Kiveri Ride

As I set about writing this account I realize the idea had been conceived while still in the saddle, and the memories come flooding back, the smells, the sounds, the atmosphere, even the very tarmac below my tyres! Climbing high above the coastal groves, where the Plane trees (Πλατάνια) grow thick along the roadside and the temperature at 800m is cool and refreshing compared to the stifling heat of the beachside routes!

But I’m getting ahead of myself, the story begins much earlier than that, and in concept even more so! Greece is a country that offers endless breathtaking rides! I don’t need to elaborate this point it is quite simply a fact!

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What makes the perfect getaway for the avid cyclist? Well to begin with, one needs to be fortunate enough to have good friends that are always willing to step up to a challenge and, dare I say it, some ‘good vibes’. And one that challenges and connects the rider with new roads and climbs, impressive views and the feeling of being immersed in that environment.

With this in mind, it’s long been my desire to venture out of my local stomping ground and ride in the plethora of mountains and islands that Greece has to offer, while this had begun back in 2019 PC (Pre-Covid) lately I have not had the chance… Not so anymore!

My good friend and avid rider, Frank Nuttenbaum lives in a beautiful part of East Peloponnesus in a small village named Kiveri, and in a last minute spur of the moment, I self invited myself to his neck of the woods! And things could not have fallen into place more pleasantly and swiftly than if Zeus himself had come down off Mount Olympus and organized it all himself!

Friends in the area were motivated to join (at least in part) the rooms were organized, with the host being crazy and hospitable at the same time like a character out of a Mary Stewart novel, and the route was drawn up by Frank, and what a route! (But more on that in a bit) Even the weather suited our endeavor with rain and thunderstorms striking the Eastern peninsulas of Attica and Arcadia on Saturday, making Sunday’s climate perfect! Like I said, Zeus must have had a hand in it!

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On to the nitty gritty, the route! A small route of around 120Km with 2000+ meters of elevation… easy! Well in all fairness it was a lovely string of back to back climbs that even Frank mentioned he had never done in succession!

Finally Sunday morning had come and after having ‘fuelled up’ on Saturday evening with local delicacies, I should mention that in Kiveri one can find a pasta dish known as Gogges (Γκόγκες) which is reminiscent of the Italian Gnocchi but made from pasta instead of potato, which will serve, as it for did me, very well for a long day of riding!

We met our friends and began the easy leg of the ride, running along the picturesque and flowing road that leads from Argos to Astros, a rolling coastal road that is stunning and to my mind conjures up images of the famous Milan – San Remo, making one feel they could be part of that classic race! The company was good and a brisk pace was quickly set which brought us swiftly to Astros. I was a bit sad to say good bye to both friends and sea but the mountains inland were beckoning!

I had no idea what to expect from the mountains ahead of us, only a brief description form Frank that laid out the first serious climb of the day which wound its way through switchbacks from the town of Astros up to the first plateau which was at roughly 700 meters altitude. It was one of those classic Greek roads that had a string of hairpin bends to climb steadily up, in between Olive groves and rock strewn barren land with a random pine tree here and there that is so common. The road was a pleasure to climb with a steady gradient of 5-7% which made going pleasant but neither hard nor easy!

Reaching the first plateau the rider is met with a stunning view of both sea and mountains, the Arcadian landscape being spectacular and the Argolis Sea below.

We remained on the plateau and then gradually wound ourselves up even higher moving through beautiful landscape and breathtaking views which captured my attention, large cliff like mountains and deep gulleys with endless views across the lower planes and hillsides, the sea now hidden from sight by the huge mountains all around us.

As we climbed we passed a few remote villages and as we rode past, people greeted us with Καλημερα! (good mornings) and we even saw a group of old men sitting in the Καφενείων (Local coffee shop) discussing serious business no doubt! We even passed the famous monastery of the Panagia Malevi which when I entered the parking area was met by a number of tourist busses and other visitors, and thus spent a few moments to admire the architecture of the church before continuing.

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From there we came to the highest village on our route, Ag Petros, which sits at 950 meters of elevation, and was small but tasteful with an enormous church in its central square, which is where we sat for our coffee. Children were playing with a football and there were quite a few families in the square enjoying a morning coffee. After having had our own coffee and spoken to a local group of old ladies who were fascinated with our cycling endeavor we moved on to the second phase of our ride and also the highest!

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This second phase of our ride differed greatly as we were now riding through an incredibly lush and green environment, closed in by huge Plane trees everywhere and even intruding into the road making a canopy of green above our heads! The rider no longer has any visual except what is directly around him, no more open views or mountain tops, only the closed road and the trees around him. And slowly the road went upward, to our highest point of our route which topped out at 1060 meters, and the trees subsided and now the long descent began.

Such an amazing descent, 10km of downhill which took us from 1060m to 700m and the most incredible corners stringing together and making the ride an absolute pleasure! If you are a fan of descending as much as me I can highly recommend it!

From here we came to a small interlude before reaching phase three of our ride, which was a small climb to a village called Partheni, which has the most enormous church for such a small village that I have ever seen! The climb is short but punchy but never too steep to tire the rider, and the pleasant views and countryside make it well worth it!

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From here we enter the third and final stage, which is where we joined the new road that connects Argos with Tripoli, and is a very large and straight road as befits a modern ‘highways’ but extremely uninteresting for a cyclists, especially when compared to the beautiful roads we had previously been navigating!

It was 40km to go to get back to our starting point and Frank explained that there would be two small climbs with a short downhill section in between, and he explained that after the second climb the long descent to the sea begins… a 19km descent with high speed corners and then tight hairpins! It was breathtaking and the sea came into sight once more after having said goodbye at Astros it was an amazing feeling descending towards the sea, after having spent so many hours pedaling above 500m it felt humbling to descend so quickly and so effortlessly!

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My mind though now was consumed only with the thought of the amazing bread shop in Kiveri, it wasn’t far away, the thought of food and a cold coffee and some water was all I was dreaming of! The warmth of the sea air hit me like a blanket and my legs were turning by instinct rather than by purpose, as the only thing on my mind was the refuge of that pastry house!

As I parked the bike and entered the bakery, hot, sweaty and tired I felt an overwhelming sense of silent achievement that while the others around me were heading to the beaches for a day of fun, my day of fun had looked very different and very fulfilling!

The final stats of the day: 127km, 2189m elevation, average spd 27.2km/h total elapsed time 6 hours.

I have attached the Strava Link to view the ride and for anyone who would like to ride this route the GPX file

https://www.strava.com/activities/7445236040

Download the specific route

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