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Cycling holidays: Multi-day rides and ride & watch events

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15 May 2019
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This feature first appeared in Cyclist magazine and was produced in association with Sports Tours International

Take on a multi-day monster

From the grandest of mountain tours to expeditions into the unknown, multi-day rides are a serious test of endurance

Days of riding stretching ahead of you as endlessly as the tarmac beneath your tyres. The opportunity to play at being a pro-racer and take on your own stage race.

Or simply the chance to bask in the satisfaction of watching your journey snake across the length of a whole country rather than just the space of an afternoon.

We reckon riding a multi-day challenge should be on every cyclist’s hit-list. However as the distances increase, so do the logistics involved.

Hotels, transfers, laundry, and food all need to be organised. Luckily, if you don’t mind the extra cost, signing up to an all-inclusive package can leave you free to concentrate on the riding, and not be distracted by the chores. Here are some of our favourites…

Ireland: The Wild Atlantic Etape 

When: June, July, August, and September
Where: West coast of Ireland over either 460km or 920km
Why: Living up to its name, this rolling coastal route along Ireland’s western edge is equal parts beautiful and fearsome. Green and pleasant at first glance, its relentless climbs and off-shore winds can make for a bracing experience.

With the complete route running from Derry in the north, down to Kinsale in the south, many riders elect to cover just some of the 920km distance.

A popular choice being to start in Kinsale and follow the prevailing winds north towards Kerry, but finishing in the lively city of Galway. Taking in 920 of Ireland’s most scenic kilometres, even with a  likely tailwind, means a solid eight-day tour for most riders. 

How: Book with Sports Tours international for 4-8 days of unforgettable riding. Packages include accommodation, safe bike storage, all evening meals, roadside refreshments, luggage transfers and more. Prices start from £899 per person.

 

France: Haute Route Alpe d’Huez

When: 12th-14th July, 2019
Where: France, over course stages ranging from 70-140km
Why: This third edition of the Haute Route Alps is a chance to really test your mettle against one of cycling’s greatest icons.

Alpe d’Huez is a staple of the Tour de France and this event will allow you to take in all three of its ascents in three stages over three days from Bourg d’Oisans, Villard-Reculas and Col de Sarenne.

You can choose to ride the Original Course which includes two classic stages of 100km to 140km of riding with 2,500m to 3,500 of climbing.

Or you can opt for the Compact Course, which includes two classic stages of 70km to 100km with 1,500m to 2,500m of climbing.

Either way, you’ll also get to take part in a thrilling time trial on the third day that’ll see you tackling Alpe d’Huez’s famous 21 hairpin bends for a memorable mountain top finish.

How: Sign up through Sports Tours international and, along with entry, you can expect accommodation, at four-star hotels, secure bike storage, meals, comprehensive roadside support, all transfers and more other great stuff than we’ve got space to list here.

Prices start from £489 per person.

 

Italy: Transalp Road Cycling Challenge

When: 23rd-30th June, 2019
Where: Austrian and Italian Alps over an 800km course.
Why: A slice of high-Alpine adventure. Taking in the crux of many a bike race, the TransAlp Challenge tackles both famous and lesser-known climbs across the Austrian and Italian Alps.

Stretching from Innsbruck to Lake Garda, riders will face ascents such as the Brenner Pass, the Gavia, the Mortirolo, and the Madonna di Campiglio.

Equally suited to those after an adventure, or the chance to test themselves against the other 1,000 competitors, its 800 kilometres and 18,000 vertical metres constitute a stern test for all involved. A col-baggers dream.

How: Book with Sports Tours International. As well as entry, accommodation and meals, packages include guaranteed peace of mind as Sports Tours’ expert staff will take care of your every logistical need, leaving you free to just ride! Prices start from £1,399.

 

Enjoy a ride & watch event

See some of the greatest cycling races on earth – and give the courses a go yourself

There’s no better way to appreciate how fast the pros really are than to tackle the routes on which they race.

Happily, with many of the season’s biggest events spawning sportive versions immediately before or after the real racers roll through, it’s possible to make a weekend out of riding and then watching some of Europe’s greatest races.

It’s a pilgrimage any cycling fan should complete at least once, the races of the Spring Classics are a popular choice. The Tour of Flanders, Milan-San Remo, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège represent among the most fearsome and respected of cycling’s Monuments, and each makes a great trip.

However, for a more outré choice, why not join up three of the Italian Autumn Classics to make a week of riding and spectating based around the season’s dramatic conclusion?

 

Milan-Torino

When: October 9th, 2019
Where: Italy. You’ll ride 35km including an across-the-finish-line experience before the pros arrive
Why: This year,  Milan-Torino celebrates its centenary. A key warm-up for Il Lombardia, it’s more suited to the strong men than the pure climbers.

A unique race, riders of either type searching for a late-season victory will have two major hurdles to cross. First, the twin climbs to the Basilica of Superga, both of which are backloaded towards the finish.

Secondly, the four railway crossings that dissect the route, and often split the pack, as riders find themselves cut off by the barriers as the trains roll past.

How: Book Sports Tours International’s eight-day Italian Autumn Classics Week and you’ll watch the pros race the swashbuckling races that close the season before riding in their wheel tracks on all or part of the course.

The package includes seven-nights accommodation on a B&B basis in three-star hotels, secure bike storage, three evening meals, all transfers, guides and more. Prices start at 1,499 per person.

 

Gran Piemonte

When: 10th October, 2019
Where: Northern Italy
Why: Held in the Apennine Mountains, this race first took place in 1906, and since 2005 has been a key event in the UCI Europe Tour.

Despite the fact it’s held in such a mountainous location, this is a flat race that’s fiercely contested among the sprinters, and represents a counterpoint to the week’s final and hillier conclusion.

With the possibility to simply follow the route, rather than take on an organised sportive, you’ll be able to savour lunch in the proper Italian style, while saving your legs for the week’s final test.

How: Book Sports Tours International’s eight-day Italian Autumn Classics Week.

 

Il Lombardia

When: 12th-13th October, 2019
Where: Northern Italy, riding over a 112km course.
Why: Known as the race of the falling leaves, this final Monument closes the professional season. The last chance for glory before the long, raceless winter, riders will leave everything they’ve left on the road.

Home to two of cycling’s most famous climbs, it’s a test every rider should attempt at least once. First of its challenges is the hallowed Ghisallo climb.

Often the decisive moment of the race, it’s also a site of cycling pilgrimage. Sitting at its summit, the Madonna del Ghisallo is a shrine to cycling history and includes artefacts including Francesco Moser’s World Hour record beating bicycle.

Taken almost immediately after it, the Muro di Sormano might be the hardest climb in cycling. Despite being just 1.9 kilometres long, it averages 15%, with several sections close to a leg-snapping one-in-four.

How: With just 1,400 spots available, places on the Gran Fondo Lombardia (gfilombardia.it) go quickly.

For guaranteed entry, book a weekend package with Sports Tours international that also takes in the race and includes three nights B&B accommodation in a three-star hotel, secure bike storage, all transfers, a guided ride, and more.

Prices start at £475 per person. Alternatively, book the eight-day Italian Autumn Classics Week.