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“Why are we going on holiday to Turkey Dad?”

“Well… Are you sitting comfortably? Then let me tell you about Babadağ.”

Last year I tuned into the Tour of Turkey on Eurosport and I was like “WHAT the hell is this road? WHERE the hell is this road? I HAVE TO RIDE IT!”

In an inspired move the race organisers had decided to stick at the end of stage three the killer climb, to end all killer climbs, up a mountain that goes by the name of Babadağ. Adrenaline junkie holiday makers in the towns of Fethiye and Ölüdeniz will already be well aware of this peak as it’s a famous destination for paragliders (who take the cable car or bus up) to throw themselves off but its only very recently that it’s become a global cycling destination.

For the full experience you must ride from sea level leaving either Fethiye or Ölüdeniz beach by taking the main road up to the town of Ölüdeniz where you turn east. Which ever way you choose to start these roads are ruthlessly steep and during peak times packed with rampaging vehicles so my advice is head off early, as early as you can.

Once you reach Ölüdeniz take the unmarked turn after a yellow chicken and burger place and from here you face 15.5 leg breaking, mind altering kilometres to the summit. It’s steep, so relentlessly steep. The average to the summit from here is a whopping 10.6% and with my chain marooned on my largest sprocket from the get-go I headed into the unknown. The first six kilometres are sealed with pretty standard tarmac which winds gently through deathly quiet forest and although showing a few signs of distress it’s not that bad to ride on. It’s what happens at the end of this tarmac that makes this road so unique. As asphalt ends, paving starts, not cobbles, or setts, paving.

If you ride anywhere in Turkey (from my very limited experience) you’ll likely find this surfacing in urban areas, along beach fronts etc. Just imagine a neatly laid, smooth, yet at the same time jarring driveway. It’s just enough abrasion to slow you down but not enough to make it uncomfortable. When the road to the summit was first built it was simply a dirt track from here but now with the addition of what must be millions of these paving bricks it’s suddenly became road bike territory.

Surface aside the other key aspect is the engineering. Unlike a similar ascent in the Alps which would be packed with a complex assembly of hairpins little effort has been made here to lessen the gradient. There are a few clusters of tight corners but these do only the bare minimum to offset the rapid altitude gain which means there are some hellish long straights which you just have to grind away.

Well over an hour in and still with six kilometres left I was just about on my knees. After five days of sightseeing (and chasing insignificant KOMS to boost my ego) I was already jaded and now, now it got really hard. Reminding me of that downright evil stretch of the Angliru, the ‘Cueña les Cabres’ the next 1500 metres just got steeper and steeper and had me weaving my 34 x 29 from one side of the road to the other just praying for it to end. End it did, and bliss, what came next was a real surprise. As the road double backed on itself the gradient actually eased, so much so that I could click up a couple of gears to ‘whiz’ up the next two kilometres before the grand finale.

These final couple of kilometres are what I had travelled 2500 miles to see and they were just INSANE. It was like riding the Zoncolan to only to find Hardknott Pass to the top. Multiple ramps of over 20% all hanging onto the edge of the mountain, hugging the rock face with nothing but blue sky above and azure waters below. Zig-zagging back and forth I ground it out, one pedal rev at a time, lurching over the front of the bike as above the air was filled with the screams of paragliders throwing themselves into the abyss.

One final bend and it’s done and you simply cannot go any higher, and yes, it is every single bit as bonkers as it had appeared on TV. An ordeal of Herculean proportions, and then there is the view, it will simply take your breath away supposing you have any left.

So what are you waiting for, book your flights, pack your bags and head to Turkey for an out of this world cycling experience and ride, ‘maybe, just maybe’ the new toughest climb in pro cycling.

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