Alpenbrevet Silver: old versus new course

Tuesday 07 July 2020 by Frank Jansen

In a world without corona, both the Silbertour and the Goldtour of the Alpenbrevet would get a new route this year. Unfortunately the event has been cancelled this year. Last week I was in the area together 2 cycling buddies. That turned out to be an excellent opportunity to compare old and new route of the Silver tour. By the way, this tour has got a new organizer this year: Cycling Unlimited, the organisation behind the Tour de Suisse.

The old route

On our first cycling day we decide to explore the old route: Susten - Grimsel - Furka. Because we started from Meiringen, the order is slightly different for us: Grimsel - Furka - Susten. The Grimsel pass: not a very difficult climb, but with 26 km it's a long one. The climb has plenty of easier segments. Beautiful? Yeah, that's for sure, but as far as we're concerned it's no match for the nearby cols. Lots of tunnels too. Early in the morning it's still very quiet with traffic.

Then the Furkapass, from the classic "James Bond" side. Except for the kilometers just before hotel Bèlvedere, it's never too steep. A beautifully built road against the mountainside with great nature and stunning views. The picturesque little train on your right. The Rhone Glacier on your left. Not too long, about 12 kilometres only. It doesn't get much better.

After a somewhat bumpy descent, there's a nasty stretch of false flat from Hospental. From Andermatt the reward follows: about ten fast downhill kilometres with lots of tunnels. You'll end up in the village of Wassen and then there's no escape, the Sustenpass. A pass on which many cyclists have already lost their way. Nowadays this is the first climb in the Alpenbrevet, for us is the last. That makes a world of difference. The Susten goes up 18 km non-stop at 7-8%. Hardly any bends and resting points, hardly any shade. The surroundings are beautiful, but because of sheer suffering you don't pay much attention to that. Mentally this is a beast, especially if you do it as a final climb.

After a long descent of 30 km and the 1,5 km long climb to Aareschlucht (90m), we arrive home tired but satisfied with 130 km and 3700m on the clock. We are completely demolished. Especially the Susten turned out to be brutal.

The new route

Because the organisation will no longer get a permit to let large groups of cyclists ride through the valley to Wassen, a new route has been made up: Furka - Nufenen - Gotthard. We start again from Meiringen and drive first by car over the Grimsel and start on the other side in the village of Gletsch. First we descend a good 10 km and then it's straight off on to the Nufenen.

The Nufenenpass is not for pussies. Only 14 km, but 9-11% except for one intermediate section. Moreover, the altitude is going to play a role here. However, the views make up for a lot. You always see snowy peaks on your right side. The road surface is perfect. The descent to die for. Never really technical, many straight sections. High speeds of 90 are easy.

In Airolo we turn left on the old Gotthard pass, better known as the Tremola. Absolutely bucket list material for every cyclist. The Gotthard pass is not very difficult, it never gets very steep. With 12 km this climb isn't very long either. We stop on the cobblestone part (last 6 km) many times to shoot photos and videos. We're having a blast! On top it is a quite crowded. After lunch we descend in the direction of Hospental and turn left in the direction of Realp.

From there, the climb to the Furka starts. This side is actually hardly less than the other side. The beginning is a bit steep, but the rest is not too bad. The snowy peaks of the Rhone massif set the stage and if you look back you see the Oberalp lying beautifully just above Andermatt. At this moment, it's rush hour here, the motorcycles and the Ferrari's are flying around your ears. However in the morning when you start from Andermatt you won't be bothered by that.

With just under 100 km and 3000 hm we are back at the car. In the Alpenbrevet you will end up with a bit more kilometres, because you still have to make a back-and-forth to Hospental.

Old versus new

Our group (consisting of 3 men) was unanimous in the verdict: the old route is definitely heavier. The numbers don't lie: more climbing kilometers and considerably more elevation. However, as far as we're concerned, the new route is definitely more beautiful. Moreover, the Gotthard also makes the new route very special. An advantage of the old route is that you can drive it in two directions. With the new one it is not a good idea because of the cobblestones on the Gotthard. At the end of the day, we strongly prefer the new route, although there is not much wrong with the old one. 

Which route do you like better? And why?

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