5 June, 2017
Bled Bike Festival : 25-27 August 2017
Bled Bike Festival to put Slovenia on the Mountain Biking Map
Taking place across the weekend of 25th to 27th of August this year the inaugural Bled Bike Festival aims to put Slovenia on the cycling map as the country's largest bike festival.
Dubbed the 'Bike Festival with a View', as the name suggests the festival is centred on the pretty lakeside town of Bled, on the edge of Lake Bled and overlooked by the Triglav National Park. The park derives its name from Mount Triglav (pronounced Triglau) at 2,863.65 metres, the highest mountain in both Slovenia and the Julian Alps.
Bled lake already has sporting pedigree, hosting the FISA World Rowing Championships (FISA) in 1966, 1979, 1989 and most recently in 2011. It is scheduled to host the 2017 World Rowing Masters Regatta a couple of weeks after the festival in early September. Now it aims to add Mountain Biking credentials.
The festival village will be based at the Bled Rowing Centre and will be the start and finish of the festival's centre pieces - two tough mountain Biking events - the 101.9km Bled Bike Epic and the 62.6km Bled Bike Marathon. The events take place on 27 August following routes designed to showcase the region's beautiful forested scenery as well as test competitors with some of the toughest mountain biking in the region.
Designed by local men Aljoša Žnidar and Atila Armentano and supervised and tested by local professional mountain biker Mr. Lenart Noč the courses draws on a considerable amount of local knowledge and expertise.
As every race organiser knows that hard part of setting out a race is battling the bureaucracy. Setting the race wholly within the Triglav National Park, Solvenia's only national park brings with it a raft of environmental provisos, this despite the Park being used for logging.
The course then is a true all-terrain affair, run principally on gravel and forest tracks, linked by single track and some 10 kilometres of tarmac in the case of the Epic, six in the Marathon. The Marathon and Epic share the same core route with the latter gaining its extra distance through two 20km deviations. While the longer route will encourage enthusiast riders prepared for a true endurance ride the shorter is designed to attract riders with mountain biking experience eager to test themselves on challenging terrain.
Following anti-clockwise circuits the Epic and Marathon leave the rowing centre and follow the lake shore passing under Bled Castle, built in the tenth century on a rock crag looking out across the lake to the nearby mountains. The route then loops through Bled before heading north east and climbing steeply. With hardly a flat section the route then traverses three plateaux, Mezakla, Pokljuka and Jelovica, each separated by glacial valleys. Much of the route is forested, but when it does emerge into clearings the views are incredible.
The word plateau in the case of these races is arguably a misnomer. While climbing to the first plateau entails a full 900m of ascent each rider will before the finish have to tackle a total of 2904 metres of climbing on the Epic and a not insubstantial 1710m on the Marathon.
Safety is upper most in the organisers minds with feed stations situated at 20km or so intervals. Riders will be equipped with timing chips which will check them in at each feed stop as well as at the finish, making it easier to locate anyone in difficulties.
The ascents will leave riders gasping especially with highest points hitting close to a mile up, at 1512m, but to match are fast descents along rutted gravel tracks that go on for over ten kilometres providing a test of bike handling and nerves.
The finishing section involves one small climb before crossing the line back at the festival village. The temptation ot continue straight into the cool waters of the lake might be just be too much to resist.
The organisers are hoping for a year one field of a few hundred riders, including some pro and semi pro, both local and from across Europe and beyond.
The festival isn't all about racing however. The organisers have secured sponsorship from Skoda whose history originated with the making of bicycles, while support from the local tourist board has been strong with local businesses quick to catch on to the opportunities.
The festival village will host the Expo, comprising cycling events, an bicycle demonstration area as well as opportunities to sample the area's rich culinary heritage. Foreign visitors will also have a chance to try out a Pony bike for the first time, a design of bike that is close to being unique to Slovenia.
Registration is open for both events here (https://www.bledbikefestival.com/pricing/) with entry fees
Bled Bike Epic - 60.00 Euros
Bled Bike Marathon - 50.00 Euros
Travelling to Bled
Bled can be reached by road and rail with the Austrian and Italian borders just 47km while the nearest airport is Jože Pučnik International Airport Ljubljana, 50km from Bled.
Details are available of the Bled Tourist Office website: http://www.bled.si/en/how-to-get-here