Le Tour du Mont Blanc with Ride & Seek

More Groupetto than GC contenders, we are a group of friends with a certain number of Alpine climbs, Etape du Tours, and Marmottes to our names even if crossing the finish line each time was never an easy accomplishment. This time we were looking for something different. For someone else to look after us, the logistics, the itinerary, the support van, the refreshments, the hotels, the food…. All we wanted to do was to show up and ride our bikes for a few days.

With that in mind, I reached out to Dylan at Ride & Seek. Together he and James came up with the idea of a circuit around the Mont Blanc. Largely inspired by the route of the ultra-sportive of the same name, this is a brief account of the trip: a 4-day challenge, like nothing we had ever done before. 3 countries, incredible riding, stunning views, flawless organisation, and a sense of camaraderie and achievement that will see us make this a regular fixture of our cycling calendar.

Day 1 – Megeve to Chamonix

We arrive in Megeve with Dylan and James waiting for us. We relax after the 6hr drive from Paris, unpack the bikes, transfer our bags to the support van and prepare to roll out for 50km warm-up ride from Megeve to Chamonix. Lovely back roads and 800m+ of climbing allow us to check all is well with the bikes and to prepare the legs for what is to come. Chamonix is busy, the restaurants full but a table for 8 is waiting for us 2mins from the hotel. A large plate of pasta and a tiramisu the size of the task ahead accompanied a briefing from James on the following day’s ride – the toughest of the 4 days – 90km with 3400m+ of climbing from Chamonix to the summit of the Col du Grand Saint Bernard.

Day 2 – Chamonix to the Grand Saint Bernard Pass

We all meet at breakfast with a view of the Mont Blanc. Excited and slightly nervous, we roll out for the first of 4 climbs – Col de Montets, with its 9km at 5.1%. A gentle start to the day is in order. Once past the summit, we freewheel down across the Swiss border, the PCR tests and COVID vaccination certificates remain firmly tucked away in our jerseys as Swiss customs seem wholly uninterested in our presence. Next up was the Col de Forclaz – 6.9km at 6% – this was tougher and the coffee stop at the top was a welcome break. Things started to get serious now as we headed to the foot of Col de Champex – 14.6km at 7.6% – this one started to sting but was a beautiful climb with panoramic views and a steady gradient. As we arrive at the summit we are 1800m+ into the day and the picnic lunch next to the Champex Lac was picturesque and perfect timing. After lunch, the final difficulty of the day beckoned. The Col du Grand St Bernard – 26km at 6.1% – finishing at 2469m altitude. This has figured 5 times in Le Tour and is classified HC coming from the Swiss side. The climb is long and grinding but with a manageable gradient until you leave the main road for the last 6kms. The mountain pass heading up to the Auberge de l’Hospice perched at the summit is tough and rarely falls below 8.5% but the views are stunning and help with that final effort. Our rooms at the Auberge are waiting for us and the after-ride beer and generous dinner are well deserved and much appreciated. Unsurprisingly we are (very) early to bed.

Day 3 – Grand St Bernard Pass to Bourg St Maurice

It’s 2° outside, we are at 2469m altitude, the sky is blue and views incredible. Today we are riding across Italy to finish in Bourg St Maurice. We don winter kit, long bib shorts, arm warmers, thick winter gloves, take some pictures and begin our 30km descent into Italy. Once into the valley, we make a mental note to someday climb the Col du Grand St Bernard from the Italian side – it was breathtaking. The support van awaits and we change back into summer kit as the Italian sun bakes down on us. A cup of coffee and we set off for 30kms along the valley, once again with the Mont Blanc surveying our progress. We pass Aoste and stop at a restaurant in Morgex at the foot of the Col du Petit St Bernard. On the menu is pizza, coca-cola, and some minor bike maintenance. Dessert is a 27.6km climb at 4.5%. We plan a stop halfway up at the beautiful mountain village of La Thuile where the van is waiting with refreshments and encouragement. So far so good, nothing too tough up until now. The remaining 13.3km alternate between 4.5% and 7% with a long segment of 1.2km at 8%. The last 2km are ‘only’ 4.5% but by now we have a headwind, often a risk at the top of this climb, and we finish in the same gearing as the section at 8%. On the descent down to our hotel in Bourg St Maurice we nip into an inviting bar at the ski resort of La Rosiere for a sneaky beer and to catch the last 45mins of the TdF stage. Once arrived at the hotel, we log our 120km and 1800m+ into Strava and head out for dinner.

Day 4 -Bourg St Maurice to Megeve

The final day and another big one with 75km and 2300m climbing taking us back to Megeve. The Cormet de Roseland – 18.6km at 6.1% – begins within 500m of leaving the hotel. No doubt the most visually stunning climb of the trip so far. We even have the pleasure of a crowd to cheer us on towards the top, as the camping cars, polka dot flags and cowbells jostle for space ahead of the TdF passage the following day. Another well-timed coffee stop on the way down to Beaufort, before attacking the final climb of trip – the Col de Saisies, 15km at 6.6%. By now the legs were screaming and it’s all in the head for the last big effort. The climb was fairly constant and no doubt the views were stunning however my eyes are glued to the Garmin, focusing on every pedal stroke and slowly ticking off the distance to the top. Reaching the summit was an immense sense of achievement, equal to any of the “Finisher medals” we had amassed, Lunch followed, one final group photo huddled around the summit sign, and off we went. By now the rain was coming down for the first time of the trip, making our final challenge to navigate a mountain descent on wet roads. Despite a couple of scares, we all stay upright, regrouping at the bottom and forming a peloton for the final 7km into Megeve.

As the town was frantically preparing to host the Tour de France the following day, our Grande Boucle was coming to an end, we had the pain of 330km and 8100m+ in our legs and smiles across our faces. Another ticked box on our cycling bucket list. This was exactly the challenge we had come looking for. Over dinner that evening there was only one topic of discussion: Where would Ride & Seek be taking us next year?

Thanks Dylan, thanks James, thanks to Ride & Seek and see you all next year.

Les Cinglés



Fidele Soul Rides – South Island (New Zealand)

Cathy was born and raised in New Zealand but now resides in Sydney, Australia. She joined us on the inaugural New Zealand Maori tour in 2020 which gave her a chance to reacquaint with her homeland. It is from that tour that she has chosen her soul ride.


In 2020 I was lucky enough to join the inaugural Ride and Seek Maori Epic, starting in Auckland and finishing in Queenstown, something like 20 riding days and 2000 km. Completed just prior to border closures and lockdowns.
For me the whole journey was something of a Soul Ride, having grown up in New Zealand and having a good deal of familiarity with where we were going.

One day we rode past a friend’s house and they were able to tell us a bit about the local history, another day we stayed in a hotel that I am fairly sure we had stayed in on family holidays (which is going back a long time), and so it went on. I am sure everyone was a bit tired of hearing my nostalgic tales.


However, as my Soul Ride, I am selecting one day’s riding in particular, From Westport to Greymouth, on the South Island stage on the often-wild West Coast. The whole of that coast is very remote and is often subject to wild weather, which thankfully we mostly avoided. I say mostly because a few days later we did get to experience some true West Coast rain at Haast. (annual rainfall in Haast is 4300 mm or 169.3 inches.) But for this ride the Coast was at its sparkling best!

The ride was about 100k, although we did an extra that day taking it up to 123km and 1244m of elevation. (R&S Extra Loop – challenge accepted!)

To me, the essence of the West Coast is its remoteness and wild beauty. I have been there many times; hiking, travelling by car, and also once before on a bike (tandem) following a similar route, before returning for this much more extensive cycling adventure.

Today the West Coast is much less populated than in its heyday but this is set against its history of early Maori migration and also in European times of fur sealers, as well as mining for gold and coal. So on the ride we had to use our imagination to picture these different aspects of its history.
There is a bit of information here https://theculturetrip.com/pacific/new-zealand/articles/a-brief-history-of-new-zealands-south-island/
https://westcoast.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/434

The ride started out from our accommodation in Westport, crossing fairly open terrain, inland to start with, and then reached the coast at the tiny town of Charleston, in the 1870s and 1880s a thriving gold-mining settlement.
Once on the coast, we were never far from the rugged rocky shoreline, climbing and descending with spectacular bushland on one side and crashing waves on the other.

The most spectacular views were to be seen on the section where we stopped for lunch at Punakaiki also known as Pancake Rocks for the magnificent layered rock formations, crashing waves forming blowholes of surf and spray.

https://punakaiki.co.nz

From there we continued on to Greymouth taking in an extra loop to visit a disused mine, the site of the Brunner Mine disaster, one of the worst in New Zealand’s history.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brunner_Mine_disaster

From there we retraced our path to take us on to Greymouth. First checking out the wild entrance to the port before heading to our accommodation and a fine meal at a local brewery.

Our author Cathy on the recent Strzelecki tour

I’d do it all over again!



Guide Soul Rides – Sardinia (Italy)

Simone Scalas is a proud Sardinian who is the trip specialist on our 3 Islands Bike Tour. Having written books on cycling in Sardinia and with 20 years of bike guiding to call on, his ‘soul ride’ from his hometown of Pula is guaranteed to be a cracker.

Coastal riding at its finest

My soul ride takes place in the amazing Costa del Sud in southwestern Sardinia. It starts in Pula, a lively village that relies on tourism yet has its own authenticity. The local cyclists gather at the Piazza de Popolo main square to start this ride, or for biking into the mountains. A perfect place to have a coffee while waiting for the late riders to join the group.

Our author – Simone Scalas

The ride begins with 15 km of flat roads, parallel to the main road, and you can decide to pedal along the coast breathing the sea breeze, or immersed in a peaceful countryside coasting the hills, or combining a bit of the two landscapes.

Then you head inland towards Domus De Maria village, starting to taste the more rural Sardinia. For lazy riders like myself, it’s the perfect first coffee stop :). From here we start climbing, and it’s a gentle, with almost no cars, solitary and scented climb among wild Sardinian maquis and granite.

Marking the top there’s a “Casa Cantoniera”, one of the several ancient roadman’s houses, all of them coloured with pompeii red paint and always in scenic locations. From here you can stop to admire the landscape embracing the fisherman natural harbor down the coast and the spectacular twisting road all the way until Teulada, the next village of the ride.

Teulada deserves a stop, first of all, to let your brakes recover, then to taste its “Pani cun Tomata” bread with tomato, which is typical from the village and absolutely tasty. If you don’t find it at the main square bar (shame on them), just walk to the nearby supermarket or bakery and get it fresh, fantastico!

Well, so far the ride has been just beautiful, yet the best has to come :).
Soon after a few km, you’ll hit the coast at a Porto Budello natural harbour, and here starts the absolute beauty. You’ll ride for about 25 km, up and down along the coast, enchanted by the never-ending long sandy beaches, small secluded coves, solitary Spanish watching towers, and the silence. Well, here and there you’ll have some short yet tasty climb, but the views will let you forget all of them.

Fancy a mid ride swim?

This stretch of ride ends with some of the most picturesque beaches of Sardinia, the marvellous Tuerredda Beach with its turquoise waters, then the endless Chia Beach with its golden sand.

If you are hungry, you’ll have several restaurants to stop, but the locals (not just the cyclists) have their beer, sorry their energy drinks, at the “Mongittu” bar, you’ll recognize it by the locals, no worries.

Nora

Then, after the climax like in a perfect theatre piece, you have time to chill down again and relax along the last 15 kms taking you back to Pula. Usually we finish the ride in Nora, the ancient Phoenician the Roman town, beautifully settled in a little promotory among the lagoon and the sea.
Again another great spot to celebrate the end of the ride with the last beer!



Guide Soul Rides – Chianti Classico (Tuscany, Italy)

Chris Small is originally from Scotland but moved to Italy 20 years ago to pursue his career as a professional squash player. Now based in Florence with a wife and two kids he has transferred his sporting prowess from squash to cycling. He guides for us all over Italy but his true passion still rests in the hills of Tuscany. His soul ride below is a cracking ride which actually features in part on our Hannibal tour.

A ride through the land of Chianti Classico

Living in Florence, Italy as a cyclist during times of Covid-19 isn’t really a hardship and the choice of rides is infinite. Florence is a city of just under 400000 people and 10 minutes of riding in any direction take you out of the bowl where the city lies up into the hills. As a rule of thumb here every 60km is around 1000m of vertical and my favourite ride is no different.

The view from Piazzale Michelangelo over Florence

I start by setting off in the direction of Piazzale Michelangelo which is the postcard viewpoint over the top of Florence before starting the long 10km climb to Imprunetta. On arrival in Imprunetta, I continue south on rolling terrain before starting a beautiful climb called La Panca which is 6km long at 4%. After a short descent from here followed by a 2km climb through the vineyards I get rewarded with an unbelievable 6km fast descent with vineyards and olive groves on either side.

Greve in Chianti

The next 35km is a loop round 4 of the most famous towns of the Chianti Classico wine region, Greve in Chianti, Panzano in Chianti, Radda in Chianti and Castellina in Chianti. Any one of these towns would make for a fantastic week-long holiday and I pass through them all on the one ride. These were the roads that made up a large part of stage 10 of the 2016 Giro D’Italia Timetrial won by a fairly unknown Primos Roglic.

From Castellina its only 40km back to Florence and the terrain is simply a dream. 3 long downhills on silky smooth asphalt and only one gentle climb to the town of San Casciano. 116km with 1600m of vertical and back in the house in time to feed the cat before making a hearty pasta lunch. Riding a bike doesn’t get much better than this and if you are ever in the area I can drop the tcx file or feel free.

Chris Small on his local roads in Tuscany




Fidele Soul Rides – Frenchmans Cap (Tasmania)

Doug Bruce has offered up two for the price of one with his soul rides in Tasmania. Regularly towards the top of the Ride and Seek Strava Club classification he would have been spoilt for choice for Tassie soul rides.

Hobart, Tasmania (credit Tourism Australia)

A “Soul Ride” eh? Well, I’m greedy so I’m going to list two rides: my “go to” ride from home and then the ride I love above all others, my true “Soul Ride”. I reckon this is fair enough because I can only rarely do my Soul Ride – or bits thereof – because it requires fairly involved logistics. The “Go To” ride is a tremendously varied loop that takes me from where I live overlooking the city of Hobart, across the Derwent Estuary, through terrific countryside and then back again.

Here’s the Strava link to my “Go To” Soul Ride :

https://www.strava.com/activities/4820938554

MONA museum (credit MONA)

It takes me down into town, around the historic Hobart waterfront, along the Intercity Cycleway for ~ 10 kms, out past the famous world class MONA, alongside and across the river, along a quiet road through an industrial park, through countryside where there are horses, sheep, alpacas, miniature ponies, cattle, even goats.

On past hayfields, market gardens, vineyards, and a couple of cellar doors and the road winds its way to Richmond, a historic town with the oldest bridge in Australia. Usually, I stop here for a coffee, especially if I’m with my favorite riding partner.

Richmond, Tasmania

Five kilometers after leaving coffee one arrives at the base of Grasstree Hill, a much-loved steady climb of just over 4km in length. The descent takes you back down towards the Derwent River and the Bowen Bridge. Across the other side, the route winds its way back along the river with wonderful views of kunanyi, the Hors Categorie climb that stands 1272 metres above the city. If you’re likely to visit Hobart sometime down the track and would like to start and finish this ride from a cafe favoured by cyclists have a look at this version of the ride:

https://ridewithgps.com/routes/35708832

Di riding just above the descent into Queenstown

Were I a better climber, the ascent of kunanyi from Hobart’s waterfront would have to be my Soul Ride. Back in the day it was the penultimate stage of the Tour of Tasmania, where in 1999 Cadel Evans announced himself – via the dulcet tones of one Phil Liggett – as a possible future champion of the Tour De France. That prediction would come to fruition with victory in Le Tour in 2010. It’s 22 kms to the top of kunanyi from the city and on a clear day the 360 degree views are absolutely stunning. For me, the climb to the top is something of an ordeal but it’s all worth it for the fabulous descent!

View of Frenchmans Cap on my Soul Ride

As for my Soul Ride, it’s got to be this one:

https://ridewithgps.com/routes/35709038

This is especially ‘soul’ if I can organise to do it with Dianne, my wife, and life partner. The route starts at Lake St Clair, the deepest lake in Australia and the terminus for the Overland Track which is the most famous multi-day wilderness hike in Australia. Of the total 90 or so kilometers of riding all but a few kilometers traverse the Southwest Tasmania Wilderness World Heritage Area.

Southwest Tasmania Wilderness World Heritage Area

Despite a net elevation loss of 500 metres, there is still about 1000 metres of climbing, but none of it very steep or very long. A big, big highlight of the ride for me is the wonderful descent to the famous Franklin River, but the views along the way – including the mystical, remote Frenchmans Cap – are just wonderful.

Franklin River crossing

Despite this being the only road from Tasmania’s capital city to the west coast, traffic is never heavy and if you start early in the morning you will see almost no vehicles for the first couple of hours. Much of the ride traverses Buttongrass Plains, a vegetation regime endemic to southwest Tasmania. When you’re not surrounded by buttongrass you are immersed in the Tasmanian temperate rainforest, the air laden with the scent of leatherwood honey.

Buttongrass Plains

Towards the end of the ride you descend to and cross Lake Burbury, one of the large hydro dams in the Tasmania’s southwest. A steady climb takes you to the top of the so-called “99 Bends” descent into Queenstown, with the ride finishing at the historic Wilderness Railway Terminus. Between start and finish there are at least three great spots to stop, relax, sightsee and refresh your water supplies. A truly magical ride.

And as a bonus here’s a great video by Doug of the 99 bend descent down to Queenstown. Some great Tassie imagery to inspire throughout the video.

Doug & Di on Caesar 2016


Guide Soul Rides – Mt Buffalo (Australia)

Dave Moore lives in the country town of Cootamundra in NSW, Australia. He guides on our tours Down Under and co-led the inaugural Strzelecki Tour in 2021. His soul ride is from the spectacular Victorian Alps and is a legendary Aussie climb – Mt Buffalo. This climb features as an extra loop option on Strzelecki.

Mt Buffalo was Australia’s first ski field with the Chalet opening in 1910 and is approx 70km round trip from Bright in the Victorian Alps.

The start of the climb and NP entrance

Mt Buffalo National park toll booth signifies the start of the climb, with the road sheltered by tall stands of mountain ash and thick undergrowth, providing protection from the scorching sun and the buffeting winds.

Not long into the ride you pass the car park for trekkers walking the 20kms Big Walk trail to the Chalet. With smooth road surface following the ridge line, multiple hairpins, altitude is quickly gained. Mackeys’ Lookout has views towards Bright and brings a stark change in the landscape with The Font on the left, a rock face of striking granite that seems to rise upwards forever and valley views on the right.

View from the top

A short descent to Mt Buffalo plateau is where I turn left past the cricket pitch, several sharp ramps and just under 21ks you arrive at the Chalet with stunning vistas, making the hard work worthwhile. The joy of the ride can turn to momentary disappointment if the coffee van is closed, ask Cathy who I rode the mountain with on Strzelecki :).

Instead of turning left, you can ride straight on past Lake Catani, lined by smaller snow gums, subalpine grasses, and bogs to Dingo Dell, named due to resident Alpine dingos and onto The Horn, with the final 3kms gravel.

A well earned beer at the end of a legendary climb

A cracking descent followed by a refreshing ale at the Porepunkah hotel or the Bright Brewery brings my soul ride to an end.

Dave Moore


Guide Soul Rides – Provence (France)

Dylan Reynolds is the founder of Ride and Seek and is based in Provence, France. His chosen soul ride is a 75km(46 miles) loop ride with 1400 metres (4593 feet) of elevation – with an optional out and back from Chalet Reynard to Mont Ventoux!

A soul ride with an iconic out and back option 🙂

My go-to regular soul ride is an out and back up the Gorges de la Nesque which takes around 2 hours to complete. Whenever I’m short of time and need to clear my head this is my ride of choice. It combines all the elements that I consider important for a soul ride – great views, low car numbers, and not overly arduous. I have a nice warm-up on back roads to the Gorges to warm up the legs and then the climbing begins. The profile below confirms my comment regarding it not being too tough though.

Gorges de la Nesque elevation profile (credit Cycling Cols)

With Mont Ventoux in my backyard though it would be amiss to not include the ‘Giant of Provence’ on my choice of overall soul ride. I have taken the liberty of making the ride to the top an option though which is in keeping with the idea that a soul ride should not blow your legs off :). The ride I profile here is also my favourite loop ride when I have a bit more time on my hands. It incorporates the Gorges de la Nesque, a ride from Sault to Chalet Reynard, descent to Bedoin and then home to Mormoiron. The 6km climb from Chalet Reynard to the summit is an option!

View from the top of the Gorges de la Nesque (738m)

This loop ride is shown here on Strava https://www.strava.com/activities/5018922115/embed/c5c0b00b3ce553253ab7aeb5e5334c9f00b8a48b

The first part takes us from our village to the start of the Gorges de la Nesque via a series of back roads. Once on the gorge road, the great thing is that there is a trunk road that is more direct to get to Sault and so most traffic avoids it. In the summer the tourist traffic can be a little annoying – camper vans and motorbikes in particular – but if you ride it out of season or early in the day you have to yourself.

View from the Gorges with Mont Ventoux in the background

One of the surreal things about this ride is the boar you often meet at the top. For those who aren’t expecting it meeting a wild boar on arrival is something of a surprise. It is a common feature given the unofficial boar sanctuary that has been created by an American couple at the top though. Sadly Bill, who was an ex-Marine and member of the Foreign Legion, passed away in 2020 but his wife continues the project.

Meeting the locals

From the top of the Gorges, we ride towards the town of Sault. You can pass through the town for a coffee if you wish, or can turn earlier on to avoid the climb up. There is plenty of climbing to come so any respite is welcome although a pre-climb coffee can also hit the spot. The ride up Mont Ventoux from the Sault side is continued the ‘easy’ one of the 3 ascents. It’s all relative though! The profile below shows the whole climb.

Mont Ventoux from Sault (credit Cycling Cols)

You can see from the profile that the ride up to Chalet Reynard is fairly gentle in terms of gradient and hence the option to head down from there. The extra loop option to ride to the top of Mont Ventoux is more challenging and hard to resist if you’ve got as far as the Chalet though. I tend to do the final out and back climb to the top 50% of the times I do this ride. The ascent to the top is always emotional no matter how many times you have done it.

A 12km out and back up to the top – hard to resist?

Whether I go to the top or just call it a day with the climbing at Chalet Reynard I always grab a bite to eat or at least a drink there. The snack bar does a mean pizza and there is plenty of choice. From here it is time to put on the wind jacket for the super quick descent back down to Bedoin – the most celebrated side of the mountain as it is the classic Tour de France route.

Neapolitan pizza at the Chalet Reynard – anchovies anyone?

At this point, the climbing is done so enjoy the descent! At the bottom there is an option to cut the corner to head more directly back to the village in which we live – Mormoiron – or if I’ve got a bit of time on my hands a beer in Bedoin always welcome. I have hesitation in presenting this ride as an all-time favourite soul ride with or without beer and pizza.



Fidele Soul Rides – Great Dividing Range (Australia)

Geoff & Wendy Hastings rode the second stage of the inaugural Strzelecki tour in Australia from Albury to Melbourne. Both have travelled extensively in Australia but Geoff still found a new ‘soul ride’ riding from Traralgon to Warburton which he chronicles below.

Australia doesn’t really do mountains the way that the other continents do them. Not in height at least, with our tallest mountain being only 2,228 metres (7,310 feet) high. But it does do long mountain ranges with the Great Dividing Range stretching down the eastern seaboard for 3,500 km (2,200 miles). The divide attracts higher rainfall than other areas of Australia and is the home of some lush forests.

The southern end of the range attracts a climate that is a combination of high rainfall, warm summers and cool winters. This means that cycling through this area can be the chance to experience a uniquely Australian environment.


The Strzelecki epic from Ride and Seek has taken advantage of this by taking a route that goes right over some of the highest points of the Great Divide ( Mt Hotham) and then into other areas where fantastic mountain roads wind through spectacular eucalypt forests.

Certainly, the day that takes the rider from the town of Traralgon to Warburton on the southern edge of these mountain forests is a day that I would classify as a “soul ride”.

The day I am concentrating on is 130 km in length with about 1800 metres of climbing and it is a day of contrasts. Starting off on Australia’s southern coastal plain the route proceeds on quiet rural back roads. The roads roll along and almost unnoticeably gain altitude until you are in the forests of the Great Divide.

This is where, in my mind, the difference between cycling and other forms of touring really kick in. You move from the farmland quite dramatically into majestic forests with the dominant canopy tree being the tallest flowering plant in the world – the Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans). You are enveloped in a world of giants that shelter the understory of lush treey ferns and other Australian natives. Even on hot, windy days it is cool and still down on the road.

There are some wonderful, winding descents with little traffic to cause concern but I would argue you are doing yourself a disservice if you concentrate on the descent and not the environment around you. Winding down through these forests, taking it all in and stopping occasionally to really appreciate the unique flora (and if you are lucky, fauna) is essential. Within the forests, there are small villages that cater brilliantly to Australia’s national addiction to good coffee. Eventually, you reach a rail-trail that takes you right into the town of Warburton under the shadow of mountains covered in temperate rain forest.


The end of the day is one for reflection and celebration in equal measure. Reflection on Australia’s unique beauty and a personal job well done. A local wine, as you are now surrounded by one of our wine-growing areas – the upper Yarra Valley, makes for a perfect way for friends to share stories of an exceptional day.

Geoff & Wendy Hastings


Top 10 best coastal cycling routes according to our team

There is something truly special about a coastal cycle ride, complete with dazzling water views as the miles slide by. On our epic cycling tours, we get to experience some of the worlds best coastal cycling. Here are our top 10 routes from our epic cycle tours for your reading pleasure according to our trip specialists.

Cycling on the Sardinian coast

1. Sparkling Mediterranean views, colourful Bosa and superb local wines, Three Islands tour, Sardinia, Italy 

Cycling from Alghero to Cabras along the coastal line of northwest Sardinia, we will ride some of the best cycling routes of the island; a journey through 3000 years of Mediterranean history, touching the colourful Bosa on the way. Bosa is one of Italy’s most beautiful towns, with its rainbow of pastel houses a dream for your travel snaps.

The ride starts in one of Sardinia’s most beautiful medieval cities, Alghero, with its lively historic centre. From there you take a rolling road by the stunning coastline – under the wings of Griffon Vultures – followed by a brief hilly section, to end the day immersed in pastures and fertile cereal fields and the vineyards of the Oristano region. An unforgettable day, especially after reaching Cabras for a well-earned sip of Malvasia or Vernaccia di Oristano, the unique local wines. Enrico Casini

Corsica coast ride

2. Pink granite rock formations and coastal ridge riding, Three Islands Tour, Corsica, France

Having been part of all editions of the 3 Islands Tour in their entirety, there are many beautiful coastal rides with stunning scenery that I could write about. However, there is one particular route on Corsica from Calvi to Porto that stands out above the others. This day is my absolute favourite, and it begins literally at the start of the day as we leave the beautiful small and vibrant town of Calvi on an 82km ride with around 1370m of elevation.

Within just two kilometres we are riding on coastal balconies with views of the fantastic cliffs and rock pools below to our right, and equally stunning rock formations of pink granite, inland to our left. This quiet but beautiful road meanders and climbs gently for the first part of the day, before heading slightly inland and onto roads of slightly more challenging construction. Nothing to worry about here though as there is hardly any traffic.

After morning coffee we’re back on the coastal balconies and heading due south, the seawater becomes brighter and more glorious shades of blue. Meandering through tiny resorts we brush shoulders with some tourists, but not too many as we are well away from the large holiday destinations. Crossing the border between Haut Corse and the Corse du Sud we can begin to see the granite formations changing in colour from pink to red.

Later in the day we ascend and skirt around the UNESCO listed Scandola Nature Reserve to the cliff tops that almost completely envelope the tiny yet stunning coastal town of Porto. The views at this point are arguably some of the best seen on the whole tour. We have a great opportunity to stop and photograph the port, from different heights as descend down to our magnificent overnight destination.

My advice to any Ride & Seekers for this day is to not rush this beautiful ride, take your time and shoot some fantastic photos for your everlasting tour memories! The route is around 82km with 1372m of elevation. Richie Mitchell

3. Islands and spectacular Japanese bridges on the Shimanami Kaido, Samurai Tour, Japan

I can probably count on one hand the number of other “serious cyclists” I saw during our 10-day trip riding around Japan’s Shikoku Island. The vast majority use the bike as a means of transport and not so much by the aforementioned “serious cyclists”. But this doesn’t mean Japan isn’t a bike-friendly destination, the cars are small enough to be far less imposing on the road, the drivers are extremely courteous and respectful and the road surfaces and infrastructure are some of the best I’ve experienced anywhere in the world. Nowhere is this more evident than the Shimanami Kaido, 80km of pristine Japanese roads and cycle paths that crosses 6 bridges and 6 islands between Imabari on Shikoku and Onomichi on the mainland of Honshu.

Japan is an island nation and as you cross the Seto (narrow seas) this becomes incredibly evident. The area is actually a volcanic mountain range that was filled in by the sea when the polar ice caps last melted 50000 years ago. The network of bridges spanning this sea is a stunning engineering achievement that allows you to propel yourself high above the container ships and fishing boats, passing way beneath, as you head towards yet another island. Some have coastlines of rugged cliffs and rocks, some with beautiful sandy beaches. The route doesn’t just hug the shorelines though, we meander up through the forests into the inner hills before descending back to tiny fishing villages and towns with beautiful Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines.

And yet with all this natural beauty linked by engineering masterpieces I probably only saw enough “serious cyclists” to fill up the other hand. There were many tourists on city bikes with dresses blowing in the sea breeze, but I still felt a sense of privilege to be able to cycle this incredible route, and couldn’t help thinking that one day I will strike up a conversation with someone else who has ridden it, but that day may be a long time coming!

The cycling route can be ridden in either direction (from Imabari or Onomichi). It is well signposted and maintained, and the bridges of the route are accessed by ramped bridges with a gradual incline. Depending on your cycling level, it can be comfortably completed in a day. James Geen

Cycling off Venice

4. Island hopping from Venice Lido to Chioggia on the Caesar Tour, Italy 

The third week of our Caesar tour (London to Rome) is one for the ages as we ride from Lake Como to the Serenissima – Venice. Along the way, we take on the iconic Stelvio climb and then ride over the stunning Dolomites before descending down to the Po valley and on to Venice. Rather than stay in Venice itself, we base ourselves on the iconic Lido di Venezia that is one of the two barrier islands that serve to protect Venice from the Adriatic Sea.

This 11km long island, that is also the venue for the eponymous film festival, provides us with a novel coastal ride as we island-hop to the mainland and to the charming fishing town of Chioggia that is also known as ‘Little Venice’ and renowned for its beetroot! We start the day by riding the length of the island to catch the scheduled ferry to the other Venetian barrier island of Pellestrina. There are 4 main villages on pretty Pellestrina that are known for their colourful painted houses and large embankments.

What makes this coastal ride so novel is how we get from Pellestrina to the mainland. There is no onward ferry to get us from Pellestrina to the mainland and it here that our friend Mario comes in. When we were conceptualising the Caesar tour we were faced with the quandary of wanting to stay on Venice but not sure how to get off! Mario is a local fisherman who provides the seafood for our fantastic end of week meal at the Osteria Al Merca and had heard about our challenge via the owner. Every time we come through now he comes and picks us up from Pellestrina and takes us to Chioggia.

Thanks to Mario we have created a coastal ride that provides a really interesting insight into a side of Venice that few get to experience whilst enabling us to avoid the traffic and industry that are found on the more conventional routes out of Venice. On arrival into Chioggia we grab a coffee and a local tramezzina sandwich before riding down the coast to the Byzantine jewel of Ravenna. Dylan Reynolds

Tangiers lighthouse

5. Cycling the Mediterranean coast from Fnideq to Tangiers on the Conquest of the Moors Tour, Morocco

Travelling in magical Morocco will make you feel like time stands still. Travelling by bicycle here gives you a true sense of being off the well-beaten path. Our final days riding in Morocco is a real highlight of our epic Conquest of the Moors tour. We ride from our stunning beach retreat near Fnideq towards the Northern Mediterranean coast of Morocco.

Within a few miles, we are skirting around the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, one of only two Spanish enclaves on the African continent, continuing onwards to Plage Dalia on the North coast. We have our coffee stop at Plage Dalia where we sample Spanish influenced seafood and snacks our friend Ahoud’s fish cafe. With the crystal clear waters calling, a swim is also an option for those looking for a dip in the Med.  From here we follow a remarkable coastal ridge road, beach hopping between Plage Kasar Sjir and Plage Oued Alain before our final ride into atmospheric Tangiers. Ben Weigl

Marco Polo coast road

6. A cycling paradise with dazzling sea views, Marco Polo Tour, Albania

Let’s face it, none of us, before going to Albania for the first time, would have thought of finding one of the most beautiful coastal paths in the Mediterranean. Well, get ready to be surprised by this corner of paradise for cyclists, a series of hairpin bends that you would expect to find in the Dolomites, are set in a mountain overlooking the sea in the wonderful Llogara park in southern Albania, on the Canale di Otranto. Mythical places that remind us of Homeric legends, but also where the sounds and morphology of the Balkans magically meet with the colours and warmth of the Mediterranean. So let’s get rid of prejudices and set off on a bike to discover this wonderful territory.

We leave the lively avenues of Vlora along a coastal path that initially follows the city beach and then continues along gentle cliffs and small seaside hamlets. After passing Orikum, we enter the park in a mountain landscape, after a memorable climb of over 15 km we reach the Llogara pass (1,050 m above sea level). From here we enjoy a wonderful panorama that sweeps from the coasts of Puglia to the Greek island of Corfu, to then dive into the exciting bends overlooking the sea that bring us back to the coast between olive groves and small villages clinging to the cliffs. The town of Saranda, in the far south of Albania, is the perfect place to end an unforgettable day. Marcello Usala

Hvar coastal ride

7. Crystal clear Adriatic waters, UNESCO sites and lavender, Marco Polo Tour, Croatia

Starting our day in Stari Grad (Hvar), we head straight towards the incredible Stari Grad Plains, a world heritage listed UNESCO site. The Stari Grad Plains, built in the 4th century by the Ionian Greeks, are agricultural drywall formations and shelters which are still used to grow grapes and olives today. From there we head through pretty port towns Vrboska and Jelsa and into the wilder centre of Hvar island, riding through pines and rugged rocky landscape.

As we turn and head towards Hvar Town, the final 20km of the ride brings with it jaw-dropping sea vistas and lavender fields. The route meanders through Brusje with its fragrant lavender fields (blooming late June/early July) and onwards with sensational sea views to either side. It is a feast for the senses as we head towards our destination of Hvar Town. We finish the day at the hip Hula Hula bar for sundowners and toast a wonderful day on the bike. Megan Reynolds

Cycling Cap Corse

8. The dizzying heights of Cap Corse, Three Islands Tour, Corsica, France

We leave Bastia behind heading North on the Eastern coast of Cap Corse, we ride a series of little ports, beaches and marinas before the climbing begins. The elevation begins to increase as we climb into the hills to the Northernmost point of Corsica where views of Ile de la Giraglia will await us. As we turn to head back down the Western side of the cape, the coastal views just keep coming. And it is spectacular. The route takes us along cliffside roads, high above the sea with breathtaking views.

The route takes in some of the islands most fascinating historical remnants, the Genoese towers. The watchtowers, built in the 16th century, were manned to signal the arrival of potential Barbary pirates. Fires were lit to communicate between the towers and with the surrounding villages. Some of the towers still remain today, of which you will see some fine examples along our route.

The route continues down the coast, taking in the incredible black sand beaches surrounding Nonza and onwards to finish in Saint Florent. Set on a sparkling bay, this medieval village is perfect for an evening aperitif overlooking the marina. Simone Scalas

Lunch on Lake Trasimeno

9. Cycle a real historical battlefield at Lake Trasimeno, Hannibal Tour, Italy  

“Cycling around the battlefield at Lake Trasimeno is one of my historical highlights of the Hannibal epic. Rare indeed is it to be able to walk (cycle!) through the exact location of such an iconic battle. but thanks to the ancient sources and the unique geography, we can!” Ben Kane.

On tour, we depart from Pienza (Tuscany) and ride past the noble vineyards of Montepulciano before we make our way to the site of one of Hannibal’s most famous and bloody battles, Lake Trasimeno. To this day, this battle is considered by some to be the greatest ambush in history, with 15,000 Roman soldiers losing their lives, with Hannibal losing only a mere 1500 by comparison.  The battle was reportedly of such proportions that the waters of Lake Trasimeno ran red for days with blood from the nearby battlefield.

In present times, there is still recognition of Hannibals greatest victory, with many information boards which mark significant sites and provide further information on the battle. For our guests on tour, we also picnic at the lake itself during our day ride and contemplate the events of this historical place. From there, we continue through the Umbrian countryside to our destination of Todi, a majestic hilltop town.

10. Tiny coves and temples on Noto Peninsula, Samurai Tour, Japan

Our detailed GPS routes allow riders to get off even the quiet coast routes and be led through the laneways of little fishing villages. The inhabitants here continue to live with the rhythm of the ocean as they have been for centuries. Smooth, fantastically engineered roads greet you as you weave along the coast with expansive views of the Sea of Japan. You will cycle in and out of small coves tucked in among the cliffs dotted with fishing craft.  Temples and shrines decorate the most beautiful hilltops and rock outcrops. Once off the bike, unwind in one of the hotel natural hot springs which are often placed where they afford a slower more contemplative coastal view. Finish the day sampling a wonderful collection of the local fruits of the ocean, decorated so beautifully, it can be said that we dine on ‘edible art’. Ben Weigl

We hope you have enjoyed our round-up of the best coastal routes. Let us know in the comments if you have ridden any of these or give us a heads up on your favourite coastal routes!

 



Make It Epic! – Your 10 Epic Adventures around the world

Make It Epic Map

Make It Epic!

In 2012 we launched our inaugural Epic Adventure following in the footsteps of Hannibal from Barcelona to Rome. With a motley crew of family, friends, and guests who were willing to give us a chance we set off with a fair degree of trepidation. Our remit was to follow the road less travelled, immerse ourselves in the gastronomy and culture of the places we travelled through and provide a historical context around the journey. Hannibal proved to be the perfect blueprint for the pioneering A to B luxury cycling experiences we endeavoured to provide.

Since then we have run Hannibal every year and 2021 will be the 10th-anniversary ride! In addition to Hannibal, we have also added a new Epic Adventure every year and so the roster has grown to what you see above. Our Epic Adventures now takes us across the globe and the country count presently stands at 24. The tours are graded from 2 to 4 cups on our espresso grading scale and so we fell well qualified to abide by our tagline of – Make It Epic! Check out the video below for some vicarious travel and to get a sense of how far and wide we now travel.

 



Top 10 Climbs on our epic cycle tours according to our team

Summit of Mont Ventoux, France

Nothing beats that feeling of summiting a long-awaited iconic climb on your bike. All that training and miles in the saddle for a sublime moment of achievement in a faraway corner of the globe. And then, of course, there is the descent after.

For Our team, one of the best parts of our jobs is seeing our guests climb bucket-list mountains and passes. It can be emotional, as people push themselves to their physical and mental limits but ticking off any of these climbs can feel pretty great. Here we round up some of our absolute best epic cycle tour climbs according to our well-travelled team.

1.Col De l’Izoard, French Alps (Hannibal Tour – Stage 2)

I have many favourite climbs but one of the best for me has to be Col d’Izoard in the French Alps. It’s a  climb that I know well, I’ve ridden it many times from both sides and in some outrageous weather. At a height of 2360 metres and right up there in amongst ski resorts, it usually has snow on the top few kilometres right up until the beginning of June each year. Then it’s only completely clear of snow until October.

One memory that stands out for me was the time that I rode the 19km route from Briancon towards the end of May a few years ago with a friend. When we got to within 3km from the summit, we hit snow and what can only be described as appalling conditions. We should have turned back but being so close and coupled with the fact that my friend hadn’t summited before, we made the decision to push on. Conditions on those last couple of kilometres were some of the worst that I’ve ever ridden in. We couldn’t even stand up straight on the top at the famous monument, and we were so cold it was unbelievable. Of course, the conditions eased after that first 3km and once warmed up I continued down to Briancon with an ever-increasing smile. I love this mountain so much, I have learned not only to enjoy her but to respect her as well. Richie Mitchell

Climb Statistics (from Briancon): 19.5km, Elevation gained 1145m, Average gradient 5.8%, Maximum gradient 9%

2. Mortirolo, the Italian Dolomites (Caesar Tour – Stage 2)

The Mortirolo is a high pass in the Italian Alps, unrelenting in its punishing gradient. Featuring heavily in the Giro d’Italia, it is a favourite climb among guests who enjoy testing their limits. Whilst climbing the pass, at bend 11 you can check out the Pantani monument. This monument is here as it marks the point in the 1994 Giro when the world really began to take notice of him. With 32 turns and an average gradient of 11.3%, it is a true mental and physical test. Much of the climb is forest-lined which is beautiful but gives you little opportunity to see how far you have climbed. It is a beast of a climb but a great one to add to your bucket list. Chris Small

Climbing statistics from Mazzo: 11km, Average gradient 11.3%, Maximum gradient 20% Elevation gain 1300m

3. The Giant of Provence -Mont Ventoux (Hannibal Tour – Stage 2)

Setting off on a hot Provencal day, Richie and I rode the Gorges de la Nesque to Sault and then up Mount Ventoux. The ascent from Sault is lesser known than the famous Bedoin and Maleucene ascents, however, it is still a beautiful climb. Starting at a higher elevation, it is longer with a lesser gradient than the other routes but the final 6km are joined with the Bedoin route to make it a tough finish. I would recommend it to anyone who is apprehensive about taking on the Bedoin or Malaucene routes but would like to give Ventoux a go! We love this climb as it is on the doorstep of our European HQ and is always a welcome sight when we are working in Provence. Colette Southworth

Climb statistics from Sault: 25.7km, 1152 elevation, Average gradient 4.5%, Maximum gradient 11%.

4. Mount Ishizuchi, Shikoku Island (Samurai Tour – Stage 2)  

On the Samurai Shikoku tour, we were all looking forward to cycling Mount Ishizuchi. The photographs looked stunning and I had been assured there was a superb hot noodle restaurant at the summit. The weather started closing in on the climb with fog and drizzle making it a little demotivating. However, onward we went willing each other up the largest peak in Western Japan. At the summit, we were greeted with fog clouds and bundled into the restaurant for steaming hot noodles. Just what we needed after our soggy climb. As we set off on the descent, all the climbing made sense as the fog dissipated and we were greeted with panoramic vistas of autumnal Japanese forests. Meg Reynolds

Climb statistics: 11.5km, 780m climbing, Average gradient 5.9%

5. Sella Ronda, Italian Dolomites (Caesar Tour – Stage 2)

For 2020, we managed to coincide our Caesar tour with the Sella Ronda bike day. This fantastic day gives cyclists the opportunity to cycle these magnificent passes without and vehicles on the road. What could be better, magnificent views, fantastic coffee and Italian food to refuel on. For me, this is one of my all-time favourite Italian passes, having ridden it twice. I love this ride!   Jess Shull

Route statistics clockwise: Approx 58km, Elevation 1845m, include 4 passes: Campolongo, Pordoi, Sella and Gardena.

6. Col Agnel, French Alps (Hannibal Tour – Stage 2)

At 2744 m, Col Agnel is the third highest pass in the French Alps at 2744m. Only Col de l’Iseran and the Stelvio are higher. The first part of the climb is moderately steep at 6-8%, with a relatively easier middle section, before ramping up to 8-9% for the final 7km. It’s a tough climb, and the weather can be very variable, but at the summit you are rewarded with sweeping views of the Alps and an incredible view back into France, as well as the hairpin bends down into Italy, which form the beginning of one of Europe’s longest descents – 50 kilometres! Ben Kane

Climb Statistics (French side): 20.8km, elevation 1365m, Average gradient 6.6%, Maximum gradient 8-9%.

7. Stelvio Pass, Italian Alps (Caesar Tour – Stage 2)

One of the most iconic climbs of Europe, the Stelvio is an incredible cycling experience. With 48 hairpin bends it can feel like you are climbing endlessly. On our 2019 Caesar custom tour, parts of the pass were still closed due to a particularly cold winter season leaving a 20ft snow wall blocking our planned descent. Undeterred, we managed to put together an alternative route for our guests which still enabled them to get up the Stelvio with the unexpected bonus of dropping into Switzerland before looping back to the original route. Marten Fekkes

Climb statistics: 21km, elevation 1558m, average gradient 7%

Alpe-DHuez

8. Alpe D’Huez, French Alps (Hannibal Tour – Stage 2)

Alpe d’Huez is a favourite climb among guides and guests alike. It brings with it a bit of friendly competition from the team, comparing our times up this iconic climb. Including 21 bends and 14km of climbing, it is shorter but no less gruelling than other climbs we do on tour. Starting with an average of 11%, you want to take it easy for the first 6 bends. It is not until closer to the summit that you get a relatively easier climb of 5-6% gradient” James Geen.

Climb Statistics: 14km, elevation 1120m, minimum gradient 5%, maximum gradient 11-12%

9. Mount Ruapehu -North Island, New Zealand  (Maori Tour – Stage 2)

This climb is the only Hors Categorie climb in New Zealand and provides a fantastic challenge to riders on our Maori tour. It is a still-active volcano and in winter the biggest ski field the southern hemisphere. The climb itself is 17km with approximately 1000m elevation. The first 6km are fairly moderate, but don’t get too comfortable as from there the gradient climbs to above 10%.” Rich Mortiboys

Climb Statistics: 17km, elevation 1000m, minimum gradient approximately 5%, maximum gradient above 10%

10. Pico de Veleta –  Andalucia, Spain (Conquest of the Moors Tour – Stage 2)

Believe it or not, but the highest paved road in Europe is not found in the French or Swiss Alps, but in the Spanish Picos. This climb is an absolute beast and not one for the faint of heart. So for the Conquest of the Moors’ tour, we will only offer it as part of an optional ride. This climb is very long, very steep (in parts) and very high- all the elements that make up a true cyclist’s bucket-list climb. To reach the summit, you will need to ride 43km uphill, with an average gradient of 6.5%, with the final kilometres becoming steeper. You may also find the altitude making breathing a little more difficult, which only adds to the challenge. Dylan Reynolds

Climb Statistics (from Granada): 43km, elevation gain 2700m,average gradient 6.5%, maximum gradient 8%

We hope this blog sparks a little motivation to get climbing and add some new climbs to your Epic list and perhaps an epic cycle tour too!



Top 10 memorable moments in 2019 according to our team


As we look forward to the start of our 2020 season, we are reflecting on a epic 2019 season. We all know those moments when travelling where some sort of magic happens. All seems right in the world, your every day worries far from your mind. You sit back and think there is no place you’d rather be. Whether it is a particularly special sunset, making a new friend from a foreign land or a particularly scrumptious meal. There are many moments like these that stay in our memories long after our tours are over.

So we asked our team what their best epic cyle tour magic tour moments were off the bike. A pretty tough ask considering what we pack in during a season but we have collated some of our favourites here:

1. Nouvelle cuisine with Lithuania’s best chef, Vilnius (Napoleon Tour)

“When we arrived at this beautiful restaurant we knew we would be treated to a special dinner. The chef is considered the best in Lithuania and joined us for each course to provide a description of each creation of our tasting menu. It added a special element to the meal and led to many of us photo documenting our culinary journey. The chef was even generous enough to share his secret seed bread recipe with me too!”” Colette Saunders

2. A private concert of true Sardinian folk songs, Sardinia (Three Islands Tour)

“With a perfect setting outside on the terrace of our Albergo diffuso hotel in Cabras Sardinia, I arranged a private concert with a “Canto a Tenore”, a group of Sardinian 4 singers performing traditional and ancestral songs using just their voices (or ‘A Cappella’).  For me, this singing group is special being friends of mine who also sang at my wedding. This type of singing is called the Cantu a tenore and is practised in groups of four in a close circle. For me it is a true taste of Sardinian culture and a powerful performance to witness.” Simone Scalas

3. History direct from a local in Berlin (Iron Curtain Tour)

“To commence the Iron Curtain tour we arranged for a bike tour around the city, led by Peter who recounted his stories of trying to escape East Berlin. He tried 3 times, the third attempt of which he succeeded. Providing this historical context is extremely important to us at Ride and Seek and the personal experiences of Peter had us hanging on his every word. ” Dylan Reynolds

4. Lunching like a king from Paris to St Petersberg (Napoleon Tour)

 “The Napoleon tour has many picnic’s, being a little more off the beaten path. For me the highlight of this tour was the superb picnic’s prepared with love by Colette. We pride ourselves on great picnics, but I think Colette’s really are something special.” Gabriel Donati

5. Exquisite dinner overlooking an archaeological marvel, Agrigento, Italy (3 Islands Tour)

“As part of the Three Islands tour, we visit the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, Sicily. The Valley of the Temples is an archaeological site with the remains of seven temples in the Doric style. Our sunset dinner at Villa Athena for me is magical, enjoying a Sicilian feast overlooking this extraordinary historical site. It’s a dinner that remains long in my tour memories.” Richie Mitchell

 

6. A spa with an extraordinary view, Japan (Samurai  Tour)

“One of the best things about cycle touring in Japan is the Onsen (spa) culture. Nothing soothes the muscles like a soak in the onsen after a long day in the saddle. It is even better when this is combined with a great view like our hotel near battleship rock on the Noto Peninsula.” Ben Weigl

7. Sunset dinner overlooking Lake Como, Italy (Caesar Tour)

“What an awesome way to start the tour. Our Caesar custom tour starting from Como took the funicular to Brunate for a sunset dinner and drinks. It was a beautiful evening, great food and wine and great company. It made for a truly memorable start to the tour.” Chris Small

8. A Catalan feast and memorable spot for a historical chat in Madremanya, Spain (Hannibal Tour)

“An outstanding tour memory for me is the family-run boutique hotel in Madremanya at the start of the Hannibal tour. Before an incredible tasting menu (off the scale delicious!), as the guests enjoyed a local wine, I weaved the story of Hannibal’s extraordinary exploits, and how he shook Rome’s foundations to the core.” Ben Kane

 

9. Spontaneous swimming on the Tatsukushi Coast, Japan (Samurai Tour)

“Arriving at a pretty beach on the Samurai tour, we grabbed our swimmers out of the van and dove in the surprisingly warm sea for a dip. Some of us paddled in our kit, some of us swam far out to sea. It was a moment of freedom and embracing simple pleasures. And to top it off, the stop was planned to have access to a shower and change facilities, followed by a beautiful morning tea of matcha cake, fresh cut-up fruits, energy bars, and hot tea and coffees.” Meg Reynolds

10. A superb slow food dinner in an Albanian Agriturismo (Marco Polo Tour)

“Scouting is usually a very busy time with not much time for sitting down to a proper meal. This year, Dylan and I scouted the Marco Polo tour and found a gem. We have always embraced the ‘Slow Food’ ethos so finding an agriturismo in Albania with a ‘slow food’ menu was both surprising and exciting. The Agriturismo hotel was once used to intern political prisoners but now provides employment for many in the local community. And the food was incredible. We can’t wait to take our guests back there in 2020 to eat and stay.” Marcello Usala

What were your favourite travel moments of 2019? Share your thoughts in the comments