I first became excited by the idea of cycling in Brazil when I saw the route of the Tour de Santa Catarina, staged in one of the country's most southern states.
The race features the amazing ascent of the Serra do Rio do Rastro. I'd only ever seen photographs of the climb, but I knew immediately that I wanted to give it a go. It looked hard but also very beautiful - visually quite similar to Italy's Stelvio with all those tight switchbacks, but perhaps even more dramatic. I started looking into the area in more depth and discovered that the state's capital, Florianopolis, is a massive tourist destination for Brazilians because of its stunning beaches and inviting waters. The idea of running a trip in Santa Catarina started to really take shape.
During my research I noticed that Kirschner, the Brazilian cycle clothing manufacturer, was based in Santa Catarina and that they were using images of the Rastro climb in their literature. I contacted the founder and owner of the company, Isaque Kirschner, himself a keen cyclist, who was very receptive to helping me find my way around. We met for a ride or two and Isaque pointed me in the right direction not just for the best roads in the region, but the best scenery, culture, restaurants and nightlife!
The ascent of the Serra do Rio do Rastro forms part of the 'Queen Stage' of the Tour de Santa Caterina and with its fantastic meandering outline is clearly a must-do part of the Skedaddle itinerary. But that is only a part of our trip. Brazil offers road cycling on a massive scale, there are long unspoiled and uninhabited distances between villages and towns and the natural landscape is varied and often breathtaking. The coastline is magnificent, particularly on the island of Florianopolis with its 42 stunning beaches. The region was settled by a largely Northern European immigrant population, which has left an indelible mark on the state's architecture and cuisine and this slightly unexpected combination of Latin and European cultures makes for some great apres cycling too.