Balkan extra stage 19 from Tirana, Albania

Sept 28, 2022

Stage 19e of 36, day 24 of 43: 59.8 km, 1446m climb, 3:28 Moving, 4:16 Total,  63.5 kph max

Bosnia & Herzegovina211.01444

If we had been able to stick to the schedule, today would’ve been the day we cycled to Tirana, the capital of Albania. Instead, we had been here for two nights but not cycled at all. So Wilbert, our fearless leader, sent out a couple of options for riding. Besides doing nothing, one was to downtown and back. The other two went up a long climb above town, one going over a ridge and out to a small town, and the other going up to the hotel at the top of the cable car. I chose this last one. The cable car route itself looked pretty great, climbing 800m in 4.6 km – the highest cable car in all the Balkans.

But no, it’s a cycling trip. After a Bike Dreams breakfast, Niek, Bob and I set out in a group after most of the others had left. We took the “dirt” option which avoided lots of crowded city riding. The 2 km section of dirt wasn’t that bad although a little muddy. It rained a little as we were getting ready but not on the ride.

Starting out, looking up at the mountains, encouraged by the blue sky
After some gravel, mud and riding through town, the real climbing started

We cruised around and connected with our bus route from yesterday briefly. Then up up up.

View of downtown from a couple hundred meters up

The grade wasn’t bad, under 10%, until we got to the final turnoff just below 800m. We had snacks and headed up the narrow one-lane paved road. It was steeper, up to 13 or 14%. But it was varied and the view down was great. Luckily there were few cars. Soon we were up on top and parked by a bunch of Bike Dreams bikes. We went inside and had a drink at the bar, then after everyone else left, we spent some time out at the viewing area looking down far to Tirana. The mini-golf course looked tempting but the weather was a bit cold and we gave it a miss.

View of downtown from the hotel/cable car end. Elevation 1060m.
Dressed warmly for the top part of the descent

We put on more clothes for the descent but they weren’t really needed. I said good-bye to Bob and Niek at the junction when they turned off to go explore the other route. I retraced my steps back to town, a gorgeous fun descent, and was back at the hotel quickly. 2:28 to climb up vs 1:16 to go down – there’s a fair amount of climbing on the descent too. I scored a Strava KOM on the dirt descent segment too. I had some snacks and wrote this up and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon.

Relaxing in our awesome lounge at sunset

Dinner was a little difficult at first. Our neighborhood just isn’t where people stay. But none of us wanted a taxi mission. Four of us walked to a couple of restaurants to see what we could find. One very local place looked a little iffy but the friendly owner spoke English and I thought we were good. It turned out they only had pork, Greek salad and corn bread. I would’ve been ok with the salad and bread but two of the others also don’t eat pork and they all wanted French fries. So we bailed to a place called “Fast Food”, it ended up with 9 of us. Bob and I each had veggie pizzas that were big and good for 350 lek each ($2.90). No beer but we had already had sunset beers. Also no French fries except for the chicken sandwich Tom had. He swears that he watched old French fries being pulled out of a jar of water and added to his sandwich. We’re not 100% sure about that though. Anita gave us all Turkish Delight for dessert and all was good. Tomorrow we leave Tirana and continue the tour.

Of course the weather forecast is terrible for tomorrow, it always is these days

2 thoughts on “Balkan extra stage 19 from Tirana, Albania

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