There are lots of ways to follow a grand cycling tour. One way is to join a package tour and let your tour operator take care of all the details. Tour operators (like bikestyletours.com) pick you up from the airport, organize hotels and restaurant bookings, arrange side excursions and provide bicycles for clients to ride sections of certain stages. If money is no object – or you don’t have the time to plan these details yourself – then there is no doubt that a package holiday is the ‘easiest’ way to follow a grand tour.
But if you want to have more control over your trip, are travelling on a budget, or decide that a package holiday isn’t for you, then you’ll have to organise your vacation yourself. But where do you begin? The easy place to start is by asking yourself the following questions:
- How long do you plan to be away? That is, which event will you follow?
- What type of transport will get you from point A to B?
- What accommodation expectations do you have?
Answering these three questions will give you a good indication of what ‘next steps’ you should take.
Choosing your event on the UCI World Tour calendar
The UCI World Tour is made up of a number of races around the world. In the early part of the season, there are several single day races such as the ‘classics’ in France (Paris-Roubaix), Belgium (Liege – Bastogne – Liege), Italy (Milan – San Remo) and the Netherlands (Amstel Gold Race).
There are also a number of multi-stage races around a week long. The Tour de Suisse (Switzerland), Tour of California (US) and the Tour Down Under (Australia) are popular events that the pro teams are keen to do well at.
But there is no contest when it comes to the most prestigious races on the international cycling calendar. These are the ‘grand tours’: the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a Espana. Each are 3 weeks in duration, roughly 3500 kms (2200 miles) long and held in July, May and September respectively. They’re ‘grand’ not only because of their length – they’re also the oldest, most coveted and are allocated the most points towards UCI World Tour rankings.
If you’re undecided which event to choose for your vacation, check out the UCI World Tour calendar to confirm race dates and further information.
Transport and accommodation options
Once you’ve picked your race and decided the length of your holiday, your next decision will be to work out how to get yourself from stage to stage.
If you’re on a budget, you should not discount the possibility of taking public transport from stage to stage. You should also rest assured that lots of people follow grand tours this way. With a backpack, a tent, a bicycle and a Eurail Pass, you can cover a race like the Tour de France pretty easily. It’s especially do-able if you concentrate your holiday around the stages that are clustered together in a region (such as in the Alpes or the Pyrenees).
If you’re after a trip of a week to ten days, then hiring a car and staying in hotels works well. The benefits of having a car are pretty clear: they’re faster point-to-point than buses or trains, more fuel efficient and easier to drive than motorhomes and they’re certainly easier to squeeze into a tight parks on those busy mountain stages!
But if you’re thinking of following a grand tour for twenty-ish days, then it’s hard to go past the utility and comfort of a motorhome (campervan). Sure, they’re a bit more expensive to hire, but keep in mind that it’s your transport and accommodation rolled into one. You’ll pay a bit extra in fuel and tolls, but you’ll save money by having access to a kitchenette. Plus, the ability to bring the comforts of home with you (shower, bathroom, kitchen, fridge, heater, etc) can’t be fully appreciated until you have to wait for the peloton in the cold and the pouring rain!
This website is designed to help you plan an awesome cycling holiday. Have a poke around – we’re sure you’ll find information which addresses some of your questions. But if you’ve got more, just leave a comment in the section below and we’ll do our best to answer them!
* Note: We are not affiliated in any way to these sites. We do not guarantee their services or reputation in any way. We provide these links for your convenience only and accept no liability for any loss, injury or fraud. But saying that, we used these sites to research, plan and book our own Tour de France holiday in 2012 and experienced no problems.