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European Cycling Holidays

April 3rd, 2015

The good, the bad and the ugly of cycling holiday destinations

There’s a saying that inspires me, it hangs in my lounge and reads ‘If you don’t climb the mountain, you can’t see the view’.  I can’t say I’m naturally built for climbing but my love of the two wheels machine has taken me to places I’d never imagine I’d explore.

Cycling Holiday Hot spots for spring training

I’ve just got back from a week in Gran Canaria, a place I’d highly recommend as a ‘winter’ cycling destination – fantastic roads, amazing scenery, very courteous drivers on the whole, who patiently wait until it’s safe to pass. Having been to Tenerife the previous year, I have to say I prefer Gran Canaria – and would definitely return – plenty of 8-10% climbs, with lots of steeper 16% plus sections to test you legs.

There’s a great selection of routes to choose from – Soria, Pico de las Nieves, Santa Lucia, Aguimes – covering a variety of distances. Our usual day was approximately 100km with 2,000 to 2,700 metres of climbing – a great way to kick-start some spring training, if you  are preparing for a Ride25 cycling holiday tour.

Mallorca is also a really easy island to navigate – delivering incredible scenery, lovely quiet lanes, amazing cafes, and a great selection of both flat and hilly rides to enjoy – my favourites climbs and destinations include Puig Major, Coll du Soller, Deia and Valldemossa.

Autumn pedaling adventures

For the tail end of the year – late September through November – I’d suggest places like Sardinia and Corsica, or even Morocco, to explore the high and midi Atlas Mountains. Having visited all three with my trusty steed, I’d recommend them all. For each of these trips I stayed in a different destination each night – with vehicle support, this is the perfect way to explore, meet like-minded people and get off the beaten track.

Do your research

It’s fair to say, for the past decade I’ve been extremely lucky – booking training camps, sportives (Etape and Maratona) and touring holidays with reputable companies like La Fuga, Polka Dot Cycling, Skedaddle and Marmot Tours – all have been amazing and I’d recommend them all.

But it pays to do your research and get personal recommendations where possible. I think it’s fair to say that if you book a cycling training camp, that’s what you’re expecting – with courteous guides who communicate clearly, who look after all the cyclists in their group, share pointers on how to improve descending technique and how to manage long climbs, plus tips on nutrition, as well as basic mechanical support if required.

Sadly this wasn’t the case for me recently in Gran Canaria. Pretty much everything that was advertised on the company website I booked through was misleading – on arrival there was barely any help from the owner who was incapable of answering simple questions, had a real inability to communicate and was totally unsuited to working in the cycling holiday industry. He appeared more interested in getting in his own training in, racing the group, retaining his Strava KOMs, rarely helped those who were struggling at the back and provided no choice of rides, as advertised on his site.

In our group there was a great discrepancy in ability, from one guy who is training for the Tour de Force (he’s doing every stage), to a girl who had just taken up cycling and was falling off her bike. So by day two, myself and two stronger riders in the group started doing our own thing, we were then able to do the training that we all needed and had a much better time as a result.  So a lesson learnt is to make sure you do your research, check our the companies and hosts, do they have any great reviews on Facebook or on a third party review software type thing.  Cycling holidays and training camps are a treat and you want to make sure you enjoy them, you really don’t want to have to worry about if it’s going to be any good – that should be a given.  You should be more worried about if your legs are going to be any good!

Cycling up Pedro Gonzales

Explore with Ride25

I’ve known John Readman, the founder of Ride25 and his team for years and there’s never a shortage of epic cycling tour stories to share. I’ll be exploring many new destinations this year – starting with the Tour of Flanders this weekend, hosting a Ride25 Geneva to Milan trip in June, then the Raid Pyrenean in July.  Ride25 is a completely different cycling experience, there is something pioneering and adventurous about having the pack up your kit every day and move to the next destination, you are on a mission,  there is no option of a day off or a shorter route.  You are 100% committed to the challenge, its like your own personal cycling grand tour, but you get amazing lunches and can stop for coffee and cake!  I also hear the tour hosts are amazing ;o)

Cycling Training Gran CAnaria

Perhaps I’ll see you on the road? Just make sure you do some training first so you can enjoy (rather than endure) every minute.

Emma Potter

Follow my Cycling Adventures on Twitter – @EmmaPotter73

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