Heart of Velebit is a three-day cycling festival event of a recreational nature that takes you through the beautiful Velebit mountain (Croatia) and other parts of Lika-Senj County. Renato Ciler sent us his story about that great cycling adventure that he had with his friends.
Velebit. One of the largest Croatian mountain massifs. Beautiful from a distance, even more beautiful up close. I drove by it countless times. Every time I passed it, I slowly drove up and down the serpentines while looking at peaks and abysses, and sometimes I would meet a cyclist laden with bags tirelessly pedaling towards the sea. I was thinking that it would be fun to go for a ride across those hills, but I don’t know anyone who knows the trails, it’s too distant from me… and then the thought would go away. But one day, someone from my crew went somewhere where two fellow cyclists proposed “Heart of Velebit”, a three-day cycling festival right on Velebit. Everyone agreed – that’s it. Let’s go. Eight of us gathered in a van, and the ninth colleague (Siniša Herman) went into a private arrangement with his wife.
Out of the eight of us, three had the brave idea of going there by bike a few days earlier. Said and done. Zvjezdan Hudoletnjak, Dejan Brajković and Ivan Virovec packed their bags and on Tuesday at 8 AM we saw them leaving the town square in Koprivnica.
The rest of us, Mladen Boroša, Zoran Čani, Darko Nemec, Alen Rupa and I, diligently collected our equipment, packed all the food and necessities, spare parts, tools and the most important thing – a good mood in the van, we set off on Friday for the St Rok, where we rented a house for those three days.
The boys rode like lions and covered the whole trip in 2 days, thus arriving on the first day 185 km away at the village of Maljevac, where they pitched tents and spent the night. On the second day, they reached Cvituša, where they rented an apartment because of the rain that gave them a good wash. They crossed a total of a little over 300 km and almost 3000 m above sea level.
Due to the fact that they rode so fast, they arrived a day earlier than us, which gave them time to take the bike tour to Tulove grede, while we impatiently waited for 4 in the morning and the departure from Koprivnica. The ride went without any problems. We easily found accommodation and even arrived 20 minutes before the start of the first organized ride that day. It was marked EPIC, so Alen Rupa could not miss it and flew directly from the van to the start by bicycle, joining Dejan and Ivan who were already waiting there.
The track was really EPIC. Some were overwhelmed by fatigue, some had technical problems. Bicycles were ridden, carried and pushed. A total of 70 km and over 1500 m of ascent on terrain where even bears tread cautiously.
The rest of the team, after settling in the house, decided to take the second tour called “Mile Vode”. We cycled over 50 km and almost 900 meters of ascent on macadams and forest. Perfection.
We returned for lunch and met the team from Epic trail, who rode for almost 10 hours. Dejan ate quickly and continued with us on the second tour of the day, “Velebit bats”. A short tour of about 30 km and only 600 meters of ascent, but at night. After returning we had dinner, hung out and went to bed because tomorrow is a new (busy) day.
We woke up at 6, ate breakfast, checked equipment, washed and oiled bikes, and packed backpacks. Today is the D-day. We chose the most difficult Heart of Velebit tour planned for that weekend. 42 km of cycling and 10 km of hiking to the top of Sveto Brdo (the second highest peak of Velebit at 1752 masl). No one knew exactly what was waiting for us or how to prepare. The weather was sunny, but the top was covered with clouds. We packed everything we could and thought we needed. We put our backpacks in the van that followed us to the end of the cycling route, where we packed for the hike. The ascent by bicycle was along Majstorska cesta. Long 20 km of constant macadam ascent, but given that it is not a steep gradient (mostly 6°, and later a bit more), nothing was (at least for me) too demanding. The vast majority of other drivers were on electric bikes.
The hiking was unreal. I don’t hike, so I’ve never been to such high peaks. As you see the distant peak in the mist, it seems unreal to climb there. But yes, it was necessary. Almost 2 hours of climbing with a strong wind to the top, where the clouds unfortunately hid the view. No matter, the very act of ascent was a great reward for all who cycled to the foothills. Physically demanding and on steep terrain, just to reach the top that was in the clouds. A short photo session at the top with the rest of the team and back down, because the body cools down quickly, and the wind is unforgiving. We went down to the van that kept the bikes and gently downhill back to the organized lunch. 45 km and 1600 meters of ascent. There wasn’t much time left for rest, because in the evening we went to the Psihomodo pop concert, organized at the popular Cvituša sledding rink.
Sunday morning came too soon. We have to remind ourselves that we are not 16 years old anymore :), but a sunny and cool morning surrounded by forest and mountains wakes everyone up quickly, so we didn’t waste much time. Standard routine, bike check, repairs if necessary and right to the start of the last tour we have planned for this weekend. Cycling tour of 50km and 590m ascent. Local macadam and woods with a visit to a small organic farm where we stopped for homemade cakes and various products that the hardworking hands of the young couple who run the farm produce for themselves and prospective travelers. Just long enough to stretch out our tired legs and leave enough energy to drive the van back to Koprivnica.
The weather was good for us all three days. Upon our return, we started with packing and the inevitable return to everyday life, arranging a new tour along the way.
We would like to thank our club BK Rotor from Koprivnica for taking care of the entry fees and transportation. We would like to thank our main sponsors who made sure that we are never thirsty, and we thank the organizers of the Heart of Velebit event for making such a nice gathering possible.