How it all began…
How come that someone born in Zagreb became a fervent advocate of cycling in Istria? The decades spent in this wonderful region, simply made for cycling, did their magic. Cycling as a profession brought me to Northwest Istria as early as in 1997. Over the next couple of years, Umag became a regular destination for me and my team in January and February, as a training ground for our basic preparations for the competitive season. Shortly after that, the key tourist operators in Umag, learning from the example of other towns, recognized the potential of this sport for the promotion of their tourist destination and of cycling clubs as wintertime clients. They made a breakthrough by organizing the first professional races in Croatia. Some of my most cherished results were realized at these races. I had the opportunity to witness the exceptionally positive impressions the foreign clubs took back to their homelands, spreading the word, and mentioning them whenever we happened to meet.
The first major competitions
I was really proud in 2004 when Istria hosted Giro d’Italia and the greatest names of professional cycling rode on Istrian trails. To be honest, the competitors, or in the cycling jargon – the group, were a bit doubtful at first. However, their scepticism soon melted away, turning into enthusiasm about scenery and the people who gave us an unusually emotional and positive welcome. Back then, my colleagues from different teams congratulated me more and paid me more compliments about wonderful Istria and excellent organization than when I actually won races! And that means a lot coming from someone who can boast with participation at races like Giro d’Italia and Tour de France.
One of the projects I’m working on is the organization of a similar cycling event, directly relating to Croatia and individually presented throughout the world. An event expecting to have much greater attendance than any sporting event previously organized in our country. More about that soon, for now, I only want to say that Umag and Istria as a region are the key ingredients for the organization of such an event and a sure formula for success. Although during my career I changed many preparation destinations, I always like returning to Umag. It is curios how the landscapes you explored on the bike countless times before keep impressing you again and again.
Excellent offer, not just for cyclists
Mild climate and not too difficult trails are an ideal combination for a winter training destination. Combined with the calming, yet powerful scenery leaving a strong impression on everyone visiting Buje, Motovun, Oprtalj, Savudrija, Višnjan and other towns, we get a combo that really heals after gruelling trainings and a place you immediately want to share with and bring your family or close friends to. Gastronomy is yet another factor bringing together everyone who ever visited Northwest Istria. I won’t go into the complexities of discussion whether gastronomy is the strongest segment of the region’s offer, but I know one thing for sure: a good lunch or dinner are reason enough to visit one of the many praised restaurants or taverns in any of the mentioned towns. The attention the inhabitants of Northwest Istria pay to their land to get the best from it is incredible. There is so much pleasure for the palate and the senses here that I couldn’t possibly venture to list everything from fear of leaving something important out!
One sport, thousands of experiences
Talking about the excellent offer of this region, we must once again inevitably return to cycling. This sport is simply ideal for getting to know all the charms of Northwest Istria. Crisscrossed with numerous built cycling trails and low-traffic country roads, the region offers a unique opportunity to be active while enjoying the visual stimuli of incredible landscapes and an exceptional gastronomic offer. Visitors are not condemned to spend all their time in hotels, campsites or other accommodation, but have a large spectrum of available activities owing to the diverse offer allowing them to truly get to know the Istrian tradition and culture of living and take with them all sorts of unique memories.