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We’re in Istria, in the north of Croatia, guests of IRTA, the Istrian tourism development agency. It just so happens that a former road pro now works for IRTA and, as the person responsible for bike tourism to Istria, was willing to show us some local MTB trails.
Martin Cotar was the 2001 national road champion of Croatia and used to race on the Post Swiss team, a UCI category 2 team. OK, he might have been fast (and still races MTBs and runs marathons) but he wasn’t fast enough to keep up with Josh. The little tyke half-wheeled poor Martin all morning.
Josh loved the fact he was riding with somebody who’s raced against all the big modern greats of the sport.
Our route this morning was little more than a warm-up for Martin but, in the heat of a Croatian summer, it was taxing for the girls and they were glad to get back to the hotel after a morning sortie, and jump into the pools of the hotel. Josh could have gone on and on…
We’re staying in the Sol Garden Istra, a new 4-star hotel by the beach near Umag. We hired bikes from the sports complex near the hotel and Martin took us on a short loop taking in a coastal path (kids’ highlight: an unexpected nudist beach) and inland tracks through olive groves (kids’ highlight: breezy downhills).
Tomorrow we’re heading off on our own, using a 1:30,000 MTB route map of the region. We’ll be heading for a Sustrans-style former railway path. But one that climbs from sea level to 300m. That must have been one very slow train.
Ellie and Hanna on steep descent
Hanna bridges the gap from the gruppetto to Martin and Josh
Olive tree riding
This pair of nudists got to the beach by bike
Martin Cotar, our expert guide, an influence on one 11 year old boy – Josh: “Dad, when I get back home I’m going to shave my legs.”