Home' Horizons : Horizons Apr May 14 Contents 18 Horizons April / May 2014
Find out more about cycling tours
in Europe. Contact your local
RAC Travel Centre, call 1300 655 179
or visit rac.com.au/travel.
top to bottom:
Bridge over the Eygues River in Nyon, France.
Gently rolling landscape around Siena, Italy.
Turkey’s Mediterranean Coast.
When to go
June to September
Cycling fitness, simple bike repairs,
climbing and descending skills
In France, right is right; courtesy wins
friends. For other countries, be sure to
check the local cycling laws.
Stunning views, dining with the locals
and visiting vineyards. Ancient winding
streets in towns and villages; spectacular
vistas from the tops of mountains; castles
by the roadside and fields full of flowers.
Even professional athletes
struggle to get up the 21
gruelling twists and turns
of France’s legendary Alpe
d’Huez. My athletically
gifted 17-year-old son
looked at an image of one
of the peaks I was planning
on climbing during the 2013
Tour de France, and said:
“You can’t get up that.”
Fourteen days into my 17-
day cycling tour of France I
took a “selfie” at the summit
of that famous climb and
note to let him know I had
reached the top, non-stop.
My tour group had cycled
tougher climbs in 40-degree
heat, arriving straight out
of an Australian winter. We
faced the unrelenting slopes
of the Col du Tourmalet
and the Col d’Aubisque and
battled our way to the top of
the punishing Mont Ventoux
in the south of France.
Tackling the Tour
When to go
Tour de France - July
When to book
Several months in advance
No of days cycling
Between eight and 17,
depending on your tour
Tour De France highlights
The music and dancing on Dutch Corner
at Alp d’Huez; flashing past the roadside
queue for The Tour on Bastille Day; the
caravan that makes its way through the
crowd distributing freebies; and high
fives from the spectators lining the road.
sightseeing and meeting locals.
You will generally be provided
with a bike when you join a tour but
bringing your own bike is also an
option on many organised tours, and
some companies are able to arrange
hire of top-quality road bikes with
gearing suitable for hill climbing.
My determination to BYO bike, and
the journey that it and I made from
Australia to Toulouse, via Paris, often
bordered on the comical. I still have
flashbacks of traipsing it up escalators
to glean platform departure
information; heading to lifts to get it
back down again only to find them
inoperable. Thankfully, many a young,
chivalrous Frenchman stepped in to
prevent a potential accident and, in
the end, I was pleased to have my
own trusty vélo.
Training for any type of cycling tour,
from leisurely to challenging, is critical
for maximum enjoyment – being
saddle sore can really spoil a holiday.
If you plan to tackle some of the
more arduous climbs in Europe, hill
training is highly recommended, as
is descending practise. It’s difficult
enough to avoid happy drunks, pam-
pered pets and energetic children
when you’re climbing uphill, but even
tougher to stay in control when you
are gripping the brakes and trying to
dodge disaster on the way down.
But as seriously as myself and my
other Lycra-clad, road-bike wielding
companions took the experience, we
were often put to shame by locals on
rusty old numbers in hats and thongs
(even a young woman in a bikini
and a cowboy hat) who made their
way up some of the bigger climbs.
Riding on the opposite side of the
road presents challenges, too. “Right
is right” was the mantra of our guides.
Yet l managed to begin a descent
on the wrong side of the road, to the
horror of our support driver leaning
on her car horn on the summit. As for
other road rules in France – there don’t
seem to be many. Hand signals are
rare, but driver tolerance is admirable
and a friendly wave works wonders.
Choose a tour that sounds right
for you and be honest about your
cycling ability. Ask questions about
the amount of cycling and sightseeing
involved and be sure it’s the mix you
are after. Follow recommended training
guidelines and brush up on your
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