Most of us will be tuning in to the Tour de France 2017 on the internet and television this summer. It is the pinnacle of the cycling season and is a must-see for all cyclists and cycling fans.
But you can do a lot better…
Why not combine a cycling holiday and follow the Tour de France on-the-ground, so to speak? See it through the eyes of the pros! We don’t need much convincing, so we caught up with Adam Gill, owner of BikeStyle Tours, to find out how you can plan a cycling holiday that’s right for you. With 21 years’ experience in designing and organising riding trips to the Grand Tours, Adam is a wealth of knowledge on the topic.
So how do you choose a cycling holiday that is right for you?
With a vast range of cycling holidays available for the Tour de France, it can be confusing which one to choose. The next thing to do is to ask yourself a few simple questions to help narrow the selection down.
Work out your priority. Location, location, location! Where do you want to holiday this year? What Grand Tour country makes you want to book annual leave as soon as possible? How long do you have to travel? You can choose trips ranging from 25 days to 6 days so there is plenty of flexibility here. Decide how much riding you would like to do. Don’t base it on what you think you can achieve down the track. The last thing you want is for your cycling holiday to turn into a training camp.
(scroll down for some classic dos and don’ts when on a cycling holiday)
Once you’ve decided on which tour to do, what preparation is needed?
Training for a trip can vary dramatically depending on your current level of fitness or riding ability. Most good tour operators will give you an outline on how much riding you will be doing each day and the difficulty of the rides themselves. Base your training on whether you want to ride each day, ride all the "big climbs" or just a few climbs on your wish list. Bikestyle will be able to provide a guide on how much training you should be doing given how much riding you want to do on the trip.
What sort of clothes should you bring?
Prepare for all weather conditions, especially when riding in the Alps or Pyrenees. Regardless of the a long-range weather forecast you need to ensure you pack enough cold weather gear, "just in case". Bikestyle often see guests arriving with just a set of arm warmers and a wind vest! They suggest packing full finger gloves, rain jacket, arm warmers, legs warmers, base layer, gillet and shoe covers as well as your normal bike kit. If you find yourself on top of a mountain when the weather changes you will be glad you have the right clothing!
What happens if you don't cycle and your friends are doing a tour? Can you join them for the holiday?
Check out their itinerary and see if the trip caters for non cyclists. More and more partners and friends are joining riders on a cycling holidays. Bikestyle offer a range of trips for "Spectators only", "Cyclists and Non-Cyclists", and finally “Cyclists Only” trips. If you ask for the itinerary for the non cycling activities on the trip, you will be surprised what is on offer.
What are the most common dos and don’ts for people choosing a cycling holiday?
5 Don’ts on Tour
- Don't be the person who turns a cycling holiday into a race. Test yourself but keep the rides fun.
- Safety first. It can be exciting descend down mountains such as Alpe d'Huez but stay within your limits. You don't want to be the person who spends their holiday in the hospital.
- Don't turn up unprepared for your holiday. Too often we see riders who don't put in the time on the bike before the trip and struggle on the rides. Suffering on the bike each day is not fun for anyone.
- Don't be that person who you seeing running alongside a "Pro Rider" to get on TV. Each year you see riders crashing because of spectators.
- Road closures at the big cycling events can be challenging, if you are pulled off the road don't argue with the police or event staff. It is for your safety and the "Pro Riders". Remember you are on holidays, find yourself some shade and relax and wait for the race. It is better than being at work!!
5 Do's on Tour
- Enjoy yourself! Take time to experience the local culture, try the local food and meet a few new people. Don't rush back to your hotel each day, slow down and take a look around.
- Pace yourself. We can all get a little excited on the first few days of a trip. Work out which of the rides and climbs you want to do during the trip and take it easy on the other days. You don't need to do big miles each day on the bike for it to be a "cycling holiday". You will never hear someone ask how many miles you ride before you climbed Mont Ventoux! Riding to the top of a mountain like Ventoux still counts whether you have ridden 5 miles or 100 miles beforehand.
- Always carry a small "day bag" with spare cycling kit and cold weather gear. Always be prepared for the worst conditions.
- Ask your guides for advice about each of the rides. Your guides should be able suggest which ride is appropriate for your riding ability so you that have a good time. Bikestyle Tours offer the best guest to staff ratio in the industry so you will have support every step of your trip.
- Be inspired! Cycling is unique in the fact that you and ride the same roads as the Pros. It is amazing to see how good the Pros actually are!