Bike Tour Adventures in the French Alps
Enticed by Karen Peterson’s and our coach’s descriptions of a bike tour, I decided a week of riding in the French Alps was a great way to break my pandemic pause on European travel. My first sights of Europe in over 3 years were in Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport where Jumbo-Visma water bottles were displayed with an opportunity to win a bike complete with a Dura Ace DI2 group set. The Dutch are serious fans of cycling, it’s not just Saskia!
After sightseeing in Lyon, I joined the other cyclists for an ear popping van ride up the Alpes to our hotel. We all seemed excited and nervous about the adventures ahead. Our first ride was a descent and climb up the 21 bends of the Alpe d’Huez. While I’ve ridden the Zwift route 100 times this was not the same! Zwift descents can be “free miles” while a real-life descent with switchbacks and wind meant I experienced my first speed wobbles and hand cramps from gripping the brakes. Yup, I was told the trip would be emotional and it started on the first descent. The climb also felt more challenging, but I was easily distracted from my high heart rate by pit stops to look out at the amazing landscape around us.
The 21 bends of the Alpe d’Huez was our adventure to shake off the jet-lag.
Although I had altitude sickness, I planned to ride what I could. Over the next 6 days we rode along valleys and glacial lakes as well as over 39,000 feet of climbing on routes you’ve likely heard of if you watch the Tour De France. I got more comfortable with descents, pushed past my boundaries, and realized that sometimes you must pause or stop altogether. I also have a better appreciation for what it takes for pro teams to do The Tour.
I hated leaving and am absolutely planning another trip. As a newbie to group bike tours I hope the reasons below encourage you to consider it as well.
Adventures: There is nothing like riding in unfamiliar areas with new people. I finally did an outdoor ride with over 10,000 feet of climbing! It was terrain that matched my dream race so I have a great baseline for the physical and the mental training I need.
SAG: ITP riding means I rarely worry about fluid/nutrition stops, getting home with a mechanical, or access to medical care. Those who love off-road cycling will have to share their insights but riding in remote areas felt more feasible knowing support was close by.
Comradery: It was great to get to know others, learn from them, and watch people shine. I also can’t say enough about encouraging others on their tough days and receiving encouragement when I needed it. It’s something I appreciate about cyclists.
If you’re like me and have never tried a bike tour, I would highly recommend it. There are plenty of options available to match type of riding and intensity, location, time of year, etc. Atlanta Cycling’s website offers an overview of Trek Travel as one example. Happy riding everyone! Sylvia