When your job is to ride the smoothest, most beautiful and challenging paved surfaces on the planet, you undoubtedly come across a few standouts that you want to keep to yourself. But these top five pro cyclists—all of whom are part of the new Cannondale Pro Cycling team—were amazingly forthcoming (well, a few required a bit of wrangling) about the stretches of road that they just can't get enough of.
GREEN MOUNTAINS, VERMONT
Pro Cyclist Says: “This is where I found cycling while attending undergrad at Middlebury College,” says Ted King, 30, the only American on a largely Italian team. “Even thinking about it pulls my heart string.” The New Hampshirean, who at six-foot-two is tall for his sport, adds: “It's got a challenging 11-mile climb called the Middlebury Gap, but the views make it so rewarding.”
Your Ride is Here: Try this 70-mile loop up over Appalachian Gap and then continue to the Middleburry Gap (total ascent: 3,074.15 feet). Swing by the Bristol Bakery in Bristol (the halfway point), King suggests, for an energy-boosting muffin.
AGOURA HILLS, CALIFORNIA
Pro Cyclist Says: “When you find a road in California without much traffic, it's very, very nice,” says Peter Sagan, 22, who won five out of eight stages at last year's The Amgen Tour of California. “I really enjoy the climbing in the Santa Monica Mountains, especially when you can see the Pacific Ocean from the top.” Worth noting: The speedy Slovak has already racked up 36 victories (including the Green Jersey at the 2012 Tour de France) in his short, three-year pro career.
Your Ride is Here: Sign up for the scenic 2013 Mulholland Challenge ($80, April 13).
With 12,750 feet of climbing, you can call yourself “King of the Mountain” at the end of the 112-mile course.
Pro cyclist says: “I just moved here, about 30 miles from Venice, to learn Italian,” says 22-year-old German-born Michel Koch, one of the team's youngest riders. “You've got your choice of tall and short mountains, which are perfect for climbing, and on the other side, you have the ocean, which is flat and beautiful.” Koch’s training sessions last up to four hours, but of course, there's always time for a cappuccino break: “There are so many amazing coffee shops, I haven't been tried them all, but I plan to!”
Your Ride is Here: Stretch your post-flight legs with this easy, charming 26-mile ride, complete with a max elevation gain of 869 feet.
MOUNTAIN TOWNS, COLORADO
Pro Cyclist Says: “During the Pro Cycling Challenge Colorado, I was most impressed by the beautiful mountain towns—such as Aspen, Beaver Creek and Breckenridge—which are best known for their ski resorts,” says 24-year-old Elia Viviani, the Italian road and track star who won two out of seven stages of the 2011 Colorado tour. “It was amazing to see these places in the summer without any snow.”
Your Ride is Here: Join Viviani and his teammates at this year’s tour via Cannondale's Pro Tour VIP access bike-ation ($2,995, Aug 18-21). Meet and greet the pros at the event’s base village in Aspen, then hit the road yourself on a borrowed Cannondale SuperSix for a grand tour of the Rockies.
Pro Cyclist Says: “The Dolomites are very hard, but you don't need to be a pro to bike it,” says Moreno Moser, 23, who grew up in Trento, a city near the breathtaking northeastern mountain range that makes up part of the famous 21-stage Giro d’Italia. Considering Moreno's background (he comes from a long line of pro riders, including his father, uncles, brothers and a cousin), what he calls challenging must feel near-impossible to the average man.
Your Ride is Here: Test your grit with Dolomite Mountains, a local Italian tour operator that will guide you over many of the same grueling passes featured in the Giro (cost per request, May 19-26). Then park your wheels to watch stage 19 of the tour alongside locals, who are a mix of Italian, German and Ladin.