the year.

In the summer, I would definitely recommend you head to the towns of Arabba, Merano, and Bormio; to climb the Stelvio, Gavia, Mortirolo, and climbs of the Maratona dles Dolomites. However, the change in seasons means the weather becomes much colder and unpredictable in the mountains, with rain and snow common on most peaks. We were on the Stelvio last September and the temperatures were -4C at the top with plenty of snow. Additionally, the most mountain towns will have closed for business by October, so even in Arabba, you may find your choices of hotels, restaurants and bike shops limited.

Instead of heading into the mountains and Dolomites, Venice puts you in the perfect position to explore the foothills and vineyard regions. Base yourself in Terviso or Conegliano as these are both vibrant towns, with good transport links but surrounded by brilliant riding through rolling hills with the mountains as a backdrop. The town of Valdobbiadene is worth a stay too and is the start town for the Granfondo Prosecco (4th October), a unique granfondo which serves prosecco at every feed station!
Being in the foothills there are options to venture into the edge of the Dolomites, the San Boldo climb is the gateway to the mountains and just short ride down the valley from Valdobibiadene.

Alternatively, a couple of hours transfer south from Venice, and you have access to the regions of Tuscany and Emilia Romagna. Temperatures can still reach 20C and the smell of the local wood fires is wonderful. In Tuscany, head to the towns of Lucca or Florence. both have so much character and huge cycling cultures. You won’t have trouble finding stunning routes here, as well as challenging climbs such as the San Baronto. Many pros use this area as their preferred training ground. The World Champs was held in Florence in 2013. Right on the coast, Cesenatico, in Emilia Romagna, was home to Marco Pantani and also the start of the Granfondo Nove Colli - the course should still be rideable and it’s ‘nine hills’ make for a really testing day in the saddle. Great if you are looking for more vertical challenges.

Finally, if you are heading to the Lakes, go in time of the Giro di Lombardia on the 4th October. Known as the ride of the falling leaves, this traditionally one of the last races of the professional racing calendar. It’s a fantastic race to watch and the climbs of the area are a pilgrimage for many a serious cyclist; quite literally as the Giro always goes past the iconic Madonna di Ghisallo - the chapel of the patron saint to cycling. Base yourself in Bellagio for the best access to the famous climbs of the Lakes: Muro di Sormano and Ghisallo. There are many, many for fantastic miles to be ridden around the Lakes so you can’t go wrong where ever you base yourself in the area. We take a trip to the Giro di Lombardia every year, so keep an eye on our website for details.

Get in touch with us if you want to discuss potential routes more.

Wei-Ho - Operations Manager, La Fuga Travel

Topic: Dolomites, Travel

Hi Mike, Loving The Col Collective! Heard your interview with Rich Roll, very interesting and inspiring story you have, keep up the good work! I'm planning a trip to Italy in the summer to take in some of the Tyrol and Dolomites, but also Monte Grappa. Have you any thoughts on the best route? Thank, Ian

Hi Ian,

Great to hear about your plans! If you fly into Venice you could drive over to Bormio to ride things like the Stelvio and Gavia, then head due east via Bolzano to play in the Dolomites. Monte Grappa is about an hour from Venice so you could spend some time there at the end which would put you right back at the airport. As there are several ways up the Grappa here are a couple of suggestions (such a cool climb!)

Option 1: Cismon del Grappa - this is the name of the village from which you climb the Monte Grappa. It was originally a dirt track which was there solely for access for the fire department. It was tarmacked a couple of years back. It’s a really special road with almost no traffic.

Option 2: Start from Alano di Piave - follow signs for Monte Tomba. Climb the steep gradients. The road will plateau and come to a T junction - turn right - you’re on the Monte Grappa. Switch backs, tunnels, singletrack roads. Stunning roads to ride on. Climb all the way up to the refugio at the top for a cold coke and some incredible vistas

Super happy to hear you enjoyed the podcast. Stay tuned for more videos too!

All the best,


Topic: Climbs, Travel

Love the series and the way the site is put together, really top notch! This summer (late August/early September ish) a friend and I are planning to go over to do a few climbs over a few days...we're thinking of 3 climbs in 3 or 4 days. I'm really keen on one of these being Alp d'Huez or Mont Ventoux. I was wondering if you knew where might be a good place to base ourselves to be able to easily reach 3 climbs, with as little travelling as possible between the days. Ideally staying in the same place, if this is at all possible? Any guidance would be much appreciated! Keep up the good work. Doug

Hi Doug,

Super happy to hear you’re enjoying the The Col Collective series!

I reckon a good place to check out would be Bourg d’Oisans (literally the town at the base of Alpe d’Huez) If you stay there you have some great options very close by. Obviously you have Alpe d’Huez itself (leave early to miss the traffic) then you also have the Col de la Croix de Fer (amazing climb… coming soon!), Glandon and Galibier, Les Deux Alpes and Madeleine all within close proximity.

To bag Mont Ventoux you’d have to do some driving. If that’s essential you could stay in Bedoin and ride all three sides in a 3 days but to be honest staying close to Alpe d’Huez will give you more options and variety. Hope that helps!

Stay well, ride safe and enjoy!


Topic: Climbs, Travel

Mike, Thank you for your fantastic Col Collective series! I am an older rider (63) who is coming back after a long layoff from serious cycling. I would like to tackle some big climbs, but do not yet feel ready for climbs line the Galibier or Stelvio, for example. Do you have suggestions for climbs that do not have such a steady diet of 10% plus gradients? Also, any tips on setup would be welcomed. Thank you, again!

Hi Ralph,

Super happy to hear you are enjoying The Col Collective.

Great to hear you’re thinking of tackling some cols. I’d say that the best region to look at would be the Pyrenees, in general the climbs are more mellow and slightly lower altitude.

We’ll be releasing more videos from the Pyrenees in the coming weeks. Maybe have a look at climbs out of Bagneres de Luchon (Peyresourde, Superbagneres, Port de Bales) and also the Col d’Aspin (from Sainte Marie de Campan) If you do end up there and feel up to it then you can also tackle the Tourmalet which, although it’s the highest road pass in the Pyrenees, with the right set-up could be possible as it’s not super steep and allows you to get into a good rhythm. Speaking of set-up, I would recommend a 34 tooth chainring and up to a 32 tooth sprocket on the rear. The great thing is there is no time limit on the climbs, just find your own pace and enjoy the moment.

I hope that helps.

Best of luck!


Thanks for your efforts in creating such an incredible website for cycling enthusiasts. It really is quite inspiring and I am very much looking forward to tackling some of these climbs in the coming years! I live in Australia and next June/July I will be in Italy (with my bike and partner) on a holiday. I would like to integrate a week of riding around the Italian alps (in the mornings). Then spend the afternoon's with my partner exploring the local area - we just love good food and culture. Can you suggest a good place to base ourselves? I really have no idea where to start. Appreciate your help. Cheers, Jesse Melbourne, Australia

Hi Jesse,

Thank you for your message, and for your compliments super happy you’re liking what we’re up to!

I can certainly help point you in the right direction, there are a couple of options you can consider for cycling in Italy.


Firstly I would say an ideal place to base yourself would be in the heart of Dolomites. Here you have a vast selection of climbs compacted together, each with jaw dropping scenery, your partner would also be surrounded by the same scenery without having to venture out with you on the bike. The Dolomites are a haven to explore both on and off the bike. It offers an abundance of restaurants, walks, and caters very well for visitors. We know of a particularly cycling passionate accommodation, Hotel Ustaria Posta in Alta Badia, the owner is a cycling enthusiast like no other and will give you as much guidance as you need for your rides. Some Dolomite accommodations can be super high class and with it comes the price, see Passo Sella Resort as an example of the quality. There is much more on offer than the Alps or Pyrenees in this respect. One thing to be mindful of, the Dolomites are the busiest region we have ever experienced for cycling, so get your rides in as early as possible to avoid the traffic. Due to the compact nature of the climbs, you can access all of the climbs very easily from the main towns of Corvara, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Arabba, Alta Badia and Canazei.


Hotel Ustaria Posta - Owner Igor Tavella

Passo Sella Resort

Climbs close by:

Passo Gardena

Passo Sella

Passo Pordoi

Passo Giau

Passo Fedaia - Must visit the Marmolada, by bike and by foot

Passo Falzarego

Passo Campolongo

Passo Valparola

Italian Alps

Bormio - This is the mecca - the base of the Passo Stelvio and Passo Gavia, both of these climbs start right from the town. This location is more suited to the cycling side of your trip, the town itself has some lovely restaurants but for the exploring side of the day, there would be more driving involved than the Dolomites. You are still is mesmerising surroundings but perhaps not so much as the Dolomites, they are simply spectacular. We have had some ‘interesting’ experiences in Bormio hotels, and whilst there are quite a few to choose from, the best with regards to price, hospitality and facility is the hotel Nevada whatever budget or standard, this stands out a mile. Plus the owner drove our car to the top of the Stelvio so we could continue our journey home…that service is unrivalled.


Hotel Nevada

Climbs close by:

Passo Stelvio

Passo Gavia

Passo Mortirolo

Passo Tonale

Umbrail Pass

An option may be to split your time between the two regions, spending 2 days in Bormio and the rest in the Dolomites, that way you get to experience the mighty giants and still experience the striking vistas of the Dolomites. The drive is approx 3.5 hours between the two regions. We flew into Venice and out of Milan which is an option to cut down on travel time.

I hope this helps Jesse, we’ve got a load more videos on the way from both regions so stay tuned for more!

Once again thanks for getting in touch.

Cheers for now,


PS - I could so do with some vitamin D right now!

Topic: Travel

I have booked a 3 week trip to the Alps at the end of June this year. I intend to ride a lot of the top cols including the Marmotte on around the 3rd day. I've been to the Alps and the Pyrenees before but not for this length of time so I've factored in rest days. I live in North Devon which is hilly. Could you give me some guidance on the best way of preparing for the trip please? I'm 45, have a good diet, low alcohol intake and I ride 4-6 times a week. Many thanks, Warren.

Hi Warren,

Thanks for the question. It sounds like you are on for a MONSTER trip to the Alps, that’s what we love to hear!

In terms of preparation, the most important thing will be to try and build a solid base fitness through consistent time on the bike. Riding 4-6 times per week will be perfect of for this especially since you live in North Devon where you have some steep pitches to play with to help to build strength. One very important point in your preparation, and also when you are out in the Alps, is to listen to your body. If you’re feeling tired then back off a little to give your body a chance to recover. Try to build up to the same duration per ride that you hope to do when in the Alps. Use this build up time to practice pacing and experiment with nutrition so hopefully there will be no surprises when you’re out there. Try not to get carried away, it’s easy to get super focused and end up doing too much so once again take note of how you are feeling week in week out. You want to get to the Alps fresh both mentally and physically. The accumulative fatigue from all the climbing that you’ll do out there will mean you’ll definitely want to take some easy days, so good job on factoring those in. I’ve always found that keeping my training simple and as close to the intensity and duration of my end goals has worked well in the past. And finally, you’ve got a lot of time to prepare slowly, slowly, building up your fitness in a controlled way. Make sure you enjoy your cycling, it should always be fun. The moment it feels like a chore it’s likely you’re doing too much.

Ride safe and good luck!

Mike Cotty

I’ve never done any riding in the Alps or Pyrenees but would really like to start in the summer. I can take a trip beforehand to prepare, is there a good region that will prepare me for the high mountains without the more challenging climbs?

There are a wealth of destinations to visit in Europe which would provide perfect preparation for a summer cycling challenge. Locations such as The Canary Islands often make the list but the unrelenting climbs there are often too tough for a first dip into mountain acclimation. Here are three choices to whet your appetite and get your legs in gear:

1. Mallorca tops the list as the most popular and established training location, and for good reason. It offers a wonderful network of smooth roads, varied terrain, from significant mountains to flat coastal routes, and more consistent warmer weather during the late winter / early spring months than northern Europe. Travel to Mallorca is very easy with multiple operator options and transport connections. The whole island is well prepared to cater for cyclists; Hotel rates are very competitive and you will often find cycle specific services at hotels such as access to tools, bike storage and cleaning facilities. If this will be your first experience tackling extended mountain climbs and descents, Mallorca is your perfect introduction.

2. The professional’s choice is the ultimate recommendation and Girona now features as the preferred microclimate for so many athletes. Popularised by cyclists such as David Millar, Dan Martin, Robert Gesink, the Orica GreenEdge team and of course, Lance Armstrong, Girona’s combination of stunning scenery, challenging climbs, quiet roads and rich cultural heritage make it a fantastic escape for pros and amateurs alike. Head north to climb the Pyrennean foothills or east towards the rolling roads which hug the Mediterranean, Girona can offer a bit of everything for a cyclist. Even the local Catalans have embraced the sport and you’ll find Girona one of the most genuine and welcoming areas to ride in. Just an hour away from Barcelona international airport and with plenty of hire bike shops in the town, cycling perfection is within easy reach

3. The Côte D’Azur needs no introduction, home to affluence, glamour and luxury. But head inland away from the bustling, urban coastline and the French Riviera reveals a palate of inspiring roads and stunning scenery. Challenging climbs are on your door step such as the Col de La Madone reaching 925m high straight out of Nice, or escape into the Alps Maritime valleys and the Gorge du Gourdon. The rolling terrain is challenging but the gradient is never too punishing, perfect for training the legs and measuring your efforts. Your rewards are smooth roads passing through rock archways, massif peaks with huge open vistas, blue skies and descents wafting pine through your nostrils. Travel, transport and connections couldn’t be easier to the Côte D’Azur, with London less than a 2 hour flight away. You might even catch the first pro race of the season if you go in March. Aptly known as the ‘Race to the Sun’, seeing the pros racing Paris-Nice might the best inspiration to motivate your training for the summer challenge ahead.

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