With Grand Tour season well and truly underway, we’re betting you’ve thought about crafting your own cycling getaway to one of the hotspots of professional cycling. There are no stadiums nor ticket fees, cycling’s blockbuster events take place on roads that anyone can ride in some of Europe’s most spectacular landscapes.
In this article, we’ll go through some tips on booking your trip and the different ways you can go about having your own Grand Tour adventure this summer.
Destinations to consider
The Giro d’Italia has been and gone, but the gorgeous climbing and mountain scenery across places like the Dolomites remains. Like any mountain range, there isn’t a lot of flat ground, but there is a nice mix of longer climbs and steeper shorter ones. You don’t need to ride epic distances to take in a lot of elevation either. There’s even a stunning network of gravel routes to take your mountain adventure to new heights. Visit between May and October for the best riding weather.
If you’re counting down the days to the Tour de France, perhaps a trip to the Alps or the Pyrenees is best for you. Some of the most iconic climbs in the world lie in these mountain ranges, including historic passes like Alpe d’Huez and the Col du Tourmalet. There are plenty of guides online that can tell you the best places to stay or inspire you with local routes around these areas – Tour de France stages are a good place to start! We’d recommend heading between spring and autumn to avoid the possibility of the roads being closed due to snow (the highest passes often don’t open until the beginning of June).
Finally, if your favourite Grand Tour is La Vuelta a España, perhaps Spain is the destination for you. From the Pyrenees to Girona and everything in between, La Vuelta has visited all corners of Spain and there is riding for everyone. Whether you want something laid back, or challenging mountain passes, Spain is a great destination for your cycling holiday.
Hire a bike or take your own?
This is something that should be near the top of your checklist when you book a cycling holiday. It may end up being cheaper to take your own, but do you have a bike box and insurance to cover it in case something happens during transit? Even if you don’t fly to your holiday destination, there is always a chance that it could get lost or damaged.
The alternative is of course hiring a bike. This can be a good option if you plan on staying in one base so you can return it easily at the end of your holiday. However, it’s important you make sure the bike rental or hire company has something that you like and with a frame in your size long before you leave. You do not want to leave the bike to last minute, risking having to settle for poor quality or the wrong size – both things that can ruin a holiday before it’s even begun.
Should you plan everything yourself?
The answer to this will depend on a couple of factors, including whether you want to ride alone or with a group, how much time you have to plan, and whether you want guided tours or not. Sure, it’s easier to let a holiday company take over the reins and plan your trip – you’ll probably not even have to think about most of your meals or hotels. But if you have an idea of particular climbs you want to ride or want to plan your holiday as cheaply as possible, then designing your own is a good option.
It’s also good to think about whether or not you want help with routes. Local guides can take you on routes they know well in the area, or might even share knowledge, although a lot can be gained from poring over the popularity maps in Strava and the like.
Final travel tips
As we now live in a post-Brexit and pandemic world, there are some additional hoops travellers from the UK may need to jump through to travel throughout Europe. Make sure your passport is valid and you have adequate travel insurance – particularly if you are taking your bike with you. Certain countries may also ask for proof of Covid vaccinations, but it’s best to check the government website of your destination for full information before travelling.
And if you do decide to take your own bike on your Grand Tour holiday, make sure it’s fully insured with one of our detailed cycling insurance policies. Once that’s all sorted, all that’s left is to look forward to the trip of a lifetime!