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Arm and leg warmers
A good waterproof/windproof jacket (absolutely ESSENTIAL!)
As many jerseys as you can reasonably bring (because if it's really hot, or raining, you'll be so glad of a fresh, dry jersey during the day, and if it turns cold, you can wear two at once).
A gilet/bodywarmer/waistcoast - not essential, but a very useful extra layer, whatever the weather
A clean pair of shorts for every day, or enough so you can wash them as you go along.
Tights, if you have them. It's a bit like carrying an umbrella - if you do, it never rains!
Gloves, including winter gloves (you'll be amazed how cold it can be, descending a mountain)
Cap/bandana to wear under your helmet if it's raining or very sunny
Swimming kit - apart from the sea both ends, some of the hotels have jacuzzis or swimming pools for you to enjoy.
Occasionally a hotel will have laundry facilities, and we advise you to take advantage of them. If not, we keep a bottle of hand washing liquid in the van, so you can take some to your room each evening for washing your kit. There will be washing lines and pegs in the vans, so it's best to wash your kit during the evening when we get to the hotel, wring it out in your used towel and then hang it overnight in the room. The next day, if it's still not dry, we can hang it in the van for the day. On the Raid Pyrenean and the 6-Day French Coast to Coast, we stay a night near our home base in Massat halfway through, so we're very happy to put a communal load of laundry in the washing machine for the group and return it to you the following morning, before we set off. It's useful to mark your clothing if you can in some way (initials on the care label with a permanent marker does the trick quite nicely), especially if several of you have the same club kit.
Whatever happens, never wear a pair of shorts for more than one day without washing and rinsing them thoroughly. It's the fastest way to end up with saddle sores.
Everyone's different, and in our considerable experience, there's certainly no such thing as a typical cyclist. Some people approach cycling tours like these with the attitude that the less they know beforehand, the better - a bit like a visit to the dentist. Others want all the "nitty gritty" and delight in digesting every tiny detail. So if you're one of the latter, this section is for you. Here you'll find all kinds of information to pore over ...
One thing we can guarantee in the mountains is that the weather will be unpredictable. You could be cycling in glorious sunshine, and then 15 minutes later the sun disappears behind a cloud and you find yourself in a thunderstorm with torrential rain, or even hail (we've had six inches of hail at the end of July on the Tourmalet in the space of half an hour). It's one of the reasons we always ensure we have enough seating capacity in the vehicles to be able to get all our riders off the mountain and in the warm until things improve.
The key to dealing with this kind of uncertainty is layering and having the right clothing for the situation. Therefore we've put together a recommended kit list to try to cover all eventualities:
All our cycling tours require road bikes with good gearing, preferably either a compact chainset with a 30 cassette, or a triple chainset with a 28 cassette. If you don't want to bring your bike, we can recommend a company that hires bikes, provided we have enough notice. It's definitely a good idea to give your bike a thorough service before you travel, and that includes replacing brake blocks and tyres; you really don't want a problem when you're descending a mountain at speed. If you have tubs, then you also need to bring a spare tyre or two.
We will be carrying spares including tyres (not tubs) and tubes, and a comprehensive bike toolkit and we can help you with most running repairs. For anything more serious, we know all the good bike shops along the route and we'll do our best to get you to the nearest one as quickly as possible.
We recommend that you bring a suitcase/holdall and a separate day bag in which you can keep anything you need during the day while you're riding - a change of jersey, a waterproof jacket, arm and leg warmers, sunglasses, etc. We carry sunscreen (factor 30 and 50) in all our vehicles, and a jar of good quality chamois cream (no double dipping please!). Since we'll be fairly close to you at all times, you won't need to carry tons of kit with you during the day. We aim to be at the bottom of each climb so you can top up your water bottles and shed any unwanted layers, and then at the top so you can grab a windproof layer for the descent. We'll also see you several times on the way up a long climb, so you can top up your bottles or grab an energy bar or a banana if you need one.
When you arrive, we'll provide you with luggage tags for your bags, so that we can identify them. If we need to juggle day bags during the day to make sure they're in the vehicle that's supporting you, we need to know whose is whose.
We always have a high ratio of staff to riders to enable us to look after you to the very high standard we expect of ourselves.
In all vehicles you'll find copious quantities of bottled water, energy drink powder, electrolyte tablets, a supply of energy bars and gels, bananas, plus some cans of Coke as a treat.
We also always carry baby wipes, hand sanitising gel, high factor sun screen, tissues, comprehensive first aid kits, painkillers, diarrhoea tablets, indigestion tablets, plasters (bandaids), antiseptic cream and wipes, and anything else that you'd expect to find in your average family medicine cabinet.
We try to have a vehicle stationed at every major junction or anywhere we feel there's a danger of you getting lost or going off-route, but we'll also provide you with printed paper maps and GPS files for you to upload to your Garmin or other device, if you have one.
Most groups will split during the day into two or more smaller groups. With larger groups we should have enough vehicles to support each group individually. With smaller groups it's not always so simple and our main priority has to be the slower members of the group. Should we find ourselves unable to cover everyone to our satisfaction, we would contact the front riders and ask them to stop for a break or slow down and allow the others to catch up. They may not wish to do so, and we do understand, but in that case we may have to make sure they have everything they need and then let them go on to the hotel. Since we started in 2009 we've only had to do this a few times, but we want to ensure that everyone knows the situation.
Most of our clients are committed athletes and take nutrition very seriously, and you can't ride something as demanding as any of our cycling tours without eating well, so we'll make sure you never go hungry.
Depending on the event and the country where it takes place, breakfasts are either continental (bread, croissants, jam) or buffet-style. We also carry good quality muesli (granola) in case you need something extra. Dinners are all 3-4 course and usually you have a choice. Occasionally they're a fixed menu, but if there's nothing you like, we can get something substituted for you. We also allow a limited amount of alcohol with dinner - a beer, a soft drink, or wine.
Lunches are the only meals we don't include in any of our events. There are always snacks like bananas, crisps and nuts available in the vans, but there are lots of restaurants and shops along the routes where you can buy lunches or other snacks during the day.
You'll be provided with detailed, printed maps to follow, but also GPS files that you can upload to your own device in advance, although we aim to always be within a couple of kilometres of you, and to be at every major junction before you arrive to make sure you don't go off route.
We do our utmost to let everyone complete the day's ride, and usually we achieve that. On the odd occasion (a handful of times in the last seven years), we've had to ask a rider to stop and get in the van - usually because we're losing daylight, or because they're now so far off the back, that they won't get into the hotel in time to get dinner or any measure of recovery. Safety always has to come first.
Obviously this can be disappointing, but perhaps if you're struggling, you're better to get to the hotel and try to get some rest and a good meal and carry on fresh the next day. And if you were doing something like the Raid Pyrenean, the pressure's off from that point, because although you'll no longer qualify for the medal and certificate, at least from then on you can pick and choose whatever you want to ride and save your energy for the best bits.
With all our European cycling tours we want you to have a wonderful holiday and go back and tell all your cycling friends what a fantastic trip it was, and we'll certainly do everything we can to help you achieve just that. At no point are we going to get the whip out and make you carry on when you've really had enough. We always make sure we have plenty of space in the vehicles - it's one of the reasons we have such a high ratio of support vehicles and staff to riders - and if you're struggling, you're always welcome to put your bike in the van and ride with us as long as you want to. Often people just need a bit of a break and the opportunity to catch up with the rest of the group, and then they'll feel up to getting out and giving it another go. It's happened quite often, so don't feel embarrassed or that you have no option but to carry on struggling, because after all, this is supposed to be an enjoyable holiday!
On all our cycling tours, our priority is to find the best hotels we can within a reasonable distance of the daily stopping point. This may be anything from a 4* hotel to a B&B - in fact, one of the B&Bs we use has consistently been voted the best accommodation on the route by our clients. We guarantee you'll always have a hot shower, a comfortable bed, and plenty of good food. About a month before you arrive, we'll send you the final information about your trip, and this will include a list of all the hotels we're using on your particular event.
EVERYTHING ELSE YOU WANTED TO KNOW ...
RECOMMENDED KIT LIST
ENJOY THE RIDE!
Tour operators are obliged by law to ensure that client funds are protected in the event of them becoming insolvent before they deliver the holiday their clients have paid for. There are a number of ways we can do that, but the one we chose was to protect your money by means of a specialist insurance policy. So your money is protected by International Passenger Protection Ltd, IPP House, 22-26 Station Road, West Wickham, Kent, BR4 0PR, United Kingdom, under policy number 22866.
We include a reasonable quantity of good quality energy bars and gels on all our events. Brands differ from year to year, but we'll let you know what will be on board before you come. If everyone uses them responsibly, there will be plenty to go around, but when they're gone, they're gone. If there's a brand you can't live without, it's a good idea to bring some with you
ENERGY BARS & GELS
It's become increasingly common for airport security staff to search cyclists' luggage and bike boxes, and confiscate compressed air cartridges. Since you don't want to give anyone an excuse to tamper with your precious bike, we recommend you leave them at home. We can loan you cartridges to carry for the duration of your trip, and you can simply return them when you leave.
COMPRESSED AIR CARTRIDGES
It's really useful if clients carry a mobile phone and keep it on at all times while they're riding. If you're coming from outside Europe, you need a tri-band phone, otherwise it won't work. If you're concerned about roaming charges, it's possible to buy prepaid SIM cards for around €50, including €30 of calls, from any tobacconist.
After you've assembled your bike, your bike box will be packed into one of our vehicles and will be transported with us throughout the trip.