Mark’s 2019 Tour Testimonial

Cycling through the Spanish Pyrenees. Pyrenees Coast 2 Coast Cycling Tour

A few years ago I decided to tackle the 3 Peaks ride in the Victorian Alps and in preparation I got some online coaching help from one of David Heatley’s excellent Cycling-Inform training programs. Early this year I was looking at doing some European cycling and through Cycling-Inform  I became aware of the various cycling tours offered by Sierra Sports & Tours and decided upon the Pyrenees Coast to Coast cycling experience. The tour fitted in perfectly with what I was looking for in terms of  cultural mix,  a blend of iconic Tour de France climbs and the dates that I was available .

Not having been on an organised cycling tour before I was impressed with the way our very sociable and well organised Spanish hosts Jorge and Jaume took us on an amazing  journey of fantastic  rides across the Spanish & French Pyrenees with a backdrop of absolutely spectacular scenery mixed with good quality food/accommodation and the comradery of my fellow cyclists. I would have to say this was the most memorable cycling experience I’ve ever had and I definitely will be coming back next year.

Col de Portet in the French Pyrenees. Pyrenees Coast 2 Coast Cycling Tour

Author – Mark (Adelaide, Australia)           

Tour – Pyrenees Coast 2 Coast (Sept 2019)

Webinar – European Cycling Tours!

On 5 December 2019 Paul from Sierra Sports & Tours spoke with David from Cycling-Inform about three of Sierra’s fantastic Explorer style tours. Follow this link to watch a recorded Webinar video which focuses on our Dolomites Cycling Tour, Pyrenees Coast 2 Coast Cycling Tour and Grenoble to Nice (French Alpes) Cycling Tour.

Every year Sierra runs around 15 unique European bike tours through France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Slovenia and Switzerland. Tours span from March to October giving our guests many opportunities to choose their dream cycling getaway. There are tours that suit all levels of cycling ability but three of our challenge tours visit the Italian Dolomites, Spanish & French Pyrenees and French Alpes. During this webinar we focus specifically on the ins and outs of these three epic cycling experiences and what is required to get you in good shape to enjoy a your cycling experience to the maximum!

Click here to download the Webinar presentation in pdf format (Cycling Inform Webinar – Dec 2019 – Blog) and look over some of the tour maps, ride profiles and photos from the above European cycling adventures. If your preference is to ride away from the professionals then the following a Sierra Explorer Cycling Tour will be your best bet. Rewarding rides (code for good challenges), mythical climbs, amazing landscapes and more time to indulge in the local culture!

2019 TDF – A Moment on Tour!

The 2019 Tour de France was an intriguing battle all the way to the Champs-Elysees in Paris. From sweltering temperatures, massive storms in the final stages and a tough final week in the French Alpes the 2019 TDF edition truly was a race of attrition! Our cycling tour group though picked things up in Nice and the first ride crossing Gorges du Verdons and cycling into Provence was a real highlight! There is a lot to like about Provence and cycling through small villages like St Saturnin, Gordes and Roussillon provide excellent contrasts to Le Geant de Provence which is always lurking nearby. Yes, Mt Ventoux was the first serious test and to conquer this Hors Categorie climb is simply put an achievement and a half!  But to find out where it all happened around the Tour de France race read below: 

Col du Galibier


[Setting the scene] – Who remembers Stage 19 of the 2019 TDF when the heavens opened up and to everyone’s surpise washed out the summit finish to Tignes? Our tour plan was to watch the peloton pass over Col de l’Iseran (the penultimate climb and Europe’s highest mountain pass at 2770m). The Gendarmarie (French police) were nervous all day and we settled to watch the race from Bessans still 20km from the top of Iseran. With the poor weather hovering we had discussed coming back the next morning to conquer the beast.

As the peloton passed us by we re-assessed the weather conditions and the storm was holding-off on our side of the mountain. So with the support van providing close cover our guests, with only a handful of other cyclists, decided they were keen to give the mighty Iseran a go! At the point where the road becomes a real ‘mountain pass’ the Emergency Service crews had closed all access to vehicles due to the intense storm the TDF was experiencing on the other side. We were also stopped but we put our case forward that we only wanted to ride up to the summit and then back down the same way. And just like that we were given the green light to proceed!

So the climb was obviously great but what was even better was what happened next. A 13km descent to where we had the support van waiting. Not a single car on the road and the chance to feel like a pro rider for 20 minutes descending with only which glacier to look at to worry about! And while all of this was taking place the TDF was experiencing total CHAOS and we were still riding in warm weather and short sleeves!

Col de l'Iseran

Tour de France – Assessing the Race Rumours

The Tour de France is arguably, year after year, the world’s biggest sporting event! With that attention brings constant speculation as to where the following year’s route will travel, which climbs will be featured, any new climbs to be revealed, innovations to the race structure, any gravel road finishes like recent editions of the Giro d’Italia or any narrow ‘goat-like tracks’ to lofty summits as rolled out at La Vuelta a España??

When it comes to waiting for the next edition of the Tour de France most cycling enthusiasts resort to keeping an eye on the A.S.O. website (Le Tour race organizers) for the date of the following race route presentation. The 2019 TDF race edition for example was presented just a couple of weeks ago on 25 October 2018 in Paris. This approach seems the most sensible as trying to hunt-down start and finish towns over 21 cycling race stages is a somewhat ‘Mission Impossible’ task.

But surprisingly enough there are cycling fans out there whose curiousity gets the better of them. As soon as the bikes zoom around the Champs d’Elysees for the final Stage 21 sprint finish their attention must quickly turn to the next Tour de France race edition! It was not until we begun our cycling tour business Sierra Sports & Tours that we uncovered an incredible website dedicated to TDF race route rumours which tracks down information piece by piece. The www.velowire.com website in a way takes the small pieces of information it collects to try and create the full Tour de France jigsaw puzzle well before the official presentation in Paris. The website creator is not affiliated with the A.S.O. race organisation, is not a professional or ex professional cyclist nor works for any of the pro cycling teams but just another cycling fan like you or me.

So how does the www.velowire.com website do it?

  1. When you look at the stage by stage TDF analysis you find that they have been scrolling the local French newspapers with a fine toothcomb looking for details. The Tour de France is a magnet for national and international tourism so the towns and cities are very proud when selected to host a stage start or finish. So broadcasts to the media (print or radio) are excellent ways of finding out TDF race route information.
  2. The Tour de France is also a moving road show with the professional teams, race organizers, media circus and sponsors all requiring huge amounts of accommodation along the race route. An in-depth analysis of hotel reservations over the ‘July TDF pilgrimage period’ is another way of either finding out or confirming possible stage start or finish towns!
  3. At times social media plays a part with the A.S.O. organizers uploading a photo or comment to their feeds. Such details are often ambiguous and require further examination and if you are lucky one might uncover some further race information following these avenues.

So did velowire.com hit the mark with the 2019 Tour de France race route?

It wasn’t until 24 September 2018 that velowire.com began to publish its possible 2019 Tour de France race route which was one month before the official race presentation. At this time A.S.O. had already released the first two stages in Belgium. During October 2018 velowire.com made additional modifications as they uncovered more information. At the end of the process it is quite remarkable that 24 hours before the official release velowire.com had 41 of the 42 start and finish locations correctly reported. Only the Stage 15 start in Limoux was erroneous (they reported nearby Foix) which I think we can forgive them for!

To take the analysis back to the first 2019 TDF rumour release on 24 September 2018 and they had 10 stage start and finishes correct out of 19 possible stages (2 stages were already confirmed for the Belgium start). Another 6 stages had either the start or finish town correct which again provides very useful information for a tour operator like Sierra Sports & Tours looking at planning Tour de France cycling tour itineraries!

We would love to know the number of hours spent by velowire.com as they sit and research the highly anticipated Tour de France route every year. They take what seems to be an almost ‘forensic science’ approach to revealing the TDF route for everyone. To take things full circle and you can even watch a livestream of the official TDF presentation in Paris straight from their very own webpage. If only we could find a similar webpage dedicated to Giro d’Italia and La Vuelta a España rumours and race leaks. Chapeau!!

Spanish Paella for Hungry Cyclists

Before getting your apron stained with saffron threads and prawn heads how about we kick things off with a Spanish grammar class. Why is that I hear you all say? Well the next time you say paella we want to make sure you sound as though you really know the dish! That way you will be able to impress your guests when you serve up our authentic Sierra paella recipe. So here we go with our first class in Spanish pronunciation 101! The ll in Spanish is pronounced in English like the letter y in yet. So paella when spoken by a native sounds like pah/EH/yah. Practise that a few hundred times while preparing the stock and you should have it sorted by the time you need to serve your paella!

Having the Sierra Sports & Tours base in food-mad Spain has meant we have had the pleasure of sampling literally hundreds of excellent paellas over the last 10 years. Paellas made by my wife, her mother, her grandmother, aunties, friends who are chefs at top-end restaurants and even cycling clubs after what has been a long day on the bike!

The thing which always amazes me though is a Spaniard, with no background in cooking whatsoever, will still know what it takes to throw a paella together in front of a crowd of masses without the slightest concern. A bit of stock, sofrito (onion, garlic, capsicum, tomato & olive oil), rice, saffron, add the meat plus seafood and Bob’s your Uncle! And the end result? It always comes out amazing. Some paellas might have more ingredients than others, others are served with a little more moisture (meloso) or some with the nice crispy layer on the bottom (socorrat). But at the end of the day it is a paella and enjoyed amongst friends and family which is the most important thing.

Now to get a few things clear! When some of our Spanish cycling tour guests arrive they have the impression that they will be feasting on paella every night. But that is far from the truth. Paella is a typical dish for that Sunday afternoon when every now and then you catch up with friends or family. It is a well loved dished but it is easy in your day to day life to go a month without enjoying this flavoursome rice dish. Perhaps it is because it takes time to prepare (often the stock is prepared days in advance to get the best effect) or perhaps because you need time to stand around the paellera (paella dish) and catch up on gossip while the rice absorbs all that goodness! When I asked my wife why the Spanish don’t eat paella more often her instant response was ‘Do you eat kangaroo every night?’ Fair point I thought. I don’t like stereotypes either and on I went looking for more Spanish paella cooking secrets.

Some final tips before you get stuck into the cooking!

Rice – short grain rice varieties work best for paella. Look for the Bomba, Senia, Bahia and Calasparra types in your local market.

Saffron – gives the rice its distinctive yellow color. Saffron threads are best but they need moisture to release the flavour. The best way to extract flavour from saffron is to soak the threads in a tablespoon of hot (not boiling) liquid for about 10 minutes. Then add both the saffron and the liquid to the recipe. As the saffron soaks, you’ll notice the distinctive aroma indicating that your saffron ‘tea’ is ready.

Here I am doing my thing for 1000 hungry cyclists after Gran Fondo Contador (Madrid, Spain)

Paella is usually cooked in a round shallow pan to give the best end product. If you only have deeper pans don’t let this put you off. The paella you prepare will be more in the ‘meloso’ style!

The Sierra paella which we are pleased to now handover is our authentic family Spanish recipe. Put the BBQ aside for your next family get together and experience the satisfaction of preparing a quality paella in true Spanish style.  Even I can get this recipe to work which gives everyone hope! And take note – many paella recipes, even those of Jamie Oliver, use Chorizo sausage. Feel free to add whatever protein you like but if you are cooking for a Spaniard please do not add any Chorizo to your paella. This is a big no no! Chorizo is for cooking on the BBQ or in another typical winter breadcrumb based dish called ‘Migas’. But that’s another lesson for a rainy day!

Ingredients (4 people)

1 red capsicum, chopped

1 green capsicum, chopped

3 ripe tomatoes, grated

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

250 grams of chicken thigh, bone removed, chopped

250 grams of pork fillet, chopped

1 squid, skin removed, cut into rings

12 raw prawns

1 cup of rice (short grain)

Saffron mix: (1 garlic clove, chopped; 1 handful of parsley, chopped; saffron: 4 threads and ½ tsp powder; 1 tsp of salt; 1/2 cup of prawn stock)

8 mussels (optional)

Paella Cooking Method

  1. Remove the prawn heads and shells. Separate the prawn body for cooking later. Place the prawn heads and shells ONLY into a saucepan and cover with 2 ¼ cups of water and bring to the boil for 5 min. Strain the stock to remove the prawn shells (Note: when we use the prawn based stock later it must be hot).
  2. Heat olive oil in a pan. Add chicken, cook both sides until brown and then remove. Add the pork to the pan and repeat as above for chicken. Leave the chicken and pork on a plate for later use.
  3. In the same pan add the 3 cloves of garlic and cook for 2 min. Add the red and green capsicums until they are cooked. Then add the squid, tomatoes plus the chicken and pork meat. Mix well.
  4. Add the rice, hot prawn stock and saffron mix. Mix well. Bring to the boil then simmer on low heat, uncovered for 20min.
  5. 5 min before the cooking time has elapsed add the prawns on top of your rice mixture. If you like mussels you can add them now (place vertically making sure the shells are partially submerged in the rice).
  6. Remove the paella from heat and leave it to rest, covered for 5 min.

And now for the finished product – oops – too slow!

2019 Giro d’Italia – A trip down memory lane!

October in Europe is always an interesting period as the Grand Tour cycling races begin to release the stage profiles for the following year. Now that the anticipation and speculation has turned into reality we are pleased to report a few of our favourite findings from the 2019 Giro d’Italia race route.

In 2019 the Tour de France will pay a special homage to Eddy Merckx with two initial stages in Belgium. The Giro d’Italia, not wanting to miss out, has also prepared a nostalgic itinerary for its 2019 race edition. Giro #102 features three legendary climbs in the final week of racing (Passo di Gavia, Mortirolo & Passo Manghen) and a Stage 21 individual time trial for Verona and its Roman Amphitheatre.

Mortirolo & Giro 1994 – A legend is Born!

Mortirolo in our opinion would have to be in the top three climbs for difficulty when it comes to European pro cycling. Monte Zoncolan (Italy) and El Angliru (Spain) are the other beasts which have average climb gradients soaring above 10%. Relatively speaking it’s a new Giro climb as it wasn’t until 1990 that the road to Mortirolo was asphalted and included in the Giro route. 2019 marks 15 years since a young Marco Pantani came to prominence as the then ‘gregario’ executed a solitary Mortirolo escape during Stage 15 of the 1994 Giro.  The ‘Pirate’ left Miguel Indurain and Claudio Chiappucci in his wake. It was not enough to win the Giro d’Italia but he found himself second on the podium and the legend of Marco Pantani was born that very day on the Mortirolo. Stage 16 of the 2019 Giro d’Italia will again scale the summits of Mortirolo just before the finish line in Ponte di Legno so be sure to be watching as the Giro is set to be ignited yet again. A successful breakaway on the Mortirolo in 2019 is likely to deliver a career defining stage win!

Giro 1949: Cueno to Pinerolo – A Solo Victory for the Ages!

Going back even further to 1949 and Fausto Coppi rode alone for 192km as he attacked through the Alpes during Stage 17 to claim his third pink jersey! During the 2019 Giro d’Italia the race will honour the 70th Anniversary of this remarkable solo victory with the stage also starting and finishing in Cuneo and Pinerolo like all that time ago. The 2019 Giro stage in no way resembles what Coppi endured but expect a true Italian celebration as the towns are ‘dressed in pink’ for what was arguably Coppi’s finest ever victory!

Verona ITT – Sabotage at the 1984 Giro?

To round out our ‘ride down Giro memory lane’ and we go back to Stage 21 of the 1984 Giro d’Italia. It was during the Stage 21 individual time trial around Verona that Italian hero Francisco Moser finally won his only Grand Tour title over French cycling star Laurent Fignon. The entire 1984 Giro d’Italia was a battle between Moser and Fignon and they were the only two riders to actually wear the Maglia Rosa that year. Despite many stories of sabotage during the 1984 Giro (time penalities for Fignon, roadside assistance for Moser on the big Dolomites cycling climbs, removing the Stelvio Pass to Fignon’s disadvantage when in fact there was no snow …..) the most intriguing story we think surrounds the Stage 21 time trial in Verona.

Moser took more than 2 minutes over Fignon during the Stage 21 time trial to reclaim the pink jersey but it was later alleged that the official race helicopter had flown directly in front of Fignon and behind Moser creating a headwind and tailwind respectively! Whatever the case the photos of the 1984 Giro d’Italia victory for Francisco Moser inside the Verona Roman Amphitheatre are now part of Italian cycling folklore. Three second Giro d’Italia places during the late 70’s were finally rewarded with victory for Moser in 1984!

Who will win the 2019 Giro d’Italia?

25 years on and will the 2019 Giro d’Italia crown a new Italian hero inside the Verona Roman Amphitheatre? The 2019 Giro final stage time trial only measures 15.6km and it would have been nice to see something a bit longer, a stage closer to the 42km raced by Moser and Fignon back in 1984. Perhaps the 2019 Giro d’Italia has been prepared with Vincenzo Nibali in mind? Stage 15 of the 2019 Giro route, for example, is a replica of ‘Il Lombardia’ cycling monument race which Nibali has won twice before. It is still a long way out to make big predictions but with Chris Froome and Tom Dumoulin most likely to focus 100% on the 2019 Tour de France, Vincenzo Nibali looking for his third Giro d’Italia crown and Simon Yates fresh from his 2018 La Vuelta a España success are our two top picks right now. No point sitting on the fence though so we have Nibali ahead of Yates by a wheel length!

Cycling with TDF Royalty – Big Mig!

The Sierra peloton received a special treat cycling an organised 150km stage with Miguel Indurain from Urzainki to Formigal through the Spanish high country. The ride took us from the Irati Forest before finishing above Formigal, one of Spain’s most recognised ski stations in the Pyrenees, and only 5km from the Spanish/French border.

Big Mig stepped onto his first TdF podium in Paris on 28 July 1991. During the 1991 Tour de France, Miguel gained more than 7 minutes over Greg LeMond during the ‘Tourmalet’ Stage 12 to receive his first yellow jersey. The rest as it goes was history and he held it all the way to the Champs Elysees and started a 5 year winning sequence through to 1995!

Cycling with the legend Miguel Indurain

As our day surrounded by cycling royalty was heading to a close we arrived to the valley approaching Formigal. The final 16km climb at 4% average grade, while long, is not overly taxing unless of course you are riding with a past TDF champion! To add some interest we left the main road mid-climb to cycle the winding road which follows the reservoir through to Sallent del Gallego. Spectacular scenery with multiple 3000m+ peaks surrounding us! After leaving the town centre one is met with a sudden transition of 4 kilometres around 8%. The final ramp on the backroad to the Formigal ski resort was 25% and required one last effort.

Cycling with the legend Miguel Indurain

 On arrival Miguel Indurain spoke to the local newspaper that had gathered to ask him about his famous day on the Tourmalet in 1991:

“My idea was not to attack in the mountains.  When I launched my downhill attack on the Tourmalet I simply wanted to see what happened. At the outset I was not prepared. My intention had been to try and maintain my presence during the mountain stages and to arrive to the last time trial with an opportunity”. You already know the rest of this story.

The Sierra peloton continued to chatter away excitedly in the presence of an international sporting hero!

Cycling with the legend Miguel Indurain

European Holiday Cycling Tips

This article is a result of a fun and interactive webinar hosted by Cycling-Inform where Paul D’Andrea from Sierra Sports & Tours also joined the panel of presenters. Feel free to watch the 1 hour webinar replay at your own convenience but if you would like a summary of what was covered please read below. The focus of the webinar was to receive live questions and provide instantaneous responses!

  1. Where are some of the best European regions for cycling?

The Dolomites in northern Italy are a favourite destination for cycling enthusiasts. Jagged limestone mountain peaks provide an inspirational backdrop for testing yourself on some of the most mythical Giro d’Italia climbs. The Sella Ronda loop is a real gem and includes a staggering 4 categorised climbs within only 60km; Pordoi, Sella, Gardena and Campolongo!

The French Alpes are home to 4 of the 5 highest mountain passes in Europe and often play out epic Tour de France stages on Alpe d’Huez, Col du Galibier & Col d’Izoard but for pure cycling enjoyment the Sierra guides cannot go past the Pyrenees in southern France. There are many quiet linking backroads to be found in the Pyrenees where cycling through valleys and dense forests is also possible. Check out Argeles-Gazost & St Lary Soulan for an excellent base!

Andalusia in southern Spain is the sleeping giant when it comes to quality road cycling. While the Costa del Sol is packed with beachgoers the inland mountains offer a peaceful setting and incredible mixed terrain rides. Sierra de Grazalema, Sierra Cazorla and Sierra Nevada are just a few places to enjoy quality road cycling. With 300 days of sunshine per year there is no better place in Europe to just get outside and ride!

For pure drama Oudenaarde in western Belgium is the place to be during the European Spring. Cobbled classics races follow one after another and for cycling superfans the Tour of Flanders and Paris Roubaix professional races provide a once in a lifetime experience!

  1. How does one go about selecting a cycling tour?

There are a few things to consider here and it basically comes down to whether you want to travel alone or within a guided group, what time of the year do you plan to travel and where do your interests lie? If your plan is to cycle the big mountain passes then to be safe cross-out October to June. The majority of Europe´s high mountain passes will most likely be under metres of snow during these months! Guided cycling tours also follow different styles some of which include: a) those which follow the professional races (Giro, TDF or La Vuelta), b) those which ride all the iconic cycling destinations but away from the professional races and c) those which also include a gran fondo/sportive ride into the tour program. At Sierra Sports & Tours we find that our guests often begin by joining us on a tour such as the Giro d’Italia where the race atmosphere is a key focus. For future holidays some guests move across to the other tour types where their interests shift to wanting more time cycling and time to explore the European regions during the afternoons!

  1. What are the typical characteristics of a tour group?

Sierra Sports & Tours is based in Spain but its roots are from Melbourne, Australia. As such, 95% of our guests are from Australia and New Zealand. The typical age profile of a Sierra guest is between 45 to 65 years old. We have many couples joining our tours so the current male to female ratio is about 60-40%. Non-cyclists do join our tours and typically account for about 15% of our clientele. Non-cyclists receive a discount and can join the group in the support van or visit the towns where we are based. If they would like us to prepare special excursions we have experience organising local cooking classes, guided hikes, leisure bike rides, etc. For road cyclists who are keen to join but are unsure about the big mountains we also have a fleet of electric road bikes that we can make available when things get a little more challenging.

  1. Should I bring my own bike or hire a bike?

For many clients this generally comes down to what their pre- and post-tour travel plans look like. For guests who are travelling solely for the cycling tour we find many will bring their own bike. International airlines, such as, Emirates and Qatar provide a 32kg luggage allowance which is more than enough. For guests though with several other domestic European flights or train connections they might find it easier and cheaper to select a hire bike. For clients attending the Spring Classics we find most select hire bikes as we have them fitted with 28mm wide tyres, double handlebar tape, etc so there is already some extra comfort built-in! For a tour ranging from 8-10 days the bike hire price is typically 300 Euro.

  1. What does a guided tour include and what is a typical tour price?

Tours to the public generally range between 8 to 10 days. We like to spend 2 to 3 night stays in each location to provide a relaxed setting and to have time to explore each township. All of the guided tours also have at least one support van on-hand carrying your day packs, food and drink, spare bikes, parts and wheels, tool kits, etc. The Sierra guides all speak English but also have additional languages including Spanish, French and Italian. All of the accommodation and breakfasts are included. We like to select hotels with local charm, which are family owned and are welcoming to cycling tourists. About half of the dinners with beer and wine are also included. We find it is also great for clients to have the chance to explore for themselves during the free evenings. Most of the start and finish locations are international airports and all of these transfers are also included in the tour price. For each tour we also have a commemorative cycling jersey which amongst other cycling related gifts is presented during the tour briefing. And most importantly you receive our professionally guided cycling routes following breathtaking scenery on roads away from major traffic to maximise your enjoyment and safety! The typical price for a 9 day / 8 night trip is around the 3000 € price range. There are also discounts for group bookings with a starting 5% discount for a minimum group of 4.

  1. Who designs the cycling tours?

Paul and his team of guides have over 10 years experience cycling through Europe. We have set off on 100’s of cycling adventures through Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Norway, Slovenia, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Austria & Germany. Every year Sierra Sports & Tours also conducts a number of private cycling tours so if you have a group of 6 or more why not ask us to design your very own customised European cycling tour.

  1. Any other tips?
  2. Plan Ahead: If you like to plan ahead then be sure to look at the European early bird flight specials which always finish around late October / early November. Through our association with Pellegrino Travel Agency we often secure flights for our guests between $AUD 1300-1500.
  3. Just ride! Many guests are initially unsure if they have what it takes to join a cycling tour. Being consistent is the main thing! Get in a longer ride on the weekend but keep up the spinning during the week (a few 45 minute indoor sessions with Cycling-Inform will put you in good stead). To get the most out of a tour you do not need to be fast. Cycling on the flats (25-28km/hr) keeps the group together and then you are free to ride the climbs at your own speed (always guided support at the front and back of the group). Remember – pace your climbs! Ride within yourself, be able to talk, then if you have some more to give finish the final 2-3km with a burst! Also consider getting away pre-tour for a long weekend ride in the mountains and Cycling-Inform events, such as, the Bright Boot Camp and 7 Peaks in 7 Days are selected by a number of Sierra Sports & Tours guests to start preparing for Europe.
  4. Practise your descending skills! Many guests have the stamina and strength to cycle 1-2hours uphill but then some find it difficult when descending for 30-45 minutes continuously. Practising to be relaxed and in the drops helps a lot, knowing when to apply the brakes and which ones is critical, how to handle the bike in wet or dry conditions, picking your entry and exit lines, outside pedal down and pressure applied, …….. Practise will make perfect and a cycling clinic is a good place to start developing these skills.
  5. And the final word on Travel Insurance – there is a saying that goes ¨If you can‘t afford travel insurance, you can‘t afford to travel overseas¨. We recommend that any travel insurance purchased should also cover tour cancellation in the event you become ill, injured or other last minute family or work related matters arise. If you are travelling with an expensive bike also make sure that you have a sufficient level of cover in the event of damage.