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Like many specialist tour operators, Bike Alive Cycle Tours is a family business, run by a husband and wife team, Derek and Donna Hambleton. We both have totally different skills and talents, but when you put them together - Derek's extensive cycling knowledge and experience, and Donna's organisational and administrative abilities - they complement each other perfectly. And we both like to think we have a good sense of humour and don't take ourselves too seriously.
Derek took part in many tours over a ten year period, and he always came back saying that he'd enjoyed it, but ... the food could have been better; the accommodation was very basic; the riders only saw the support staff on the tops of the cols ... When life suddenly led us from Dorset to France we decided we wanted to set up our own business, offering European cycling tours that meet our own very high standards. So that's just what we did.
We go to great lengths to make sure the accommodation and food are the best we can get in any location, and we never leave our clients at the hotel in the morning and head to the first col for a nap before they arrive. We keep close to our riders throughout the day, and we take lots of photos so they have a souvenir of their holiday.
All our business comes from repeat clients or personal recommendations, with many people coming back year after year. Great routes, good organisation, plenty of good food, comfortable accommodation, a bit of banter ... that's the recipe for all our cycling tours, and it seems to work very successfully. Sometimes Derek rides on the events, if the numbers of staff/riders permit, and if the clients are happy for him to do so. Whatever happens, at least you'll know that he's been there before, and he's fully aware of how you're feeling.
Derek has been cycling for well over 30 years, and completed many time trials, road races, cyclosportives and cycling tours. He's well known in his native Dorset, where he had a successful amateur career in the late 80s and 90s. Then in 1999 he visited the Pyrenees for the first time and it changed his life forever.
Having completed the Raid Pyrenean himself a mere eight times in either direction, not to mention lots of other events and cyclosportives, he knows from personal experience what we need to do to help you get the best out of your holiday.
There's nothing Derek likes better than helping a group of riders achieve their goals. Everything we do to support our riders comes from Derek's experience and knowledge.
As a coeliac (celiac), Donna knows first-hand the problems you encounter on the road when you have a special dietary need. If you're in a similar situation, you can rely on us to do everything we can to ensure you get as varied a diet as possible, and plenty of it. So long as we know when you book, we're sure there's not much we can't cope with - and we won't make you feel like a nuisance either!
Donna's career has always been in administration and business management, including more than ten years running a successful international licensing operation. Donna prides herself on her organisational skills and attention to detail. It's her job to ensure that everyone taking part in one of our cycling tours has a comfortable bed, a hot shower and a good meal every evening and she takes that responsibility very seriously.
Austin is a keen cyclist too, with lots of mountain experience. Built for rowing, rather than cycling, he tackles mountains with sheer grit and determination and can empathise with those riders that find it a struggle getting up the climbs. Austin has a wealth of experience looking after cyclists on these kind of cycling tours and can always be relied upon to be in the right place at the right time, with a spare wheel, a cold drink or something to eat - or perhaps just a word of encouragement or one of his legendary jokes to help you keep things in perspective. Many a client has managed to push themselves to the top of a climb, sniggering all the way at one of Austin's little gems.
Boris is our 4-year-old German Wirehaired Pointer, who's very calm and placid. Rather than put him in kennels for most of the summer, which he hates, we occasionally take him on tours with us. If he does come, we ensure he doesn't inconvenience our clients in any way, but in fact, all the clients that have met him so far have enjoyed having him on board, and we've even had people taking him for a walk after dinner.
We always check with clients first to make sure there's nobody in the group who has a problem with dogs, so if you'd rather he doesn't come, for whatever reason, you only have to say so and we'll make make other arrangements.
Not sure who instigated this, Boris or our client Mel. Both of them seemed to be enjoying themselves.
Richard is semi-retired and divides his time between the Pyrenees and Brixham, South Devon. Another keen cyclist, his preference is for long, slow cycle touring. Richard is a veteran of many touring holidays throughout France, and recently completed the UK "End to End" (Land's End to John O'Groats) unsupported and camping along the route. He freely admits to being totally in awe of those that have mastered the mountains.