With the Giro d’Italia poised to hit the Alps this weekend, there couldn’t be a more appropriate time to focus on our next website of the week. Cycling the Alps is a tool which allows users to explore in detail almost every single alpine pass and includes routes, profiles, videos, images and 3D Google Earth and Street View tours.
It’s very much a passion project for its creator; 34-year-old, Amsterdam-born, Freiburg-resident Dennis Wegewijs, a cycling-mad software engineer who decided to collate all the information he'd gained while cycling the Alps into a single resource for all hill climbing enthusiasts.
“Three years ago, a couple of friends and I had the idea to cycle all the paved passes of the Alps,” he told BikeRadar. “The goal was to stay fit, keep in touch with my best friends and to achieve a goal. So we travelled to the Alps twice a year for holidays and just cycled as many passes as we could. We’ll probably be still going when we're 75 by the time we’ve cycled all 480 of them!”
Dennis spent hours researching the trips and around a year ago had a brainwave to gather all this information together into a single web resource. The site today is bursting with information on every hill climb in the region, plus Pyrenean and other notable climbs, such as Mount Etna, seen in this year’s Giro. As he rides more, the resource continues to grow. But as he says himself, he’ll be an old man before he’s scaled every one of them, so it’s still very much in its infancy.
Dennis, left, at the summit of Furka Pass in the Swiss Alps
What’s available right now is still very impressive, given that it’s a hobby he works on in his spare time once he's taken care of work and family life. Google Earth, which is required to take full advantage, allows you a 3D view of each climb, while the Street View tour takes you to ground level for a closer look. Motorbike view is a collection of YouTube videos that give you a fly-by tour of each pass while a link to the Climb By Bike website provides detailed statistics such as average gradients and road length. As mentioned earlier, there is an appeal for fans of professional bike racing, with links to climbs featured in all races which visit the Alps this year, including the Tour de France, Giro and Tour de Suisse.
As there’s only one of Dennis, and almost 500 climbs to conquer and document, he’s making understandably slow progress in getting photographs of every pass up onto the website. But the 44 he's done to date, such as Gotthard Pass and Nufenen Pass in the Swiss Alps, give a great insight into what the site could eventually look like. These images are perhaps the site's best aspect – we just hope he isn’t 75 before he’s managed them all! He’s also started recording his own videos of the climbs, such as Mittelberg, Switzerland, which give a handy inside look for anyone considering an Alpine cycling holiday.
From a handful of visitors when he first started, he now attracts 2,000 a day and the Google Chrome Web Store app has had over 16,000 downloads. One of his big ambitions is to make Cycle the Alps a platform for the cycling world and for other websites to use its content, in the way YouTube does. Despite this popularity, he doubts it’ll change his current approach. “It'll probably stay a hobby,” he said. “But I love cycling, I love the Alps and I love geographic software so it’s the best hobby I can think of doing!”
BikeRadar readers: If you visit – or own – a cycling website that you feel is worthy of mention in BikeRadar’s website of the week, email a link to email@example.com or post it in the comments section below and we'll follow up with them for a possible profile in our latest column.