Every good ride has a good cafe as an essential ingredient. As cyclists and journey-men, we’re all cafe experts, we ride so we can have our cake and eat it.
Be that where you meet your mates for that pre-ride turbo coffee, or where the finish line is drawn, or where mid-ride salvation from the hunger-knock is found. Days have been won or lost on a cafe. Ask any serious rider and they’ll have a favourite, well, probably two or three favourites…
We’ve planned whole itineraries around particular stops; is it a day for a quick espresso by the bar or is there a slice of lemon drizzle worth riding the extra 10km for? Here’s ten favourite places to stop on the road picked by our well travelled staff and guides.
At the top of the 11 hairpin bends of the Trollstigen road, climbing up from the Isterdalen valley, you will find the ultra-modern Trollstigen Kafé. The landscape in this part of the world is unbelievably beautiful, and the cafe is a perfect spot to look back and reflect on the 800m you’ve just climbed. Outstanding architecture with a twist, with a magnificent natural backdrop.
Recently featured in the 2013 World Championships, the climb up to San Baronto starts at Vinci, the town famed as the home of a certain Leonardo. Reward at the top is the characterful Bar Enoteca l’Indicatore, whose generous portions can add a significant amount of time to a ride. We look forward to the freshly prepared cured meat platters and local salads each time we visit on our Tuscan Escapes. The climb has been a favourite ground for pro-cyclists for many years and you’ll often see the likes of Cavendish and Nibali testing themselves here, along with local resident, and Italian National Champion, Giovanni Visconti, who’s fan club gather at the cafe.
Colourful helmets, vintage town bikes, sleek furniture, contemporary tableware and rich, dark coffee make Bidon a must visit when in the beautiful town of Ghent. Tucked away in the centre of town it’s minimalist architecture and open glass façade contrasts with the Gothic dominance of the central Ghent guildhalls and churches. Strangely, in a town where the bike is so ubiquitous and ‘everyday’, this bike themed cafe is a standout.
4. Rifugio Bonetta, Passo Gavia, Italy
The legendary Passo Gavia. Immortalised by Andy Hampsten’s 1988 Giro d’Italia daring attack in a snow storm, is one of the hardest and most dramatic rides you will experience. Riding the classic side from Ponte di Legno, the last 6km leaves the forest behind, the landscape opening out into a panoramic mountain-scape. There’s normally snow on the surrounding peaks year-round and there’s no hiding from the changeable elements on this section of the road. After climbing up to 2600m over more than 17km, the Rifugio Bonetta at the summit is beacon of salvation. Still run by the Bonetta family, it’s the only shelter on the mountain and it’s hearty Minestrone soup has warmed our frozen limbs countless times, just as it has been for mountaineers for over forty years.
The Appennini mountain range has been crossed and just over the horizon is the sea and Cesenatico. But there’s always time for another treat before the journey ends; a visit to Tenuta Santini, a final day destination on one of our Tirreno-Adriatico raids or Appennini excursion. An exception vineyard, set in the rolling hills before the Adriatic, the Santini welcome is a family welcome. Of course it is, it’s an Italian welcome! Wonderful plates of simple local produce coupled with rich red wine from the cellar make this a extended ride stop. But the trip is almost done by this point and we’re savouring every flavour as much as we can.
A Boxill, Surrey ride loop is a home staple at the La Fuga office, and a popular one with so many London cyclists. Which is why G!ro is perfect. Right on the main route out to Surrey, the friendly team offer a top pre-ride caffeine hit and some tasty carbon offerings on the walls to feast your eyes on.
7. Peaslake Village Stores, Peaslake, England
The home-baked cheese straws found here have made it into local legend, we’re sure of it. You can’t get more quintessentially Surrey Hills than this tiny establishment and it commands a widespread, loyal following. Placed just right for a mid-ride sugary bite, washed down with a mug of tea, you’ll find this a daily hangout for roadies and mountain bikers alike. Grab a bench, refuel and share a story. Just remember all the roads which lead out of the village head up…
The Chalet gets a mention for the it’s double col bagging opportunity. To reach the Col de la Croix de Fer, you first have to summit the Col du Glandon. Totalling over 21km in length, the climb starting from La Chambre features in this year’s Tour de France and Etape du Tour, so the Chalet will be a welcome sight for many col collectors this summer. It’s funny how mountain can make you appreciate the simplest amenities, and this exactly the case for the Chalet. Offering nothing more outstanding than cold Orangina and splendid, open vistas across the Haute Savoire, it gets our vote.
Like a smaller version of the Mont Ventoux ascent, the cafe at the top is clearly visible all the way up the Tabayesco climb. It’s best not to look up at it. Focus your attention to the ribbon of tarmac hugging around mountainside as the climb is just long enough for your mind to start the playing games. Stay strong and your efforts will be rewarded at the top. The views from the expansive view point are spectacular and the huge windows from the cafe allow continued contemplation. Feasting on churros, paella, cortado or the surprisingly delicious apple cake complete the experience.
This is a trade secret we stole from the MTN Quebeka team, who earmark this gelateria when the calories aren’t being watched. Hidden outside the city walls, away from the maze of narrow streets and pedestrianised byways, we find more locals than tourists. Coffee and gelato is the game here. There’s plenty of perfectly good cake, biscuits and savoury snacks but it’s the gelato that really hits the spot, rich and creamy as you can imagine, served with a wink. Probably the best end to a ride you could ask for…