Switzerland's hidden gems

Story by Alain Rumpf

Photos: Alain Rumpf

Jan / 13 / 2018

Are you considering a cycling holiday in Switzerland? You must have heard of the big alpine climbs: Tremola, Furka, Grimsel, Albula… but Switzerland is more than that. In this story, our Chief Cycling Officer shares how he (re)discovered the country’s hidden gems last summer with Switzerland Tourism.

I was born in Switzerland. Although I am lucky to have travelled a lot on and off the bike, I have lived my whole life in this country. I’ve been riding in the Swiss Alps for more than 30 years and Grand Tours Project is now giving me the opportunity to take guests from all over the world on my home roads. I’m so happy to share with them what makes riding in Switzerland such a unique experience... Coming from countries where traffic is often a big challenge for cyclists, they are amazed by a tight network of quiet, well surfaced and scenic roads that take them over a variety of terrains: flat loops along lakes and rivers, rolling hills in the countryside and challenging climbs amongst snowy peaks in the Alps. Riding in Switzerland is also a great way to experience a diversity of traditions, food and languages that no one would expect from such a small country. An example? In one loop from my home in Gryon, I can climb three passes, ride in the French and German speaking parts of the country, taste an amazing cheese called L'Etivaz and roll through vineyards. That’s the Tour des Alpes Vaudoises, featured in this video by the Col Collective.

Above: Cheese break on the Tour des Alpes Vaudoises. Photo: PatitucciPhoto

Working with Switzerland Tourism

When I learnt that Switzerland Tourism’s summer campaign was going to focus on road cycling in 2018, I could not be more excited. Finally, the world was going to see how good it is to ride here… and I was even asked to help. I created fact sheets for a list of the best rides in the country, featured on the national tourism board’s website. It was a fun project, but it did not stop here. Besides cycling, I have another passion: photography. Switzerland Tourism had pictures to illustrate the most classic loops such as the Gotthard Challenge that goes over the famous Furka, Nufenen and Tremola; however they needed cycling images for a list of 20 lesser known rides in the list. Bingo: my next job was to shoot them.

This turned into a summer road trip with my friend and Grand Tours Project colleague Luca. We spent 17 days on this project between July and October last year. The routine: wake up early, ride and shoot all day, finish at sunset, drive to the next loop, eat a big dinner (often involving cheese), have a short night of sleep, repeat. It was hard work, but also a ton of fun.

Above: Mixing with the locals on the slopes of the Glaubenberg

The result:

  • 1'200km ridden on Swiss roads
  • 50+ bakery stops
  • 5’400 pictures shots
  • 647 photos preselected
  • 275 images processed
  • 93 photos delivered to Switzerland Tourism
  • Countless laughs.

Luca and I live in the same town but he’s Italian. The project was an opportunity for him to discover regions of Switzerland he had never visited. I asked him about his favorite rides and here is his list:

Rund um die Churfirsten

Shooting photos takes a lot of time. We took all day to ride this 129km loop and finished almost in the dark. The reward: a beautiful sunset near the ski resort of Wildhaus.

Above: Sunset in Wildhaus

Emmental

Emmental is not just a famous cheese: if you like steep climbs on quiet roads, you will love this region.

Above: Climbing in Emmental

Entlebuch

We were both blown away by this loop that goes through a UNESCO World Heritage List site over two little known passes: the Glaubenberg and the Glaubenbielen.

Above: Riding in the Entlebuch

And me? I thought I knew my country, but I discovered so many new roads last summer. I will share my experiences with more photos and stories in the coming weeks, but if I had to add one ride to Luca's list, it would be the loop we did in the German speaking part of the Jura mountains above Olten. I had vague memories of racing there in the 90’s but had never taken the time to explore that region; now I can’t wait to go back. The Belchenpass is a true hidden gem: steep, but beautiful.

I am so grateful that we got this opportunity to ride around Switzerland and call this work. Stay tuned for more photos on Instagram... And if you like what you see, you can also join us on one of our Swiss tours. We’ll ride up the famous passes such as the Furka, the Grimsel and the Albula, and take you to the hidden gems we uncovered last summer. Oh and we’ll eat cheese, too.

Alain

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