Italy & France Cycling Tours: I choose to ride!
Back in 1989 I made my first very tentative trip to France to ride my bike. I was in the company of my two best mates, all in the world was good and a life-defining adventure lay ahead. In 1989 there were very few aussies (we saw not one) riding their bikes in the French alps and there was not a tour group to be seen. Don't get me wrong, there were plenty of cyclists taking on the mighty peaks made famous by great Tour de France battles, but most seemed to be on solo journeys.
Our trip had it's genesis in the grainy old Tour de France broadcasts (with a 2-4 week delay) on channel nine. What if we, three green lads from Mosman, could ride the great cols of France? Maybe even the mythical l'Alpe d'Huez may be possible? Our trip was planned using Michelin maps and a piece of string to assist in estimating course distances. Maps were then cut up covered in clear contact and stuffed in our cycling jerseys, kind of "paper Garmins" for the trip. Long story but suffice to say that our 1989 odyssey is the reason I fell in love with cycling and to this day there is not a single road or vista that I cannot recall in all it's glory.
I have since returned to France (and Italy) many times, on occasions I have followed the TDF in the mountains whilst other trips have been all about riding, rather than watching. So which is better? Well many may disagree but for me a cycling trip to Europe is all about the riding. Granted, if you have a spare 6 weeks, then there are options to do both in equal quantity. But if you are limited to 2 weeks of ground time, I recommend you spend it in the saddle and here's why:
To ensure that your European riding experience ticks all the essential boxes, here are a few tips:
Stay safe out there!
Brian Bubba Cooke
Exercise Physiologist, coach & cycling tragic for 30 years. Love the freedom, reward and sense of achievement that one can only experience in our amazing sport.